And the corners?
"We don't get a fancy nickname," Eli Apple said. "We're just going to go out there and play assignment-correct football. We're going to lock you down and we're going to do anything we can do to win the game."
That answer would likely be music to the ears of Kerry Coombs, the no-nonsense, mile-a-minute head of the room. He has just one player with any real experience in Apple, but that nose-to-the-grindstone attitude is fitting for a unit that was given an entirely new scheme last year an executed it with success.
Apple and Doran Grant each blossomed in the new scheme, with Grant earning All-Big Ten honors and Apple taking home freshman All-America honors. That occurred for Apple even though he didn't fully win the job until the late days of camp -- and had gotten through his entire first fall in Columbus with his black stripe intact.
So he knows a little something about a quick rise, and he sees the players in his room -- none of whom have more than three years in the program -- following in his footsteps.
"I feel very confident in the cornerbacks unit," Apple said. "I feel very confident in Gareon Conley. I feel very confident in guys like Damon Webb, the freshmen, even though they're having their growing pains right now. I'm very confident in my unit right now."
Conley will start opposite Apple and seems ready to go. After losing the battle to start to Apple last season, Conley was OSU's top backup but had a not-so-memorable performance while getting beat for a deep pass and then missing a tackle on Michigan State's first touchdown drive.
That's the prevailing memory for most OSU fans, but Apple and teammates say Conley is ready to show what he can do.
"Just his whole attitude," Apple said. "He's really taking things seriously. I feel like sometimes you go into a game like he did against Michigan State and you have situations and things like that happen to you, you grow as a player. He's seen that and he's really starting to take things more serious, He's always in the film room, he's always looking for ways to get better, and I love that about him."
“The one name that people are a little bit iffy on is Gareon Conley because he didn’t play a ton last year and people had some questions about him,” added Joshua Perry. “That kid, the way he’s worked this summer and some of the stuff that he’s been through, his development right now is just huge. He’s going to be a great player for us.”
The Buckeyes also have depth in the form of Webb, who played as a true freshman last year and seems poised for a strong OSU career, and redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore, who would be right in the mix if he can get over the hamstring issues that have plagued him.
NotesApple burst onto the scene a season ago, stepping into a starting role oppostie Doran Grant and making 53 tackles to go with three interceptions on the way to freshman All-America honors. He helped control Heisman finalist Amari Cooper in the Sugar Bowl and then asserted himself as the Buckeyes' No. 1 corner in spring, and many expect a big year out of the New Jersey native.
NotesA highly touted prospect from the Wolverine State, Webb picked the Buckeyes early in his recruiting process and was a four-star talent when he arrived in Columbus. He played sparingly last year, picking up his three tackles mostly on special teams, but he has a lot of ability and will be in the mix for more playing time this season.
NotesConley battled for the starting job last season and even split time with Eli Apple in the first game before Apple pulled away. Conley had a rough go when deputized against Michigan State, but that served as motivation during an offseason that corners coach Kerry Coombs described as a good one. An excellent athlete, Conley has the most experience among the corners vying for the starting job opposite Apple
NotesLattimore looked like a candidate for early playing time a season ago, but a lingering hamstring injury ended his season before it began. The Cleveland Glenville alum now appears healthy and might be tough to keep off the field this year whether it be on defense or special teams, where he could be a special return man.
NotesAfter first pledging to South Carolina, Arnette became a Buckeye late in the 2015 recruiting class, committing the week of National Signing Day. The three-star prospect brings size and a winning pedigree, having prepped at Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas, but was on crutches over the summer as he dealt with an unspecified leg injury.
NotesThe man known as "Superman" at one point in his high school career seems tailor-made for OSU's nickel back spot, and EGW could be one of the freshmen to play the most at Ohio State. His competitive nature is off the charts, and though he lacks size he brings toughness and athleticism to the Buckeye secondary.
NotesAnother three-star corner, Norwood doesn't arrive at Ohio State with a ton of laurels but did play at one of Georgia's top programs in Valdosta. Ohio State likes his competitiveness and ability, though there might be a learning curve before he takes the field as a Buckeye.
NotesOne of the fastest players in the state of Ohio in the class of 2015, Ward camped to earn his offer at Ohio State and then put together an excellent senior season, taking Nordonia all the way to the state championship game. His speed will be an asset going forward, and he figures to settle in at OSU this year before vying for more playing time in future seasons.