Depth Chartin' 2012: Defensive Backs

By Jason Priestas on January 20, 2012 at 2:00p
Bradley Roby: All UpsideBradley Roby: All Upside

Much like the linebacker corps, the Ohio State secondary largely underwhelmed in 2011.

Yes, there were bright spots, like the emergence of Bradley Roby at corner and CJ Barnett at safety, but the enduring image of the Silver Bullet defensive backs from last season will be of a hyped corner getting roasted and a young safety following a boneheaded play with a big hit and chatter.

Plenty of chatter.

Luckily, the unit will return plenty of experience and depth heading into the 2012 season. The entire two-deep, save for corner Dominic Clarke, who was booted from the team just last week after running into trouble with the law for the second time in four months, will return.

However, the group will have to contend with the departure of two long time coaches. In early December, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Paul Haynes accepted Bobby Petrino's offer to become the defensive coordinator at Arkansas. Last week, on the same day that Urban Meyer was his new staff at halftime of the Indiana basketball game, Haynes snatched good friend and Buckeye cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson. Within a matter of five weeks, Ohio State lost nine years worth of secondary coaching.

Meyer will eventually add a staff member to focus on the secondary and while co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers has made a career of coaching up defensive backs, look for another secondary specialist to come aboard. The name that jumps out is Chuck Heater and although he's a Michigan Man having played for Bo in the early 70s, Heater played a major role on Meyer's Utah and Florida staffs.

Regardless of who takes the position, this is an Urban Meyer team now, so you can expect speed and intensity out of the group this fall.

As I mentioned, the secondary will be nothing, if not seasoned this year. The four returning starters accounted for 47 starts last season and that could easily have been more had it not been for Travis Howard's early season suspension and Christian Bryant's injury for the Michigan game.

Howard entered the 2011 campaign with plenty of hype (thanks in small part to a pick-six against Penn State's Matt McGloin in 2010), even earning his own t-shirt from a group of opportunistic cotton peddlers. His year started with a dud, however, as he sat out the first two games (along with Jordan Hall and Corey Brown) for accepting improper benefits. He would go on to start the final 11 games of the season, but often looked lost in coverage against elite defenders. This was on display early against Michigan State when Westerville product B.J. Cunningham roasted Howard for a couple of huge catches, including a touchdown on a bomb.

# Name Notes
8 Dionte Allen Limited PT in 4 games
13 Jeremy Cash Transferred to Duke
5 Dominic Clarke 2 Starts, Booted
34 Nate Ebner Career special teamer
30 Donnie Evege Graduated
18 DerJuan Gambrell Booted
26 Tyler Moeller 13 career starts; Warrior
# Name HT/WT YR
4 CJ Barnett 6-0/190 R-JR
3 Corey Brown 6-1/189 R-JR
2 Christian Bryant 5-9/190 JR
16 Zach Domicone 6-3/211 5-SR
12 Doran Grant 5-11/180 SO
9 Adam Griffin 5-7/180 R-SO
23 Chad Hagan 6-0/225 R-SO
7 Travis Howard 6-1/190 SR
19 Orhian Johnson 6-2/205 5-SR
25 Bradley Roby 5-11/185 R-SO
28 Ron Tanner 6-1/190 R-FR
21 Jamie Wood 6-1/200 R-JR
Name HT/WT YR Rivals
De'van Bogard 5-11/172 FR ★★★★
Najee Murray 5-11/175 FR ★★★★
Tyvis Powell 6-4/185 FR ★★★

He finished with 41 tackles, two forced fumbles (leading the team) and two interceptions (both of which were huge fourth quarter snatches coming against Illinois and Indiana). He will obviously need to improve his coverage, but another year working on strength and speed to go along with the confidence of being a senior should help.

Starting opposite Howard at the other cornerback spot was redshirt freshman Bradley Roby. While Howard had all of the hype coming into the season, most fans thought Roby was the best corner by season's end. He was the only freshman to start all 13 games and finished with 47 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. His future is scary bright.

