Sevyn Banks has yet to see the field for Ohio State this season, but the senior cornerback has not appeared on the Buckeyes’ status report prior to either of their first two games.
If Banks, who was considered a sure-fire starter and potential early NFL draft pick at cornerback for Ohio State ahead of the 2021 season, was too injured to play, program protocol suggests he would have been listed as a game-time decision or unavailable altogether. Other banged-up members of the Buckeye secondary, such as Cameron Brown and Josh Proctor, have each appeared on the status report prior to kickoff the past two weeks, even though details surrounding their respective injuries were not disclosed.
When asked if Banks’ absence had to do with anything other than injury, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was curt with his answer at Tuesday’s press conference.
“No, nothing else,” Day said.
The response implied that Banks is, in fact, dealing with an injury. The Florida native suffered an injury during the spring and was limited for a good portion of the preseason with an apparent lower-body injury. But a few minutes after his initial answer about Banks on Tuesday, Day opened the door for conjecture once again when he said the defensive back is healthy enough to play.
“At this point, he’s not too injured to play,” Day said. “He has had some injuries and he was kind of slow in preseason and everything like that, but now he’s healthy.”
Day said “hopefully we can get him on the field this week” against Tulsa, but the situation was far from cleared up entirely.
The good news for Ohio State is that an apparently healthy Banks could make his season debut on Saturday to help out an ailing Buckeye defense that has drawn the ire of the college football world after last weekend’s Oregon loss. But the Buckeye cornerbacks, at least when it comes to pass coverage, have not been the weak point of the Ohio State defense in the first two games of the year.
True freshman Denzel Burke, who has now started the opening two games of his collegiate career, has led all Ohio State defenders in snaps played through the opening couple of weeks. Burke also leads the team in pass breakups with four so far this season.
“I think that he’s shown in the games what he’s shown in practice,” Day said. “I thought that they went after him a couple times downfield, and he did a really good job in that area. I think he’s got a very, very bright future. He’s like a lot of the younger guys out there, everything he’s doing is for the first time. For a young player stepping into a couple of these spots, he’s done a good job. The future’s bright with him and a bunch of the younger guys we have.”
Beyond Burke, though, the cornerback rotations have been a bit scattered for Ohio State.
With Brown out for Week 1, redshirt freshman Ryan Watts got the start opposite Burke, but the 6-foot-3 California native did not play at all once Brown returned against Oregon. Sixth-year senior Demario McCall was the third outside corner in against Minnesota, but he too saw no defensive snaps against the Ducks. Redshirt freshman Lejond Cavazos saw his playing time increase this past week, receiving 19 snaps in the Oregon game, but his play in the run game has left a lot to be desired.
Defensive rotations have been all over the place at almost every position to start out the year, which is one issue the Buckeyes must work through as Day hinted at “structural changes” to Kerry Coombs’ defense on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to take the snaps we’ve seen in the games and then the snaps that we’ve seen in practice and do the best we can to put the right guys out there,” Day said about the cornerback rotation. “We like to play depth, we don’t like to play the same guys, obviously, for the entire game. So trying to find that balance is where we’re at right now. We got to look at all those options. Like we’ve talked about before, is it personnel, is it coaching or is it scheme? And finding the right people in the right spots is part of coaching, and making sure that the right guys are in those spots.”
If Banks does return fully healthy, it would seem unlikely for him to completely supplant either Burke or Brown in the lineup right off the bat given how they’ve looked in coverage. However, it’s clear that the Buckeyes will continue to experiment with personnel as they attempt to mend the glaring problems plaguing just about every level of the Ohio State defense as the season continues.