The Big Board,Part 4: Defensive Backs, Specialists

Our in-depth look at the personnel in the OSU football program continues with an update on where things stand in the secondary, including strong safety Will Allen, and with the kickers and punters.

We are back with the fourth installment of The Big Board, my position-by-position look at the Ohio State football team.

We opened this five-part series Wednesday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continued Thursday with the tight ends and linebackers.

Friday, we looked inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.

Today, we will examine the secondary and specialists.

Finally, on Sunday, we will tie all of this data together.

Here is a position-by-position look at OSU's scholarship status and prospects in the defensive backfield and kick specialist positions with returning players listed by seniority. Walk-ons listed if on latest published roster (i.e. if you don't see a particular walk-on, he is not on the most recent roster update).

(All class designations are 2003 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)


* In The Fold (9): Bobby Britton (Sr.), Dustin Fox* (Jr.), Chris Gamble* (Jr.), Harlen Jacobs (Jr.), E.J. Underwood (Soph.), Michael Roberts (R-Fr.), Ashton Youboty (Fr.), Tony Gonzalez (Fr.), Dareus Hiley (Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (2): Steven Moore (Jr.), Antonio Smith (R-Fr.).

* Verbals For 2004 (2): Shaun Lane, Brandon Underwood.

* Analysis: Gamble does not have an interception yet, but the preseason All-American has broken up a team-high five passes.

Fox also remains one of OSU's top defenders with 24 tackles (fifth on team) and an interception to his credit.

E.J. Underwood was in position to earn playing time in the second half, especially if Gamble was going to move back to offense at least part-time. But Underwood suffered a severe hand injury on a piece of glass away from the football field and will likely be lost for the year.

Youboty enrolled early in the spring and earned a spot in the two-deep. Perhaps he will get a chance if Gamble goes to offense.

Britton and Jacobs have never made a real mark on defense. Roberts is in his redshirt freshman season and just needs to continue to develop.

I am listing Gonzalez and Hiley as DBs, although there is evidence to suggest they are spending much of their time on offense while they are redshirting this year.

* Still Looking: With Gamble possibly heading to the NFL after this season, OSU will be on the prowl for an impact corner. They have a good head start with Lane and Brandon Underwood, E.J.'s brother.

Obviously, OSU's number one recruiting target is Cleveland Glenville's Ted Ginn Jr. (6-0, 170). He projects as a corner, but could also play receiver. OSU is the early favorite with Michigan, Pittsburgh, Iowa, USC and Miami (Fla.) also in the mix.

Outside Ohio, OSU has also offered Trevor Ford of Miami and McIntosh Nicolas of Immokalee, Fla. Ford (6-1, 187) has visits set to Florida State and Iowa and is also looking at Kansas State and Miami (Fla.). Nicolas (6-3, 180) is also looking at Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee. He would also listen to an offer from FSU.


* In The Fold (5): Will Allen* (Sr.), Tyler Everett (Soph.), Nate Salley* (Soph.), Brandon Mitchell (R-Fr.), Donte Whitner (Fr.).

* Verbal For 2004 (1): Sirjo Welch.

* Verbal For 2005 (1): Jamario O'Neal.

* Analysis: Allen has stepped into the strong safety role vacated by Mike Doss and done a fine job. He is fourth on the team in tackles (28) and tied for the team lead with two interceptions, one he returned for OSU's only touchdown against San Diego State and the other to wrap up the Bowling Green game. He joins A.J. Hawk and Will Smith as an award candidate this year.

Salley has emerged as the starter at free safety. He is second on the team in tackles with 30.

Mitchell was the nickel back early in the year, but Whitner assumed that role for the Northwestern game. Mitchell has 19 tackles this year. Whitner missed time early in the year due to injury.

Everett has also been a steady contributor as well.

* Still Looking: OSU has a verbal from Welch of Columbus Beechcroft and also one from O'Neal, who just played his first game as a junior after transferring to Cleveland Glenville.

Welch (6-2, 180) impressed the coaches at the summer camp and was offered. O'Neal (6-1, 190) had been offered before that and is renowned as the state's top junior.

OSU is courting several other safety prospects, including Kenny Engram of Orlando; Terrail Lambert of Ventura, Calif.; Devon Lyons of Pittsburgh; and Anthony Reddick of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Engram (6-6, 200) is also looking at Florida, FSU, LSU, Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Lambert (6-0, 185) has a visit set with FSU and is also looking at Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC.

Lyons (6-2, 210) has visited Notre Dame already and is also looking at Miami, Michigan State and Penn State. Reddick (6-1, 190) also has Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Miami (Fla.) and Purdue on his list.


* In The Fold (3): Punter B.J. Sander* (Sr.), kicker Josh Huston (Jr.), kicker Mike Nugent* (Jr.).

* Walk-On (1): Brian Pierce (Fr.)

* Verbals for 2004 (0): None.

* Analysis: Sander stepped into the void from the departure of All-American punter Andy Groom and is averaging 42.8 yards per punt. An impressive 13 of his 29 punts have gone inside the 20.

Nugent remains one of the nation's top kickers after an incredible sophomore All-American season. He is 7 of 8 on field goals with a long of 47.

Huston stands at the ready at both positions and could become the punter next season.

Pierce is an impressive youngster from Lakewood St. Edward. He could figure as either the kicker or punter down the line.

* Still Looking: The top prospect at punter -- an urgent need -- appears to be Justin Kucek of Canfield, Ohio. He attended at least two early-season OSU home games.

The Buckeyes have also reportedly offered David Lonie, an Australian currently attending Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls. The 6-6, 215-pound Lonie was 8 of 11 on field goals at Ellsworth last year. He has visited Michigan already and is also looking at Illinois and Boston College.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories