2011 Buckeye Preview: Defensive Backs

As Ohio State prepares for Arkansas in the upcoming Sugar Bowl, this provides a great opportunity for younger players to make a case that they should be in the mix for playing time in 2011. It's not too early to take a look at how each position group will be manned next year. Bill Greene looks ahead at the defensive backfield.

Ohio State will lose some serious experience in the defensive backfield heading into 2011, and departures of Devon Torrence, Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines will surely be felt, especially early in the year. Who are the candidates to replace these multi-year starters?

CORNERBACK: Losing both starters, in Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa.

Dionte Allen: Transfer from Florida State, who has been impressive in practice. FORECAST: Should be in the mix for playing time, and a starting role would not shock.

Christian Bryant: Was playing well at the STAR position, before being injured. Bryant's natural position is at cornerback, and the return of Tyler Moeller could see him return to that spot. FORECAST: Bryant is going to be on the field somewhere, and it could be as a starter at cornerback.

Dominic Clarke: Saw limited playing time in 2010, and showed well. He will need to make a leap over spring and summer to grab a starting spot, but he's in the mix.FORECAST: Probably not being looked at as the starter right now, but there will be reps available in practice, and he needs to take his opportunity and run with it.

Donnie Evege: Injured for most of 2010, and was missed on special teams. Not sure if he's looked at as a full-time player in the secondary, and that's what he has to prove. FORECAST: Is Evege more than a special teams-demon? He gets his shot to prove himself worthy.

Travis Howard: Got his chance to play late in 2010, and did EVERYTHING expected of him. Has more pure talent than either Torrence or Chekwa, and appears to be putting it together. FORECAST: A certain starter in 2010, and the next All-American in the Buckeye secondary.

Bradley Roby: Another red-shirt that stood out in practice. Roby needs to add strength and muscle, but could find himself in the mix in 2011. Has a skill set similar to Howard, with loose hips and long arms. FORECAST: Will probably factor in on special teams for 2011, and could be a contributor in the secondary before the season ends.

DerJuan Gambrell: Will be a true freshman in 2011. FORECAST: Should be an almost certain red-shirt next year, unless he can make a mark in the kicking game as a return specialist.

Others: Two prospects are still listing Ohio State as possibilities, and Doran Grant and Jabari Gorman would be welcome additions in 2011, but realistically, both would probably red-shirt unless they proved to be capable.

SAFETY: Losing Jermale Hines as a starter, and Aaron Gant as a valuable backup.

Orhian Johnson: Has had an up-and-down season, but the coaches love his natural ability. Should be dramatically better in 2011, with a year's experience under his belt. FORECAST: Should take a leap next year, and is a certain starter.

C.J. Barnett: Only played in two games in 2010, but showed great ability before suffering a knee injury against Miami. Expected back for the 2011 season. FORECAST: Should be able to grab a starting spot next to Johnson next year.

Nate Oliver: Is he much like Evege, in that he's a special teams contributor but not starter-material? Next year will tell the tale for Oliver, and he needs to prove he's a full-time player. FORECAST: Not gotten much time at safety to date, and was easily passed by Johnson and Barnett. Are others about to fly by as well?

Jamie Wood: Another youngster that appeared to be improving late in the year, according to practice reports. Is he in line for extended playing time in 2011? FORECAST: Just might be able to grab the #3 safety spot, and see playing time next year.

Zach Domicone: Much like Evege and Oliver, it's now "go-time" for Domicone. If he doesn't establish himself as more than a special teams player very soon, he will be passed by the younger safeties. FORECAST: Bowl practice and spring football could be make-or-break for his career.

Chad Hagan: Not sure where to list him for position, and not sure he ever gets on the field at Ohio State. FORECAST: Has health issues that cloud his future.

Corey Brown: Moved to safety late in the year, but suffered a nasty knee injury. Not optimistic about Brown playing next year. FORECAST: Safety is probably the right spot for Brown, and he will challenge for playing time when healthy.

Ron Tanner: A very smart, tough, physical player and one that could see time in 2011, possibly on special teams. FORECAST: The depth chart is wide-open at safety for the backup spots and Tanner could challenge for time.

Jeremy Cash: Will be coming in early, and it's hard to project Cash to red-shirt in 2011. Ideally suited for the STAR position occupied by Moeller, but could also jump ahead of Oliver and Wood as a primary backup at safety. FORECAST: Would not be a surprise to see Cash playing in a limited role in 2011, much like Bryant did this year. Coming in early gives him the ability to learn the system quicker.

With three starters leaving, the competition for their jobs will be among the more-interesting position battles for 2011. Bowl practice gives many of these guys a chance to impress the coaches, and get a jump on the competition. Spring and fall practice will also be a period of intense competition between several candidates.


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