After showing up on the scene with several huge hits before ultimately going down with a season-ending knee injury as a redshirt freshman in 2010, safety C.J. Barnett started in all 13 games for the Buckeyes last season, amassing a team-high 75 tackles to go along with two interceptions and six pass break-ups. In the Michigan game alone, Barnett recorded 12 stops and was rewarded for his breakout campaign earning the Arnie Chonko Award as the team's outstanding defensive back and capturing 2nd team All-Big Ten honors. Expect more of the same and then some for Barnett's redshirt junior season this fall.

While junior Orhian Johnson started the season at the other safety spot, he soon lost his job to sophomore Christian Bryant. Bryant was very much the definition of Jekyll and Hyde last season, finishing 3rd on the team with 68 tackles and 2nd in the Big Ten with eight pass break-ups, but for every two outstanding plays, there was a missed assignment or a play that saw Bryant out of position. With a year of on-the-job training under his belt by way of his 10 starts, expect him to be much improved in 2012 and hopefully a bit more mature. While some yapping on the field is fun to watch, it's hard to stomach after giving up a first down on a 3rd-and-11.

All four starters are back and seasoned, but nearly as importantly, there is seasoned depth in the secondary heading into this fall. Dominic Clarke, who backed up Howard at corner and actually started the first two games of the season in his absence is gone, but Doran Grant, who served as Roby's backup at the other corner spot is back after seeing action in all 13 games. Grant was a USA Today All-American at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and a state champion hurdler he has the genetics, as well, as his father, Ted Jones, was a wide receiver at Michigan State.

Johnson will be a fifth-year senior with 15 career starts under his belt and any time you have that kind of experience with a backup, you have to like it. Indeed, he filled in admirably for Bryant when he was out with an injury for the Michigan game. Though he was often knocked for his safety play, he did still manage to tie for the team lead with three interceptions in just four starts.

Zach Domicone will return as Barnett's backup after seeing action in all 13 games and he has a knack for finding the ball. he recovered a fumble on the punt team against Colorado and took a blocked punt back for six against Minnesota in 2010. Ron Tanner, who redshirted last year, and Jamie Wood, who saw action in every game, may also get into the mix for backup playing time at safety.

Corey "Monroeville" Brown saw mostly special teams action in all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore and could vie to see time as Howard's backup. If he doesn't emerge, Glenville's De'van Bogard, a Rivals four-star, could force his way onto the field. He's coming to Columbus as a safety, but could make the switch to cornerback with ease. He took a recent visit to USC, but from all accounts, it was just to get some free sunshine in the dead of winter.

Steubenville's Najee Murray, another Rivals four-star, will arrive as a safety while Bedford's Tyvis Powell, a kid born to be a Buckeye if there ever was one, will challenge for time at cornerback.

While the secondary has plenty of room for improvement and growth, the pieces are in place to achieve that. We'll be back next week to take a look at the offensive line. 


Comments Show All Comments

ih8rolltyde's picture

CJ Barnett (CB4) will be even more monsterous next year. One more year removed from that knee injury, full year of starting. I expect big things from this young man. He is gonna play in the league.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

Maestro's picture

Hagan is huge.

vacuuming sucks

NYC Buckeye's picture

Very disappointed in Clarke... I was impressed with his play last season, thought he would emerge as a starter this year...

Hopefully Grant lives up to he hype.. Even though you mention he saw action in all 13 games I didn't notice him much at all...

Jason Priestas's picture

Mostly special teams.

Seth4Bucks's picture

Think of it this way. At least Grant doesn't stick out in your mind for giving up a TD or big play. That's pretty much a win right there any time you have a rookie come in, even if he's not playing much.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

I thought Travis Howard was pretty bad LY. It seemed like Dustin Fox covering Braylon Edwards all over again. He gave up a lot of BIG plays. I guess I'm just not used to watching our corners miss so many tackles and get beat. Travis needs to have a film room session with Spielman, maybe learn to wrap up, and look at what he's hitting instead of dropping his head like a scared high schooler. 

