What to Expect: Secondary

The Ohio State Buckeyes will have some real experience at the cornerback position. Kendall Sheffield will look to on a good season last year, but not the season most expected the former 5-star, Alabama transfer to have.  Sheffield is looking to be the next first-round pick out of Ohio State at the cornerback position.  I expect him to have the breakout season he wants to achieve. I am going to the guess the Junior will have at least 3 interceptions this year.

On the other side of the field will most likely be Damon Arnette.  Arnette started last year, so this is a no surprise he will be the starter this year.  Splitting carries is Jeffrey Okudauh.  Okudah got the starting job for the Cotton Bowl last year after Denzel Ward chose not to play in the risk of injury before the 2018 NFL Draft.  The coaching staff is high on Okudah and I’m expecting him to have a  huge season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Okudah didn’t get the starting job at some point in the season, but I’m giving the job to Sheffield and Arnette do to their experience already.  The next in line player is Shaun Wade.  Another 5-star player.  Wade will be a big key for the Buckeyes, especially if one of our other cornerbacks go down with an injury.  Ohio State shouldn’t miss a beat though.  Wade has been committed to being a Buckeye since 2015, and is ready to show Buckeye Nation what he can do.

Jordan Fuller should return as one of the starting safeties. Fuller had a good year last year, and I’m expecting him to have another good year this year.  The big question mark for the Buckeye Secondary is the other safety.  I’m expecting it to be Isiah Pryor who had playing time last year, but not in any real meaningful time.  The safety position is the only real place where the Buckeyes don’t have real depth.  Josh Proctor is coming in this year, but he will be a true freshman.  They also have Brendon White who has only played in 1 game against Rutgers, where the Buckeyes won 56-0.  Shaun Wade may move to the safety position if need be this year since the Buckeyes have 3 reliable corners, but hopefully Fuller and Proctor can stay healthy throughout the year.

The Buckeyes will also miss hype-man Kerry Combs, who left the program to become the secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans.  the Buckeyes are bringing back Taver Johnson who coached the Buckeyes in 2007-2011 with Jim Tressel.  Johnson has coached talent before including Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman.  I expect the Buckeyes secondary to be the same secondary that has been sending cornerbacks and safeties to the NFL year after year.

 

What to Expect: Linebackers

The Ohio State linebackers had some up and down moments during last season.  The highlight of last season was the Michigan State game.  The low point, sadly, was the game before against the Iowa Hawkeyes who absolutely torched us, and cost us a spot in the College Football Playoffs. A topic I could go on and on about because a certain team played Mercer last year, but I digress.

The 2018 season will feature players that had quite the roll in last season as backups, but played more and more as the season went along.  Tuf Borland will most likely be the starting middle linebacker, as he is the best player for the job. However, he is coming off an Achilles injury where he missed all of spring ball.  Hopefully, he comes back the same player, or even better than last year because this kid has talent.  In the MSU game, he had 11 total tackles with 8 of them being solo and 1 sack.

If Borland can’t go or just loses the starting job, look for Baron Browning to be the next guy up. Browning was the No. 1 linebacker in the 2017 class, and was on the field during special teams last season. I expect Borland and Browning to play a lot this season back and forth, and having two guys with same level of skills is never a bad thing. Browning can also play outside linebacker, so if Borland does come back healthy, expect Browning to be on the field at both middle and outside linebackers.

Justin Hilliard, who lost his starting position to Borland last year, is the older player, but he has dealt with lingering injuries.  If Borland or Browning can’t go Hilliard is looking to improve from last season, and the Buckeyes will need him to be his former 5-star self.

Malik Harrison is expected to be the starting Strongside Linebacker.  Harrison got in games last year in garbage time, and to give the other guys some rest for a play or two, but he did show what he can do, especially in the MSU game.  Dante Booker will most likely be the backup even though he chose to comeback, and forego the NFL Draft.  Booker didn’t have the best of season last year, and that wasn’t entirely his fault.  He has been injured almost his whole career at Ohio State.  He wants to come back and show everyone, including the scouts, what he really can do.

