A huge part of Ohio State’s defensive success in 2016 was their strength in the secondary. However, the Buckeyes have lost a ton of talent to the NFL Draft, and replacing safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley will be no small task, and Ohio State may experience some growing pains in the early part of the season.
That said, a program like Ohio State doesn’t have to reach too far to find players who can step up and play at a high level. Although their secondary will not be their strongest position group this season, they have enough solid players who will be able to hold down the fort and let some of the more talented players, such as the defensive line, take care of business.
Speaking of the defensive line, the depth the Buckeyes have across the board on the line is ridiculous. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who led Ohio State in sacks last season while just a sophomore, is back and will lead a defensive line who will give quarterbacks nightmares this year.
Joining Lewis on the line will be defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tracy Sprinkle, and fellow DE Dre’Mont Jones, who was named a Freshman All-American after the 2016 campaign. Throw in guys like Nick Bosa and Michael Hill adding depth, and you have an incredibly talented group of players that will lay the foundation for what the Buckeyes want to accomplish defensively.
However good the defensive line is, the most scrutinized group of players for Ohio State will be the secondary. When you have a group of players as talented as the ones that left Columbus after last season, there’s going to be a lot of questions surrounding the performance of their replacements. The good thing for Ohio State is that these players were able to learn from those great players last seasons, and will be able to take some of those lessons into games. However, one thing that they may not be able to copy is pure talent, and that is where the Buckeye secondary could encounter some problems. An experienced quarterback like Richard Lagow, along with a solid group of receivers, could see a lot of success against this group, especially since this is the first game of the season.
The linebacking corps could also have their work cut out for them, as Raekwon McMillan also left Columbus for the NFL Draft. Luckily for the Buckeyes, Jerome Baker will return after starting 12 games last season. Baker showed flashes of playmaking ability a year ago with a pick-six against Oklahoma and a key interception against Michigan that helped seal the Buckeyes’ position in the College Football Playoff. Along with Baker, Chris Worley will also bring a solid amount of experience to the field, having played in 26 games for the Buckeyes. Dante Booker will round out the linebackers as a group of experienced defenders that will give the Buckeyes a solid front seven for the upcoming season.