Scarlet Sunrise: Ohio State continues to cross-train corners at nickel

On3 imageby:Andy Backstrom08/11/23

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Ohio State continues to cross-train corners at nickel

It started in the spring. It’s continued in training camp.

Ohio State is cross-training cornerbacks, such as Jordan Hancock, Jyaire Brown and Ryan Turner, at the nickel safety position in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ 4-2-5 system. That’s in addition to the batch of safeties who can play inside, too.

“We got a lot of guys doing it,” cornerbacks and secondary coach Tim Walton said this week. “I have three or four guys in the [cornerback] room that I’m training to do that. You know what happens in football, man. You got guys getting injured, you got things that come up, you have to move guys around, you got matchups.”

Having different options at nickel helps the Buckeyes situationally. Different body types fit the position in specific game scenarios. For instance, a bigger safety like Sonny Styles can play nickel in run defense situations, but a traditional outside corner like Hancock can shift inside for a clear passing situation, perhaps on third-and-long.

These players aren’t one-trick ponies, though.

“I like hitting people,” Hancock said. “You hit people more at nickel.”

When discussing what it’s like to practice at the position, Hancock added: “It translates pretty smoothly because corner, it can be harder to guard at the cornerback position. But playing nickel, you can know what your leverage is and your help. So having that really helps.”

Hancock emphasized that, wherever the Buckeyes’ staff puts him, he’ll be happy to be on the field.

Brown has the same mindset.

“I would say my role is just to get better every day,” Brown said. “Wherever I can help this team and increase my value, whether that’s inside corner or outside corner, I feel like wherever that is, I’m going to try to get better every day. That’s my role.”

With more comfort in defensive system comes greater versatility for Ohio State safeties

The goal is for the Ohio State safeties to be comfortable at all three safety positions in the Jim Knowles defense: the “adjuster” (high safety, or “free safety”), the “bandit” (boundary safety, or “strong safety”) and the “nickel” (a corner/safety who covers the slot).

Understanding how to play at each of those spots allows Buckeyes safeties to move around. That gives safeties coach Perry Eliano, as well as Knowles, more flexibility.

Plus, it gives Ohio State a bit of protection from the injury bug.

“We’re a safety-driven defense,” Eliano said. “So one of the things for those guys they got to know, is they gotta learn everything. Because anything can happen in a game. So it’s our job as coaches to prepare our guys for the ‘what if.'”

It’s easier to tap into that versatility in Year Two of the Knowles system — more on that here.

Pair of Buckeyes transfer offensive linemen shed black stripe

Ohio State brought in pair of transfer offensive linemen in the transfer portal this offseason — one in the winter window and one in the spring window — and they both shed their black stripe Thursday after the seventh practice of training camp.

Center Victor Cutler Jr. from Louisiana-Monroe and offensive tackle Jimmy Simmons from San Diego State were the first Buckeyes players this camp to receive the post-practice honor.

Cutler has pulled himself back into competition for the starting center position, and Simmons is one of four tackles with a good shot at the two vacancies on the outside.

For more on Cutler, go here. And for more on Simmons, go here.

Counting down

Buckeyes vs. Indiana: 22 days
Buckeyes vs. Michigan: 107 days

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