Weakside Linebacker is the big question mark for the Buckeyes.  Replacing 3rd round draft pick Jerome Baker is no easy task.  But expect Keandre Jones to be the starting linebacker with Pete Werner to back up. Both players have seen plenty of time on special teams, but not much action at the linebacker position.  Jones is the the older player which is why I’m giving him the starting job, but Werner and Browning will be coming for the spot.

After the Iowa game, Urban and Greg Schiano made some linebacker changes for the Michigan State, and they payed off big time.  Putting in the young guys really helped the Buckeyes defense come alive.  I expect this season to be much better at the linebacker position, and they will help get the Buckeyes off the field on the 3rd down plays.  The Buckeyes have a history of great linebackers, and this season should be no exception.  With 4 and 5 star players all over the field the Buckeyes should have plenty of depth and talents to keep the NFL linebacker talent alive.

What to Expect: Defensive Line

Ohio State is expected to remain one of the top defensive lines in the country.  Even with three seniors leaving, Jayln Holmes, Tracey Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis, and one early departure, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State has raw talent. The group is young and looking to make a name for themselves with hard footsteps to follow.

Headlined by Nick Bosa at defensive end.  Bosa is looking to improve his 8.5 sacks and 19 solo sacks a year ago. He is already dropping jaws at his stellar performances and wants to continue his and his family legacy at Ohio State.  In my opinion, Bosa will do just that.  As he had to share snaps last year with second-round draft pick, Tyquan Lewis, Bosa will get plenty of playing time this season, and earn his top 5 draft pick.

On the other side from Bosa is another familiar name, Chase Young.  Young saw playing time last year, but really only in garbage time.  With so many older, more experienced players in front of him, it was hard to get him in.  However, going into his sophomore year Young will get a chance to really show off his talents.  Young has all the makings of being a top ten draft pick, and this year is the start of it. Splitting the snaps with Young and Bosa will be Johnathon Cooper, a redshirt freshman, and Jashon Cornell, a redshirt sophomore. Cooper is the third defensive end and will get the bulk of the playing time alongside Bosa and Young.  Cornell can earn significant playing time if he shows up in camp and on the field.

The middle guys are the big question here.  Dre’mont Jones and Robert Landers saw playing time last year and most likely will be the two starters at the defensive tackle positions.  However, Antwuan Jackson is a transfer from Auburn.  Jackson was going to commit to Ohio State or Auburn back in 2015 but chose Auburn at the time.  Now in 2018, Jackson is where he belongs and will have a huge part on our defensive line.  Haskell Garrett and Davon Hamilton are also “backups.” The coaching staff is loving the depth at the defensive line position and all these players could earn significant time this year.  The coaching staff also loved Tommy Togiai the true freshman who had a great spring and is hoping to get in the rotation.

What I am expecting this year is the defensive line to continue dominating like in years past. The only real problem Ohio State has right now is creating enough game time to get all these players in.  Ohio State has recruited well at the defensive end position ever since Urban got into Columbus, and with Larry Johnson at the helm the only thing stopping these players from making a name for themselves is themselves. Even with all the talent that has left in the last few years, the Buckeyes just keep on reloading.

Tyreke Smith to Visit Buckeyes

College football has become a twelve months a year thing for fans (it always was for coaches). The recruiting season never ends, but is especially noisy after bowl games.

Now it’s spring football time and most programs are back on the field. Anytime a college team is on the field is a time to show the program to recruits.

This weekend Ohio State will host Tyreke Smith, a big time recruit from Cleveland who visited Penn State last weekend (video here).

Smith is a consensus top ten defensive end who undoubtedly is impressed by the NFL success Buckeye linemen have enjoyed. Buckeye line coach Larry Johnson has a reputation for developing talent and in 2016 Joey Bosa burst into a big rookie year.

Defensive line is certainly a position of need. The Buckeyes are likely to lose Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Homes to the NFL after this year. Joey’s brother Nick could also be gone the following year.

Smith would seem to be a natural Ohio State lean. We will be paying attention.