Tulsa Notebook: Ohio State Hopeful Zach Harrison and Thayer Munford Return Quickly, Cameron Martinez Makes Pick-Six in Defensive Debut and Sevyn Banks Returns

By Dan Hope on September 19, 2021 at 8:05 am
Zach Harrison

Only two of Ohio State’s six captains for the 2021 season were available to play for the Buckeyes by the end of the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Tulsa.

Wide receiver Kamryn Babb has been unavailable to play all season due to a torn ACL. Defensive end Zach Harrison was ruled unavailable for Saturday’s game due to an undisclosed injury, while linebacker Teradja Mitchell also did not play after he was listed as a game-time decision. Left guard Thayer Munford was knocked out of Saturday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury; he was spotted wearing a walking boot on the sidelines.

The injuries to Munford and Harrison, in particular, loom large if either of them miss extended time. Munford is the Buckeyes’ most experienced player and the leader of their offensive line, while Harrison played the most snaps of any defensive end in Ohio State’s first two games.

Day expressed optimism after Saturday’s game, though, that both of them would be back on the field sooner than later.

Day said the decision for Harrison not to play against Tulsa was made on Saturday morning. The Buckeyes are hoping to have Harrison back on the field next weekend against Akron.

“We’re hoping to get him back to practice next week,” Day said. “It was kind of a game-time decision, but we felt like the best thing for him to do was to hold him for this game and then hope to get him back next week.”

The timetable for Munford’s return is less certain, but Day said early indications were that the injury would not be one that keeps him out for an extensive portion of the season.

“It doesn’t look long-term,” Day said. “How long, I don’t know. But the pictures that were taken and everything does not look long-term.”

Thayer Munford
Thayer Munford clutched his ankle in pain after going down in the first quarter against Tulsa.

Javontae Jean-Baptiste made his first start of the season at defensive end in place of Harrison while Cody Simon made his first career start at linebacker in place of Mitchell. Matthew Jones played the rest of the game at left guard after Munford went down, and left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere thought Jones did a great job filling in for Munford.

“Losing Thayer is a big loss. Like I said at the beginning of the season, Thayer is one of our most important offensive linemen and he’s a leader not only on the offensive line but the offense and the team in general. He’s been a staple for a few years. But things like this happen,” Petit-Frere said. “So Matt Jones stepped in, he did an amazing job, communicated really well with me and Luke (Wypler) at center. He had an amazing day, I think he had a really good day on the offensive line, and just couldn’t be prouder of him just stepping in and filling his role when his number was called.”

One other Buckeye who was noticeably absent from Saturday’s game was Miyan Williams, who started the first two games at running back but did not play any snaps against Tulsa. Day said that Williams was available to play, though he did miss one practice this week due to illness, but that Ohio State simply decided to go with TreVeyon Henderson and Master Teague against Tulsa – mostly Henderson, who ran for a freshman-record 277 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries against the Golden Hurricane.

“We were playing the hot hand there,” Day said. “I thought Master practiced well. Miyan did miss one of the practices this week and wasn’t feeling well, so those guys practiced a little bit better. It wasn’t like we were holding him out, but TreVeyon was hot, so Coach Alford went with him.”

Martinez makes pick-six in defensive debut

Although Ohio State played 25 different players on defense in its season opener against Minnesota and 26 different players on defense in its second game against Oregon, Cameron Martinez wasn’t one of them in either game. But that changed in a big way against Tulsa.

Per Pro Football Focus, Martinez played 39 snaps against the Golden Hurricane as a slot cornerback/cover safety. Most of those snaps came in nickel packages, in which he lined up opposite starting cover safety Lathan Ransom in the slot. And he took advantage of his opportunity.

Martinez showed his playmaking ability throughout the day, but his biggest play came with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Having already broken up three passes earlier in the game, Martinez picked off a Davis Brin pass at the 39-yard line, then showed the ability to find the end zone that once made him a star high school quarterback as he made it all 61 yards for a defensive touchdown that sealed Ohio State’s 41-20 victory.

In a week where Ohio State made changes to try to fix its ailing defense, Martinez was glad that one of those changes was to give him a substantial role in the secondary.

“They always just kind of talked about be ready. They put us in position in practice to always stay ready and to be successful. That’s just kind of what they’ve been doing every week, and my name was called this weekend, and it was really fun,” Martinez said after the game. “I had a blast doing everything that they had to do.”

Martinez said he saw an interception coming for Ohio State’s defense on the series where he made his pick-six, though he didn’t necessarily see it coming to him. Once it did, though, he knew he had a chance to go all the way to the end zone because he believed his teammates would give him that chance.

“I had all the confidence in the world that during that drive we were gonna get a pick,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know who was gonna get it. Luckily, it was me. I just had the confidence and I just knew once I caught it that my teammates were gonna have my back too and make all the right blocks and take it to the house.”

Banks returns to cornerback rotation

Another defender who did not play at all in Ohio State’s first two games of the season but was included in the rotation against Tulsa was Sevyn Banks, who played his first 25 snaps of the year at outside cornerback versus the Golden Hurricane, according to PFF.

Banks’ absence from the cornerback rotation in Ohio State’s first two games of the year came as a surprise, given that he was a projected starting cornerback – and frequently included as a potential first-round pick in early NFL mock drafts – entering the season and that he was not listed as unavailable on the status report for either game.

The fourth-year senior, who started all eight of Ohio State’s games in 2018, did miss time with injuries in both spring practices and preseason camp, but Day said Tuesday that Banks was “not too injured to play.”

Sevyn Banks
Sevyn Banks saw his first playing time of the season against Tulsa.

Now that he is back in the rotation but not starting, it appears as though Banks might have simply been beaten out for a starting job by true freshman Denzel Burke and fellow fourth-year cornerback Cameron Brown. While Ohio State’s defense has struggled in the first three games of the year, Burke and Brown have been bright spots at outside cornerback – especially Burke, who’s been arguably Ohio State’s best defensive player so far this season – so it’s far from guaranteed Banks will get back into the starting lineup.

“He’s practicing much better, and we’ll look at the film and see how he played, evaluate and go from there,” Day said.


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