Ohio State Safety Lathan Ransom Named Semifinalist for Jim Thorpe Award

By Chase Brown on October 24, 2022 at 2:30 pm
Lathan Ransom

It's been quite the year for Lathan Ransom.

On Monday, the Ohio State safety was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the best defensive back in college football. 

It's a remarkable accomplishment for the third-year Buckeye, considering that 10 months ago Ransom was carted off the field during Ohio State's 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl because of a broken leg he suffered on kickoff coverage.

“That was one of the worst things that has ever happened to me,” Ransom said of his injury. “I knew it was broken immediately. I looked down and saw it broke. Everyone's thinking the worst at the moment, and I definitely was.”

But Ransom didn't let the injury derail his Ohio State career. He used it as an opportunity to grow as a football player. His athleticism had always been his most prominent strength as a former four-star recruit from Tucson, Arizona, but now he had a chance to develop into a more well-rounded asset for Jim Knowles and the new-look Buckeye defense.

According to safeties coach Perry Eliano, Ransom put in “unseen hours and unrequired work” in the offseason to put himself back on the football field. He went from being unable to walk under his own power in March to non-contact rehab work in the summer months. Ransom was then cleared for full football activity before Ohio State's fall camp at the start of August.

Ransom shined in those practices and immediately caught the attention of Knowles and the rest of the defensive coaching staff. He looked like his old self, perhaps even better.

“He’s decisive,” Knowles said. “He just goes. He’s a football player. He sees the forest through the trees. He can diagnose the play extremely fast, and he’s aggressive with how he treats it. You can’t ask for more from a safety than that. He’s had an exceptional camp.

“He stands out on the field in how he operates, plays at a fast tempo and he’s usually never wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, but he’s usually never wrong. In any case, he’s aggressive.”

That aggression has led to Ransom playing 235 snaps in six games for the Buckeyes this season, which ranks second among all Ohio State safeties behind Ronnie Hickman. While he began the season as a backup to Josh Proctor, he has started each of Ohio State’s last two games and three games overall.

With those opportunities, Ransom has collected 29 tackles – third-most on the team behind Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers – while adding one tackle for loss and one interception. He both forced and recovered a fumble in Ohio State’s most recent game against Iowa.

Ransom's level of play and statistical output this season put him in the conversation as one of the best safeties in college football this season. Pro Football Focus has graded Ransom as the second-best safety in the Power 5 this year behind Wisconsin’s John Torchio.

After playing primarily in the slot in 2021, Ransom is playing the bandit position this year and says he feels much more comfortable in his new role as a deep safety.

“I'm playing the safety position, that's what I came here to play,” Ransom said last week. “So I feel way more comfortable every day. And I'm learning new things every day from Coach E, from Coach Knowles and I'm excited to be learning more football, to be learning more schemes, more stuff that I didn't learn last year that is just opening up my game.”

Ohio State has two previous Jim Thorpe Award winners: Antoine Winfield in 1998 and Malcolm Jenkins in 2008. Jeff Okudah (2019) and Shaun Wade (2020) are among Ohio State’s recent semifinalists for the award.

The other semifinalists for the Thorpe Award are Trevon Flowers (Tennessee), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State), Erick Hallett II (Pittsburgh), Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (TCU), Antonio Johnson (Texas A&M), Clark Phillips III (Utah), Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State), Bentlee Sanders (Nevada), Christopher Smith (Georgia), Jason Taylor II (Oklahoma State) and Devon Witherspoon (Illinois).

An updated list of three finalists will be announced at a later date, and the winner will be selected and announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 8 live on ESPN. 

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