MotSaG Look at the Safeties

osuHelmetLast season, the Ohio State secondary (especially safety) seemed to be under siege much more than in years past. Some of that can be credited to the lack of tackling by the linebackers or abysmal and inconsistent pressure from the defensive line. While fingers can definitely be pointed, the safeties main responsibility is to minimize big plays and keep the ball in front of them. Unfortunately at times, neither of these things happened. As the season progressed though, so did the quality of play. The Buckeyes should be stout at safety this season behind Seniors Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. They will look to follow in the footsteps of former Buckeyes greats such as Jack Tatum and Mike Doss.

Last Year Performance

The safeties came into the season with experience under their belts. Both Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett had already garnered starting experience before the season began. While neither impressed on a regular basis during the 2011 campaign, they knew their play had to improve coming into 2012. For the most part, it did. The secondary as a whole gave up 243.5 yards per game (78th in the nation) and a whopping four passing plays of 70 yards or more (led the nation). However, much of this came in the first half of the season. As the Saturdays continued to pass, the safeties continued to get better. Urban Meyer even started to praise Bryant and Barnett during his weekly media briefing. Barnett led the secondary in tackles per game (6.2). Bryant ended the season as a 2nd Team All-Big Ten coaches selection and Barnett was an Honorable Mention for the coaches and media.

Key Players Lost

Orhian Johnson- 2012 stats-39 tackles, 2 interceptions and 7 pass break ups. Johnson ended his Ohio State career with 131 tackles and 6 interceptions.

Player to Watch

Without a doubt in my mind, Christian Bryant is the safety to watch this season. He comes in with 2 years of starting experience and has shown the ability to improve. I still think he hasn’t reached his full potential at Ohio State. That’s pretty scary, because Bryant has been a key cog in the back end of the Buckeyes defense for 2 years now. Plus, he is in a special lineage of former Cleveland Glenville Buckeyes at safety with Donte Whitner and Jermale Hines. If he can be like either of those two guys in his senior season, watch out. Coach Meyer has also made it known he thinks highly of Bryant on and off the field. “I like the leadership in the back end of our defense, that’s Christian Bryant, that’s CJ Barnett,” Coach Meyer said. “I’m real pleased with that.”

Christian Bryant, Denard Robinson

Player that Needs to Step Up

Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown is a safety who often times is forgotten. Just merely saying his name makes most people think about the other Corey Brown, also known as, Philly. This Brown, however, was a highly touted recruit coming out of Monroeville, PA. It’s safe to say he hasn’t lived up to expectations but he certainly has an opportunity this season to leave his mark as a Buckeye. He has seen sporadic play throughout his career due to up and down performance as well as injuries. If he can stay healthy in his senior season, Brown will be the main dime/nickel safety on the field. Brown has played in 33 career games and has 26 tackles. I truly believe he will eclipse these numbers this season and go out with his best season ever as a Buckeye.

Incoming Freshmen

While it is unknown how much the freshman may play at safety this season, it won’t be from a lack of talent. 5-Star safety Vonn Bell (6-1, 190 lbs) was one of the nation’s top ranked safety prospects. He hails from Rossville, GA (Ridgeland HS). Co-Defensive Coordinator and Safety coach Everett Withers said, “Freshmen are up and down like a roller coaster. He is a competitor. He loves football. He will continue to get better. He has some talent. Now it’s about getting that talent and technique to work together.”
Darron Lee (6-2, 205 lbs) from New Albany, could also figure into the rotation at safety. While I think it is more likely he plays exclusively on special teams I would not rule out him getting some reps this season on defense. Jamie Thompson (6-2, 185 lbs) from Toledo, also has some talent. Unfortunately, Thompson hurt his ankle during the first week of training camp and subsequently had surgery on the ankle. He may be a candidate to redshirt this season because of the injury. Lastly, is Chris Worley (6-3, 195 lbs) from Cleveland (Glenville HS). Many project Worley to eventually grow into an outside linebacker spot at Ohio State. For now, he is a safety and he played with that kind of speed during his high school career at linebacker.

Season Outlook

Having Bryant and Barnett as three-year starters will be comforting for the Ohio State secondary. Without a question, the familiarity between players and coaches will also be improved from the past few seasons. The safeties will be relied upon heavily as Ohio State tries to break in a brand new defensive line and replace two of the three starting linebackers. At least early on, the pressure will rest on the shoulders of the secondary, especially Bryant and Barnett. Both are highly capable, and I believe the safety play will be as good as it has been at Ohio State in the past five or six years. After all, for Ohio State to play for championships in November and beyond, it will have to be.

Depth Chart

Returning: CJ Barnett* (SR), Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown (SR), Christian Bryant* (SR), Devan Bogard (SO), Ron Tanner (SO.), Jamie Wood (SR.)
Note-Jamie Wood underwent season ending shoulder surgery on Thursday
Incoming: Vonn Bell (FR), Jamie Thompson (FR), Chris Worley (FR), Darron Lee (FR)
*Indicates returning starter
(Photo courtesy of AP College Football)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: