The past number of years under Urban Meyer, Ohio State football has been commonly known as “DBU” or Defensive Back University. Five defensive backs have been drafted in the first round under Urban Meyer – an incredible number for any program. However, with three of those five being drafted in 2017 alone, that has left the unit quite depleted for the 2017 season.
This past weekend, the Ohio State defense was thrashed through the air by Baker Mayfield & company for 386 yards. Before that, Richard Lagow and Indiana threw for 420 against the Buckeye defense. These numbers put Ohio State squarely in last place in the FBS in passing defense.
Many critics of the secondary go after the form and physical play of the defensive backs. But, if criticism is warranted, it should be accurate. Yes, the secondary sometimes has problems with the technique and fundamentals such as properly covering the receiver when the pass is arriving. However, this is a unit that had three starters taken in the first round of the NFL draft this prior spring. On top of that, the majority of Mayfield’s completed passes came underneath in linebacker territory – to no fault of the secondary.
The biggest problem is not how good these players are, it’s how many of them there are. Often times, depth is an underrated attribute by the media and fanbases. These starters are all highly rated, highly recruited defensive backs that would start on every single team in the country. Their performance will improve with experience, but they cannot control how many of them there are. So how will the unit be bolstered by the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes?
The Buckeyes have signed four defensive backs in the 2018 class: Jaiden Woodbey (4*), Josh Proctor (4*), Sevyn Banks (4*) and Marcus Hooker (3*). This is clearly a talented recruiting class that will be a major boost to the depth of the unit in 2018 and beyond. While much of the secondary from 2017 will be returning in 2018, it is almost a guarantee that freshmen will see some playing time next year. Of course, this could change, but the Ohio State defensive philosophy under Urban Meyer up until this point has been very rotation-based. Some former players have expressed displeasure with this, but it is likely to remain the same in 2018.
How the Buckeyes secondary will work in 2018 is certainly under speculation, however. After completing his two year contract, it is likely that Defensive Coordinator Greg Schiano will leave for a head coaching job, whether it be in college or the NFL. With the departure of Luke Fickell to Cincinnati, Meyer was able to promote Schiano to head Defensive Coordinator instead of co-Defensive Coordinator. Now, Meyer will have exhausted his DC options, and will either have to promote or hire outside the program. If Meyer goes the promotion route, my early candidate is Kerry Coombs.