Who fits best for Buckeyes in slot cornerback role?

On3 imageby:Austin Ward07/21/20


The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the slot cornerback position? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The best, most versatile defensive back on the roster is still Shaun Wade.

And while the redshirt junior is also a potential shutdown defender on the outside and a surefire first-round draft pick, his skill set and previous success in the slot will continue to provide temptation to put him back in the role where he was almost indispensable for Ohio State. The memories of Wade in coverage from that spot combined with his tackles in the backfield and his lightning-quick strikes on the blitz will be hard to shake for the coaching staff when putting together a game plan.

But that’s also why it’s imperative for the Buckeyes to figure out if Sevyn Banks or Cameron Brown can have the same impact in that position so they can put that conversation to rest. Both of those guys bring NFL-caliber potential to the secondary as well, and thanks to the abbreviated spring camp in March, there’s really been no clarity yet about how the pieces best fit together.

Cam Brown-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State cornerback Cameron Brown is one of the fastest players in football. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The feeling here has been that Banks has the most in common with Wade, starting with the fact that they’re both 6-foot-1 and carrying enough muscle that they don’t look out of place if they happen to be matched up on tight ends or filling the box against the run. Brown has that ability as well, to be fair — but he is also one of the fastest players on a roster loaded with speed. Plus, the junior brings a bit of an experience edge as well after Brown established himself as the first guy off the bench behind the three starters a year ago, which could prove useful in high-pressure situations on the perimeter.

Also an option: Coombs could conceivably line up any of those three guys in the slot depending on the circumstances and the way the rotation shakes out. That’s probably less likely than tabbing either Banks or Brown for the role and letting them make it their own, but there’s not much Ohio State values more than versatility right now.

“I’m looking at the room and I see long, fast corners,” Coombs said earlier this year. “So now my job is to develop them into those kind of [first-round] players. We’re going to be fast, we’re going to be able to cover the field, we’re going to be able to cover the receivers, we’re going to be active in the game, so I’m excited about the full range.

“I think you have to get your best players on the field, but I also think you have to keep fast, fresh players on the field”

Coombs wasn’t about to tip his hand about the rotation in March, and there’s still no reason to in July since training camp is still about two weeks away from opening if college football stays on the current schedule.

The Buckeyes have options, though, and they also have the best slot cornerback in the country still around just in case they need to move him back. So, the only truly safe bet right now is that Ohio State will be just fine with any of those options taking over that key spot.

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