Tim Moody/BSB

Ohio State's Shaun Wade, Jeffrey Okudah Aiming For Early Playing Time

Ohio State might have signed ready-made replacements for the three open spots in its defensive backfield by way of the 2017 class.

Ohio State's starting cornerbacks in 2016? Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore.

They're both off to the NFL. As is starting safety Malik Hooker. That leaves just Damon Webb as a returning starter in the Buckeyes' defensive secondary, and Ohio State could be looking to its 2017 recruiting class to fill the void.

At least, that'll be the case if early enrollees Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade get their way.

Okudah, a five-star cornerback out of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Wade, a four-star from Jacksonville, Fla., both said their main goal is to get on the field as true freshmen. Okudah even took that a step further by saying his "intention" is to win a starting spot.

"I know a spot is open so it's just all about competition," Okudah said on National Signing Day. "I know the best two corners will get on that field and so it's just whatever I make of it and I'm just going to try to take the opportunity and run with it.

"I'm trying to get here seven days a week, just trying to work. I know I don't have too much to do here, I don't know too many people around here, so I just try to come here and get as much extra work in as I can. Work with (cornerbacks coach Kerry) Coombs. I'm going to start watching a lot of film. Right now, I'm just trying to get my technique down and learn the defense."

While Ohio State lists Okudah as a cornerback, the easier path to the field might be at safety this season. He'll also likely be in the mix for playing time at nickel back, along with Wade.

Like Okudah, Wade said he's aiming to play right away, but his focus this winter is on physical improvement.

"Just to get on the field, really just to get on the field. That's my No. 1 goal," Wade said Feb. 1. "I have goals throughout the career, when we start camp and stuff like that I'll have some more goals. Right now it's just to get on the field. Right now it's just to get bigger and stronger. Faster. That's my goals right now."

While Okudah and Wade should benefit from enrolling early, they probably aren't the leaders to earn starting spots from day one. At safety, Ohio State returns more experienced players like Erick Smith and Jordan Fuller who could get the first crack. At cornerback, Denzel Ward will almost certainly be a starter, along with JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield. And at nickel, Damon Arnette could return to the role he held for much of the 2016 season.

With players like Ward already on the roster, Wade said he's focused on learning as much as he can as an early enrollee.

"Learning from Denzel is my biggest thing," he said. "I'm going to be watching him 24-7, he probably won't know it but I'm going to be watching every move he do."

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