With Jim Knowles back as defensive coordinator and Perry Eliano entering his second year as OSU safeties coach, the Buckeye secondary has some much-needed continuity entering 2023.
During an interview session with media members after spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Thursday, Eliano said there's "absolutely" an increased comfort level with his position room after learning the ropes under a new regime last season. Eliano also discussed the trajectory and development of many of his safeties and broke down what he wants to see from the unit in the coming year.
Beyond Eliano, Buckeye safeties Lathan Ransom, Josh Proctor, Sonny Styles, Ja'Had Carter and Cameron Martinez were all available to the media on Thursday. We've rounded up some of the most notable comments from each of them below, and you can watch the videos below to hear what each of them had to say.
- Eliano says you can “absolutely” tell there’s a “comfort level there” in the secondary given they’re entering their second year in the system. But Eliano says there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Eliano says it’s easier to “talk ball” with his players entering his second year at Ohio State.
- On Ja’Had Carter, Eliano says “you notice instantly there’s a difference” in the competitive nature of a program like Ohio State for players that transfer in, but says “he wanted to be even better than what he was.” Eliano says he has “no entitlements” and requires “no special attention.” Carter has played both in the slot and at high safety depending on the look so far in practice.
- Eliano says he sat down and talked with Josh Proctor “like men” after the 2022 season and explained what he felt was best for the Buckeyes and what was best for him individually. Eliano says Proctor knew he needed to come back and develop more, and wants him to work on trying to live in the moment.
- On Cam Martinez, Eliano says his familiarity with the Buckeye defense has helped him get first-team reps this spring and that injuries held him back at times in 2022.
- Eliano says Sonny Styles will be in “more of a streamlined position” this season and that he’s “excelling” during his first full spring at Ohio State. Eliano says he wants Styles to “be great at specific things rather than OK at a lot of things.”
- Ransom says the Buckeye coaches have upped the ante this offseason: “This has definitely been the most the hardest winter workouts we've had since I've been here. Most definitely the practice has been the hardest they've been. Coaches are pushing us harder than we've ever been pushed. … Because obviously we fell short of a lot of our goals that we had. And I mean, that's not accepted here."
- On his decision to return to Ohio State: “I'm here because I want to improve on things that I wasn't maybe – I didn't like the way I played last year.” Ransom says he wants to be “the most consistent safety in the country” in 2023, and knows he needs to step into more of a leadership role.
- Ransom on using the end of the 2022 season as motivation for the upcoming season: “When you're playing good, you're at the top of the world. You making bad plays, you're at the bottom of the world. And I mean, I use that as fuel. I use that as fuel to get better every day.”
- Ransom says “I felt a little rushed” coming back from a leg fracture last season, but that “now I get time to get my body feeling 100 percent, my mind to feel 100 percent.”
- On returning to Ohio State for a sixth year, Proctor says “I just felt like it's the best fit for me. And can't nobody stop me if I get out my own way. So just decided to stay here, buckle down and handle my business.” Proctor says he’s working on being more consistent on and off the field.
- On returning to free safety, Proctor says that’s what he was used to when he first entered the program and came to Ohio State to play in the first place. Proctor says he thought he would play the bandit safety role again but that he “kind of got excited” when the coaches told him they wanted him to play free safety.
- Proctor says this is the first time in seven years he’s been in the same defense for two straight years and that it’s “definitely easier to pick up on things and remember things from last year that I probably didn’t notice.”
- Proctor says he was “50-50” on evaluating other options for his future at the end of the 2022 season but that the deciding factor to return to Ohio State was “just having a chance to help these younger guys out may really take on the leader role.”
- On what he wants to show in the spring game: “I want to show them I'm here and I'm not going nowhere. I'm a playmaker at the end of the day, I'm a Buckeye and I want to win a championship for them.”
- Styles said playing a larger role in the Peach Bowl “gave me confidence that they had trust in me.” He said December was a good month for him and made the most of his bowl practice preparation.
- On his expectations for this year, Styles said he wants to “keep getting better” and that he appreciates Perry Eliano and his teammates pushing him.
- With Knowles saying the second-string players have to play exceedingly well to earn more playing time, Styles said that means he has to “make the most of every rep.” Styles said he believes he’s making the most of his chances.
- Carter says the brotherhood at Ohio State is “real” and that it is “really a true family.” Carter says “everybody holds everybody accountable.” Carter says Ohio State was “definitely the best fit” for him.
- On choosing to transfer to Ohio State, Carter says his defensive coordinator leaving Syracuse was tough on him and that he didn’t want to wait around not knowing who the new DC would be.
- Carter says he likes how Jim Knowles operates the defense and that “I’m down to compete” for every opportunity he gets.
- Carter says he’s learned all the safety positions so far at Ohio State and that “the game’s definitely slowing down” as he continues to spend more time in the program this spring.
- Martinez on how he feels after six spring practices and how he hopes to build upon a good start to the offseason: “I feel really good. I think the main thing for me is consistency and knowing the confidence I have for myself.”
- Martinez said Tanner McCalister helped him learn the nickel corner last season, and he called McCalister a “good mentor.” Martinez said he’s continued to develop an understanding of that spot this past winter and spring as McCalister has now graduated and moved on from the program.
- Martinez said he needs to stack good days and grow more comfortable with his ability in an offseason where he says he’s “finally healthy.” Martinez said he dealt with a sprained ankle after the first three weeks of 2022 that continued to nag him as the year went on. “That was wearing me down a lot.”
- Martinez said the safety room is “competitive” this offseason. “One of the biggest things in the room has been winning… Just going in every day and every practice and taking a lot of stuff seriously.” Martinez says he thinks that will lead to a great depth at that position for Ohio State in 2023 and beyond.
- Martinez said he has had his fair share of mistakes when he’s entered the game in the defensive secondary but says “the most important play is the next play,” a mindset he’s hoped to grow into as time has continued.