There's no doubting the fact that Ohio State defensive coordinator coach Chris Ash made upgrading the secondary a priority in the 2016 recruiting class, and the Buckeyes brought in four freshmen to aid that effort.
Although Ash would prefer to not use any one of Damon Arnette, Joshua Norwood, Denzel Ward or Eric Glover-Williams in close games because of the inexperience, he may be forced to do so after the losses of Damon Webb, Cam Burrows and Erick Smith.
Of all four freshmen, only one has impressed Ash as being close to being ready to contribute, and that would be Denzel Ward, according to a source close to the program.
Ward is currently behind redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore as the nickel back, but should either Tyvis Powell or Vonn Bell become injured the Buckeyes would either go with Malik Hooker at safety, or turn to Lattimore on the back line.
Should Ohio State play Lattimore at safety in an emergency, don't be surprised to see Ward on the field covering the inside receiver, as his play has been elevated the past few weeks and he has separated himself from his fellow freshmen.
The person I spoke with said Ward has the ability to not just be a contributor at Ohio State, but a future star at the cornerback spot. All he lacks is experience, but the raw skills are evident.
Ohio State knew Ward had the speed to play the position, but have been impressed recently with his hip turn and overall football IQ. It's hard to see Ward being called upon against Penn State, but if more injuries occur he would be the freshman they trust the most.