Safety Group To Expand This Summer

With the luxury of two returning starters, Ohio State safeties coach Everett Withers used spring to develop depth. The co-defensive coordinator is expecting more prospect to join the fray this summer from the 2013 signing class and the 2012 surgical ward.

With seniors C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant already boasting two years of starting experience apiece, Ohio State safeties coach Everett Withers was able to take a look at who should be on the second unit this spring.

That is good because his group only figures to grow this summer thanks to the arrival of some highly regarded – or perhaps in some cases under-the-radar – freshmen.

For most of the spring, top backups for Barnett and Bryant were classmate Corey Brown and sophomore Ron Tanner. Senior Jamie Wood also took some reps with the second team, but his future is uncertain as he continues to fight a recurring shoulder problem.

This summer the picture at safety figures to get more crowded with the healthy return of Devan Bogard, a sophomore who was held out of contact drills this spring while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, and the arrival of freshmen Vonn Bell and Jayme Thompson.

Either way, Withers sounds like he does not think he can have too many at the position.

"Hopefully with C.J. and Christian being senior leaders, we can add more leadership to that group with ‘Pitt' Brown, and Ron Tanner having good springs," Wither said. "We're going to have to count on some depth from some of our young guys coming in."

Bogard, Bell and sophomore cornerback Najee Murray (another player returning from a knee injury) are also expected to be in the mix to play the Star position, a hybrid linebacker/defensive back that starts in place of the strongside (Sam) linebacker in the Buckeyes' nickel defense. Fellow 2013 signees Darron Lee and Chris Worley are also pegged for shots at the Star this preseason, though one or both of them could eventually end up at a different position.

"We need (Bogard and Murray) back for camp because I think if we can do that it will allow us to build some depth at some position that we need it," Withers said.

This spring the Star position was held down by redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell with Brown and junior Adam Griffin also getting reps there.

"No question this was a huge spring for Tyvis in a lot of ways because as a freshman coming in last year you're kind of thrown into it," Withers said. "We came out of last fall knowing this guy's got some ability, and he was able to take that and go into a position at the Star and play well and be productive. He kind of answered the bell for us. Hopefully he continues to grow through that in training camp."

The biggest name of the incoming group is Bell, a five-star prospect from Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland who chose Ohio State on signing day over Alabama and Tennessee.

Withers took the lead in recruiting Bell and said he sees an athletic prospect with great ball skills.

"I think his development in the scheme will be crucial," said Withers. I think he's a good tackler.

"He can run and cover ground. He plays well with the ball in the air. He understands angles, so hopefully he can fit and maybe be able to help us in some of those sub packages and maybe even at free safety and add some depth there."

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