COLUMBUS — A little uncertainty about the Ohio State secondary heading into the spring was reasonable.
The Buckeyes lost two first-round draft picks at cornerback. A captain who was a multiyear starter at safety was off to the NFL. The position coach who guided that productive group a year ago was also gone.
Of course, the Buckeyes have recruited better than any program in the country in the secondary. A future star was finally healthy and ready for his turn on the backline of the defense. And that new hire to coordinate the defense just so happened to be a familiar face who was responsible for building the Best in America unit in the first place.
So, Kerry Coombs certainly understood why there were questions about how he was going to reload the secondary. But he also had plenty of reasons to shoot those concerns down.
“First of all, because they’re great players, OK?” Coombs said shortly after returning to Ohio State. “I’ve watched them. I recruited a bunch of them. I know who they are. I’ve watched them work out the last couple of days. I’ve watched their tape. These guys got to play a lot of ball last year, which is outstanding, right? The guys who weren’t starters, they get 250, 300 plays a football at high levels and critical games.
“So, I’m excited about that. But I’ve had a good chance to meet with these kids. I know what they’re made of. A lot of them I’ve known from when they were in high school, and I’m very excited about them. Don’t worry about them. We’re going to be just fine.”
That’s probably a safe bet for a unit and coach who have both earned the benefit of the doubt. So as Defensive Backs Week winds down at Lettermen Row, the staff is ready to make Five Bold Predictions about what’s going to happen in the secondary for the Buckeyes.
Austin Ward: Cam Brown will be All-Big Ten pick for Ohio State
There’s nothing simple about replacing two first-round draft picks at cornerback, but the Buckeyes have the personnel to make it look relatively easy. Both Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown have had a couple years to develop behind the previous superstars in the Ohio State secondary, and both are bursting with athleticism. Brown, in particular, brings high-end speed to the position, and that pushes him slightly ahead in my mind as the leader for an outside role this season. Assuming opposing quarterbacks don’t want to throw on Shaun Wade too often, Brown should be in line to get his hands on a number of footballs, which will boost him into consideration for awards like an All-Big Ten selection.
Birm: Buckeyes will have two more first-round draft picks
Ohio State will have two more first round picks from defensive back group in 2021 NFL Draft. I donâ€™t know if it will be Shaun Wade and Cam Brown, Shaun Wade and Sevyn Banks, Shaun Wade and Josh Proctor or exactly how it will shake itself out. But Kerry Coombs is going to add to his ridiculous scoreboard and put two more Buckeyes defensive backs into the NFLâ€™s first-round pick fraternity, even after an abbreviated season in Columbus. The roadmap is there for a one-year star to make the leap to the professional ranks, and Brown, Banks and Proctor all have the physical talents to be the next dudes to do it. Which of them will join Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Denzel Ward? I donâ€™t know, but I know one of them will.
Tim May: Josh Proctor thrives in starting safety role
Any good doctor has to serve an internship, because experience is the key. So it has been for Ohio State safety Josh Proctor. He came from Owasso High School outside Tulsa, Okla., two seasons ago considered to be one of the better nationally at his craft, oozing hard-hitting desire and field-roaming prowess. He watched the way one of the nation’s elite safeties, Jordan Fuller, handled rounds the last two years while Proctor also gained some valuable playing time, especially in the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson. Now it’s time for Proctor to become “the Doctor” of the defense, to diagnose, direct and when needed, surgically strike. He seems quite capable.
Spencer Holbrook: Sevyn Banks will be in position to leave early
Sevyn Banks has the physical tools to be a great member of the Ohio State secondary. Now working under Kerry Coombs, he could be the next Buckeyes cornerback to leave for the NFL. Banks only has one career interception, but that will change this season as he is thrown into the starting rotation. He’s a physical player with a knack for making plays. That will translate onto the Ohio State defense, and it could force him to have a decision to make after the 2020 season.
Will Crall: Lejond Cavazos will win starting job for Ohio State
Back in April, I predicted that Lejond Cavazos would have a big spring game and emerge as a starter for the Buckeyes this season. Nothing has really changed, so Iâ€™m going to double down on that prediction. The starting position opposite Shaun Wade is wide open. Cavazos played against nationally-ranked competition almost every week in high school at at IMG Academy and is coached by the best in the business, Kerry Coombs. It is for these reasons — plus, he looked very impressive the first couple of practices of the spring — that I think he will emerge at some point this year.