“In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest.” ~ William McKinley
I have to give some props to President McKinley. Born in Niles, Ohio, McKinley was the last American President to have served in the military in The Civil War, so McKinley certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to defeats and victory.
To say that the 2016 Ohio State football season ended with a thud is an understatement. While I certainly believed Clemson was capable of defeating Ohio State in The 2016 Fiesta Bowl, I never thought Ohio State would be so thoroughly outplayed, and, let’s be honest Ohio State fans, outcoached.
As badly as I felt about that loss on New Year’s Eve, the Ohio State coaches and players felt the sting of that loss much more so. Dramatic overhauls along the coaching staff, combined with early departures of players for the 2017 NFL Draft, have Ohio State with questions to answer as spring football began in Columbus on March 7th.
For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. These position groups will be ranked, from least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be reevaluated after the spring game.
3rd – Defensive Backs
Players Lost: CB Marshon Lattimore, CB Gareon Conley, S Malik Hooker
Returning Players/Incoming Players: S Damon Webb (Senior), S Erick Smith (Senior), CB Denzel Ward (Junior), CB Damon Arnette (Redshirt Sophomore), S Jordan Fuller (Sophomore), CB Rodjay Burns (Sophomore), CB Joshua Norwood (Redshirt Sophomore), S Wayne Davis (Redshirt Freshman), S Jahsen Wint (Redshirt Freshman), CB Kendall Sheffield (JUCO Sophomore), CB Jeffrey Okudah (Freshman), CB Marcus Williamson (Freshman), CB Shaun Wade (Freshman), S Isaiah Pryor (Freshman)
A few things to keep in mind for this position group…
- For the second year in a row, Ohio State is facing the challenge of replacing three starters from the secondary. In 2016, it paid off handsomely, as Ohio State had players such as Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker emerge as superstars to combine with Gareon Conley to form arguably the best secondary in college football. All three players are projected as high NFL draft picks; it is not improbable that all three will wind up being selected within the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
- To the best of my knowledge, the above listed returning players are listed in terms of competed minutes. In other words, Damon Webb is the most experienced returning player on Ohio State’s roster. Even with Webb’s experience, Webb could very well lose his starting position to other talented players within the secondary.
- The incoming freshmen are going to bear watching this spring, and well throughout the season. Players such as Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade were considered the very best at their position across the country. Kendall Sheffield is a JUCO transfer who has already impressed, with his black stripe being removed from his helmet.
- While other players on the roster may have more publicity and accolades, sophomore cornerback Rodjay Burns certainly made the most of his limited playing opportunities in 2016. Burns will probably have opportunities to contribute in nickel packages and on special teams in 2017. It is my sincere hope that the Ohio State scoreboard will have this type of display whenever Mr. Burns makes a big play.
The 2016 Ohio State football season did not end on a positive note. Spring practices in 2017 can show the Ohio State coaches, players, and fans that the 2017 season will not end in a similar fashion.