Ohio State’s spring practice is around the corner. The Buckeyes have already started training for the 2016 season and the team will begin spring practice March 8. With nine underclassmen and a number of seniors departing from the 2015 team that went 12-1, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2016 Buckeyes. BuckeyeSports.com is taking a look at some of the young players suiting up for Ohio State this spring and what they have to gain between now and the Spring Game on April 16.
What Ward Has Done: After coming to Ohio State as a four-star prospect in the 2015 class Ward was one of just four true freshmen to see the field last season. While he didn't put up many statistics, finishing his first year on campus with seven total tackles, Ward appeared in 11 games for the 2015 Buckeyes. While Jerome Baker and Eric Glover-Williams, the other two freshman defenders to see the field last season, largely appeared on special teams, Ward played in more games than either of his fellow freshmen and defenders and consistently got late-game reps at cornerback.
What The Coaches Are Saying: "I think his speed is his greatest attribute. I think he's gotten a lot stronger already which we're encouraged by. I think he played well in special teams and critical situations. On all four running teams last year. Got on the field experience. Not enough corner experience.
"I know there's other guys in that room that aren't going to allow that to be a passage that's going to go uncontested. And so there's going to be a lot of great competition there. But we're excited about Denzel. We really are." – Cornerbacks Coach Kerry Coombs
Why Ward’s Important: The mass exodus in the secondary leaves just Gareon Conley as a returning starter in the back four and the Buckeyes are looking for a player capable of filling the corner spot opposite the junior. Ward is a clear candidate to fill that role and even if he doesn't get it done his ability to push whoever that might be (Damon Webb is the other logical candidate) throughout spring practice. That would go a long way to sharpen both players and ensure the best play at that position.
What Ward Has To Gain: A starting spot. Urban Meyer said during his Feb. 3 radio call-in show that Ward is the frontrunner for the starting spot opposite Conley, and the coach is not opposed to ending position battles after the spring game. Ward has the measurables and speed that the team has used in recent seasons in its cornerbacks and a strong spring from the sophomore could end the position battle for the No. 2 cornerback spot early.