Defensive Back Preview

The unit that improved the most last season, in my opinion, was the secondary. After being torched the last three games in the 2013 season, the hiring of Chris Ash and some young talent taking over helped turn the secondary into a formidable defense. It’s early, but here’s the way the secondary could shake out, with one spot to fill in the gradated Doran Grant.

Who To Watch

There’s a spot open at cornerback because Doran Grant has graduated. The two names I think we’ll here connected to that spot are Gareon Conley and Damon Webb. Conley, class of 2013, took a redshirt in the 2013-14 season. He was a four star recruit, and saw minimal playing time this season. He started the Michigan State game in place of Eli Apple, though Apple came in not late into the game. Damon Webb played as a true freshman last year, primarily on special teams. If you play on special teams as a true freshman under Urban Meyer, you’re probably pretty good. Neither Conley nor Webb has significant playing time at the cornerback position in college, so spring ball will be huge for them. Conley’s action was mainly in relief last season, and he got chewed apart for the portion of the MSU game in which he played. However, I still give him the edge to be the starter, because his minimal experience is more than Webb has, and Webb is younger. The wildcard in this position battle is senior Armani Reeves. He has primarily been the nickelback, and as a senior has the most experience of the group. However, the young talent on this team will prove quite a challenge for Reeves. The last name that might surface is redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore, who sat out last year with a hamstring injury. While a highly touted recruit (right behind Damon Webb in the rankings), missing last year due to injury puts him behind in experience.

The Veterans

Safeties Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell return, as well as cornerback Eli Apple. All three of these players will, barring injury, retain their starting positions. All three of these players played huge roles in the Buckeyes’ run through the playoff. Bell picked off Alabama’s Blake Sims in the end zone after a shanked punt, causing a huge swing in momentum. Tyvis Powell intercepted the Hail Mary at the end of the Sugar Bowl. Eli Apple intercepted the last pass of the National Championship Game. These three are going to have the secondary on lock down with another offseason together. Their communication and feel for each other will improve, and I expect these anchors of the secondary to lead this defense to be one of the nation’s top pass defenses next season.

The Depth Chart

Thanks to three returning starters, this isn’t as much as a guessing game as say, the quarterback position.

CB – Eli Apple; Marshon Lattimore

CB – Gareon Conley; Damon Webb

S – Tyvis Powell; Cam Burrows

S – Vonn Bell; Erick Smith

Apple, Powell, and Bell are solidified at their positions. As I said earlier, I give the edge to Conley to take the other CB starting position, but that could change at the end of spring practice. Cam Burrows will backup Powell, and Erick Smith, Bell. Smith saw some time on special teams last season, and should factor into the rotation in the secondary this year when Bell needs a breather/is injured.

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