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Projecting Buckeyes depth chart for intriguing, versatile safety spots

Spencer Holbrook07/14/21
Josh Proctor By Birm-Lettermen Row
Ohio State safety Josh Proctor is key to the rebuilding project in the secondary. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The summer offseason is in full swing, and Lettermen Row is trying to survive it with our annual Position Week breakdowns. By the time all nine units at Ohio State have been covered, training camp and media days will nearly have arrived — and the return of football in the Horseshoe will be just around the corner. Let’s continue Defensive Backs Week by projecting the depth chart at safety for the Buckeyes.

COLUMBUS — Ohio State had trouble replacing Jordan Fuller last season.

The former Buckeyes safety, who was an eraser for any issues on the defense, graduated and went to the NFL after the 2019 season. And last year, his absence from the backend of the defense was apparent as the Buckeyes struggled at safety.

Now with a full offseason and plenty of time to right what went wrong in trying to replace Fuller, Ohio State has a chance to become an elite pass defense again. And that starts at safety, where the Buckeyes gained experience through a full slate of spring practices.

“It was a great experience for those kids this spring,” defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said. “A lot of young kids getting a lot of reps. You don’t want guys to get injured, but at the same time, it afforded the opportunity for us to coach some depth in the backend. It’s so much different from where we were a year ago, just in numbers and depth across the board in the back end.”

Buckeyes fourth-year safety Josh Proctor will certainly lead the unit, but Ohio State still has open slots elsewhere in the secondary. Lettermen Row is breaking down who could emerge for the Buckeyes safeties and how the depth chart could break out.

Projected Ohio State starters

Josh Proctor: Now entering his third season as a solidified factor in the Ohio State secondary, Josh Proctor is ready to explode as a star for the Buckeyes secondary. He has grown from a player with elite skills and playmaking into a leader who has taken it upon himself to focus on communication more in the back end. He and the Buckeyes are hoping that leads to better play than they had last season. Proctor has every physical trait the Buckeyes want in their single-high safety. With the game slowing down and Proctor sharper on the mental side of the game, he can finally become the star he was projected to be.

Lathan Ransom-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State defensive back Lathan Ransom has a chance to thrive for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Lathan Ransom: After not enrolling early and not getting a normal training camp to prepare for the season, Lathan Ransom was a surprising contributor in the secondary last year as a true freshman. Since then, Ransom has transformed his body and now enters Year Two with a huge opportunity in an even larger role. He spent plenty of time packing on muscle to be ready for the season and looks like a bigger, better football player. Ransom will certainly be a key player for the Ohio State secondary in his second season.

Kourt Williams: Ohio State could have used Kourt Williams in the secondary last season. He would have found a way into the mix and contributed as a freshman, but an ACL tear in preseason camp kept him in the rehab room rather than on the football field. Now recovered from that injury, Williams will be part of the solution in the secondary. Is that at safety? Is Kourt Williams a prime candidate to play the Bullet position the Buckeyes have toyed with? That’s yet to be determined, but expect Williams on the field making an impact this fall.

In safety mix for Buckeyes

Ronnie Hickman: Ohio State listed two players with a position of Bullet on the spring roster. One of those players was Ronnie Hickman, who could be a versatile weapon in a diverse Buckeyes defense. Hickman has the tools to be a utility player in the box as a linebacker and downfield in coverage, making him an intriguing player to watch this fall. He has a chance to find a niche in the defense and make an impact. Where that will be from is yet to be decided.

Bryson Shaw-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Bryson Shaw is building for a breakout at Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Bryson Shaw: An athlete entering his third year firmly in the mix, Bryson Shaw continues to push his way up the depth chart. He certainly will be a part of the two-deep at Ohio State. But there is a bevy of versatile, talented weapons seemingly ahead of him who are ready to play, as well. Shaw has shown he can be an asset for the Buckeyes secondary. If he has a breakout August in training camp, he could complete his rise up the depth chart and into a starting role. For now, he’s in the mix.

Work to do at Ohio State

Marcus Hooker: After struggling in a starting role last season, Marcus Hooker has slid down the depth chart and out of the picture for the Buckeyes plans in the secondary. After a second criminal offense this offseason, it’s hard to see Hooker making up enough ground on the field and in the meeting room to become a factor for the Buckeyes, who need to be better against the pass than they were last season.

Jantzen Dunn-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State safety Jantzen Dunn was a surprising breakout player during spring. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Jantzen Dunn: A breakout freshman in the spring, Jantzen Dunn already has 15 practices at Ohio State to his name and can begin to settle into the loaded secondary. Dunn is one of the best athletes in his class for the Buckeyes, and they’ll find a way to use him on special teams. His time in the secondary may not be here just yet, but Jantzen Dunn will be in the mix this season — and for years to come.

Jaylen Johnson: A three-star in-state prospect, Jaylen Johnson arrived at Ohio State this summer and will need time to learn before he can contribute for the Silver Bullets defense. Johnson will have a shot to contribute early in his career on special teams while becoming a better member of the secondary as a backup.

Andre Turrentine: A four-star safety from Nashville, Andre Turrentine arrived at Ohio State in June and will need time to develop before becoming a factor in the defense. The future is bright for Turrentine, who can carve out a special teams role while learning the ropes as a safety for the Buckeyes.