Six Players That Must Step Into Significantly Larger Roles for Ohio State to Thrive in 2020

By Chris Lauderback on September 24, 2020 at 10:10 am
Zach Harrison and Josh Proctor must fill some big shoes if Ohio State is to reach its goal of a national title.

Ryan Day received a huge boost after the Big Ten's announced return to the field as both right guard Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade, shortly after announcing intentions to opt out of the season and prepare the 2021 NFL Draft, reconsidered and said they'd be rejoining the Buckeyes. 

Those two sure-fire first round draft picks next spring sit alongside Justin Fields, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Thayer Munford, Josh Myers, Pete Werner and Baron Browning, among others, as key veterans with the potential to carry Ohio State to a national title. 

With all that talent in the mix, it's easy to forget about what Ohio State must replace following the departures of elite performers in Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette, J.K. Dobbins, Jordan Fuller and Jonah Jackson, to name a few. 

So who will Day and company turn to in an effort to fill the void? There's no shortage of blue chip talent just waiting for a chance but a lot of guys have to prove their production can match the hype. Here are six players in particular that must be ready to make a huge leap from last season's roles and responsibilities. 


Petit-Frere enters his third year with the program as a redshirt sophomore though it might seem like he's been in Columbus even longer. 

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle arrived with much fanfare but has one just start - last season at left tackle in place of an ailing Thayer Munford - over two seasons. Petit-Frere logged 240 snaps in 2019 with 55% of those coming against the likes of Northwestern, Maryland and Rutgers. He saw just 10 snaps over the last four games as he backed up Branden Bowen. 

Now, Petit-Frere needs to earn the trust of Greg Studrawa to help solidify what can be one of the nation's best offensive lines if he does his part. If he doesn't, Dawand Jones and true freshman Paris Johnson Jr. will be eager to step in but the hope is Petit-Frere is now ready for prime time. 


Jonah Jackson was one of Ohio State's most underrated players last year and replacing not only his skill but also his nastiness will be a tall task. 

Sophomore Harry Miller will get first crack at filling Jackson's shoes despite arriving in Columbus as a primarily a center. 

Miller logged 181 snaps last year with, like Petit-Frere, the bulk coming in mop up duty at the center position against awful teams. Now, Miller will get to show he belongs on the starting unit one slot to the left. 

A cerebral player, Miller's acumen will help him acclimate to the new position and it won't hurt that he'll be book-ended by Munford at left tackle and Josh Myers at center.

Miller is a star in the making, the only question is if it'll be right out of the gate this year or a slower burn as the Buckeyes progress through the regular season slate. 


Now entering his sophomore season, Harrison actually played the most 2019 snaps among any of the returnees at defensive end with 284. That mark trailed only Chase Young's 577 within Larry Johnson's rotation. 

With a bit of seasoning on his freakish 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame, Day is counting on Harrison to make a huge leap this fall. Last year, Harrison tallied 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. For comparison, Young's freshman season was eerily similar as he registered 5.5 tackles for loss and a 3.5 sacks before exploding for 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as a sophomore. 

Whether or not Harrison can emulate Young's trajectory will have a huge impact on Ohio State's national title aspirations. 


Kerry Coombs received a huge boost when Shaun Wade opted back into the 2020 season but he still has to replace Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Jordan Fuller. 

Junior Cameron Brown should be right in the mix to help fill the void after logging the fourth-most cornerback snaps a season ago (254) behind Okudah, Arnette and Wade, after earning former co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley's trust. 

Brown has great measureables at 6-foot, 192-pounds complemented by at least 4.3 speed. 

For now, it looks like Brown is locked in a battle with Sevyn Banks to start opposite Wade on the outside. Which brings us to.. 


At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, Banks also has the size and range Ohio State looks for in a cornerback. The assumption is that Banks, also a junior, will battle Brown for a starting spot all throughout camp. It will be interesting to see if we find out which will start more than a day before the season opener against Nebraska. 

In 170 snaps last season, including 33 versus Michigan, Banks was pretty active with 11 tackles, three pass breakups, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception. He also certainly has the personality for the position. 

No matter who starts, it's a fair expectation that both Brown and Banks will see extensive time this season as Coombs retools the secondary. 

What'll be interesting is whether either one could end up playing more slot than anyone is currently anticipating after Coombs spoke about senior Marcus Williamson having the perfect size and skill set to play inside. Maybe foolishly, I guess I'm not quite sold on Williamson have a stranglehold on that spot. 

Even if Williamson does, assuming Ohio State still plays a fair amount of single-high safety, there could be room for Brown and Banks on the field together at times. 

Bottom line, both Brown and Banks have to play big for Ohio State's secondary to avoid a significant drop off from last year. 


Make no mistake, Proctor is a playmaker with a high ceiling. At 6-foot-2, 202-pounds, he is more than willing to lay wood in run support and is more rangy than his predecessor, Jordan Fuller. 

That said, he was also inconsistent in 2019 when it came to filling the right gap in run support, making a sure tackle in exchange for attempting the big hit and being a little too greedy in pass coverage. The results of those decisions sometimes led to big plays for opponents. 

If the Buckeyes continue to deploy a single-high safety look more often than not, the safety needs to be steady more than he needs to be a gambling playmaker. 

Assuming Coombs can help Proctor polish up the finer points, he'll have a stud on his hands. Proctor's talent is real and a heavier dose of disciplined play will elevate him to greater heights. If he can do that to help secure the last line of defense, Ohio State will be in fine shape. 

View 36 Comments