Craig Young Moving Around to “A Couple Different Spots,” No Longer Playing Same Position As Ronnie Hickman

By Griffin Strom on October 5, 2021 at 3:30 pm
Craig Young

It was thought to be a two-man race to the top of the depth chart at the bullet position for Ohio State this preseason.

After the very first game, and increasingly so in the subsequent four, that has not been the case.

Ronnie Hickman has emerged as a breakout defensive star for the Buckeyes, with the third-year player standing as the lone four-time champion for Ohio State, and one of just three players in the country with 44 total tackles and multiple interceptions. Craig Young, on the other hand, has played 211 fewer snaps than Hickman through the first five games of the season.

As the Buckeyes continue to experiment with Cover 2 looks in their evolving secondary, though, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Young will no longer be playing the same position as Hickman.

“I think Ronnie’s done a very good job. He’s obviously been very, very productive, and we’re moving Craig into a little bit of a different role there, and so he’s kind of finding his way in that new role,” Day said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Trying to find a way for us to get them both on the field, because they’re both very talented.”

That role isn’t completely new for Young starting this week, as the redshirt sophomore lined up at cover safety against Rutgers behind redshirt freshman Cameron Martinez – who has started the past two games at the spot – and 2020 starter Marcus Williamson.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, Young had been a member of Al Washington’s linebacker unit until the coaching staff approached him about a move to safety in the aftermath of Ohio State national championship game loss in January.

After a transitional period in the spring, Young said in the preseason that his confidence at bullet was at an all-time high. Less than two months later, it looks like the Buckeye coaching staff is trying to tweak his role once again.

“I’m very versatile,” Young said in August. “I can fit in the box, I can guard, I can go guard in deep thirds. I can do pretty much anything that a 5-9 player can do, and I’m just 6-4. I just say being fast and being physical in the box. So that’s what makes me.”

Young’s snaps have increased each week this season, starting from six against Minnesota and moving up to 25 in Saturday’s 39-point win over Rutgers. However, most of that came in garbage time during a one-sided affair.

The varied skill set Young brings to the table may be his biggest asset to the team, but it also might make it difficult to find him the perfect role on defense. In fact, Day said that Young has moved around to “a couple different spots,” which could allude to his ability to play Sam linebacker as well.

“I think what’s special about Craig is he’s such a versatile athlete. He’s probably the biggest DB in the room, but he moves like he’s a smaller guy,” Williamson said Tuesday. “And so just having that versatility in him – his physicality, his foot speed, his hips, his long speed – Craig is a guy that can be used in a lot of roles, and we’re really glad to have him.”

Prior to his latest shift, Young said he always thought he would move around to different positions once he got to college.

“I always thought that I was gonna be one of those athletes that played different positions in college,” Young said. “It didn’t start until about this year, and I’m really liking it actually. I’m enjoying it, it’s me, it’s what I did in high school. I feel very comfortable with it, and I’m moving very comfortably with it.”

Two of Young’s former position room stablemates, Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope, have already entered the transfer portal in the past few weeks after being unable to find the playing time they hoped to as Ohio State seniors.

In Young’s case, it seems the coaching staff is taking an active approach to finding him a role that could get him on the field quicker. 

That path no longer appears to be behind Hickman, though, as Hickman’s play as a bullet and strong safety in different looks for the Buckeyes in the past two games has helped bring Ohio State its most tangible defensive success of the season.

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