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

Buckeyeneer's picture

I hope Chuck Heater comes on board as the DB coach. He has a great deal of experience and is a great coach. Plus it would be cool to have a connection on the coaching staff, as my dad was a friend of his and blocked for him when he was in high school.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

BuddhaBuck's picture

If the DL turns out the way we hope & expect it to, these guys aren't going to have to cover anyone for very long... 

Don't text while driving.

otrain2416's picture

Great article Jason if we get Reeves too it will just add more depth

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Jason Priestas's picture

Thanks. With Williams coming on today, you have to think Reeves is just a matter of time.

Squirrel Master's picture

god help me if Orhian Johnson starts this year. He plays okay but if he starts then that just shows how much trouble the secondary is currently at. I love Roby and really like CJ. Howard has to make up for what we saw last year, and I really think a better pass rush will help, if he wants to stay because I can see a young buck stepping up. Bryant I like, especially since he is the only current #2 "playing" and I own that jersey. Thanks TP!

but 2013 it is on. We'll have Burrows, Marshall, Woodard coming in. Its going to be a regular 3 ring circus with these guys.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Bucksnut13's picture

Marshall on offense no?

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog

Squirrel Master's picture

well he is listed as an athlete, rb and db. I assumed he would come in as db since we are somewhat limited there. but hey, I will take talent across the board and offense works too.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Riggins's picture

I still don't see how someone 6'4'' can play corner (Powell).  I have not seen tape though.

Maestro's picture

He played safety in high school.

vacuuming sucks

Squirrel Master's picture

yeah but he is listed as cb on some recruiting sites. I think safety or at least STAR will be where he ends up. although a really good 6'5'' cb would be sick. can you imagine someone who can match these huge WR in size and have the agility and speed of a corner?

Edit: lol I youtube'd him and he is listed as S/QB on there. another 6'5'' QB anyone? lol

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

spqr2008's picture

he wrote in his blog that he had played both cb and safety last year

spqr2008's picture

I want to see him vs. T.Y. williams in the spring game.  That would be AWESOME!

Maestro's picture

I am sure he did, most of his highlights that I have seen were of him playing safety.  He is rangy to be sure.  With good coaching I think he could play corner.  He isn't afraid to stick his nose in on plays, but will need to put on some weight to play safety at OSU IMHO. 

vacuuming sucks

Squirrel Master's picture

very true and with the video I saw of him he looks like a tackling machine. big long arms and wraps up very well. no matter what position he plays I think he would be an asset with his tackling and size. most of our dbs haven't measured over 6'1'' let alone 6'5''.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Squirrel Master's picture

me either. only way I say he can stay at corner would be if he ran blazing fast. can't seem to find his 40 time anywhere so don't know. hell, if he gained an extra 20 lbs he could play STAR!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

awwwwwwop's picture

Jaime Wood's pt was mostly on special teams yes?

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

Bucks43201's picture

I thought Hagan was a guy who was going to take a medical hardship waiver.He has a heart condition. I watched him play a few games here in western PA --- and he is a beast and would've been a 4/5 star...but the poor kid's got a heart condition & it scared off some other major schools. Hope he's ok to play....he has a ton of upside.

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Maestro's picture

Up in the air I think.  At this point he is still on the team.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyejason's picture

Powell is probably closer to 6'3 than 6'5"..these guys always get over listed wen it comes to height and weights. Howard needs to step it up big time next well as hi old hs teammate Sabino. Grant is in a great position to succeed. I'm not sure Bogard can play corner..looks pure safety to me watching him play. Murray might end up a solid corner I think.

I like our safeties Barnett and Bryant..hope they take it up another notch next season though.


Nuts4Bucks's picture

Moeller will be easy to replace, would love to see Jamie Wood get some snaps on the Defense. Safety seems like a hard position to find snaps, seeing Jeremy Cash transfer leads me to believe that. Could Doran Grant challenge Travis Howard for starting DB? I say yes, especially if Howard don't learn how to provide run support. All in all should be exciting to see who fills out the positions on Defense.