Post-Spring Big Board: DBs, Specialists

This is the fourth installment of our post-spring edition of The Big Board. Today, we look at the personnel and recruiting possibilities for Ohio State in the secondary and at the specialist positions. Sophomore Malcolm Jenkins, who started six games a year ago, returns as a leader in the secondary for the Buckeyes.

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

We opened this five-part series Monday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continued Tuesday with the tight ends and offensive line.

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

Today, we will examine the secondary and specialists.

Finally, in an upcoming segment, we will tie all of this data together.

Here is a post-spring 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 from the bowl roster.

(All class designations are 2006 eligibility; returning starters marked with an asterisk.)

Cornerback

* Departed Seniors (2): Tyler Everett, Ashton Youboty (junior eligible for NFL draft).

* In The Fold (9): Antonio Smith (Sr.), Michael Roberts (Sr.), Sirjo Welch (Jr.), Brandon Underwood (So.), Malcolm Jenkins (So.), Shaun Lane (So.), Andre Amos (R-Fr.), Donald Washington (R-Fr.), Kurt Coleman (Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (2): DeAngelo Haslem (So.), Zach Willis (So.).

* New This Fall (1): Chimdi Chekwa.

* Verbal For 2007 (1): Donnie Evege.

* Analysis: With Everett and Youboty moving on, the Buckeyes will be auditioning candidates at both cornerback spots this spring.

Jenkins (6-1, 202) is the lead dog here. He has put on 20 pounds in the off-season to prepare for fulltime duty. He came in last fall from New Jersey and made an immediate splash as the nickel back and as a starter when Everett was out. Jenkins is OSU's top returning tackler. He started six of the 12 games and had 37 tackles and two pass break-ups. Jenkins capped his year with nine tackles against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

"It is kind of crazy to consider myself a veteran," Jenkins said. "But with me being the one that has the most experience, I know I need to take that leadership role and take it in stride."

With Jenkins at the boundary spot, it looks like Smith (5-9, 195) – a former walk-on and Columbus Beechcroft product – will open fall camp as the starter at the field corner position. He has literally come out of nowhere after spending much of his time at OSU as a special teams player and scout team safety.

The backups after spring ball appeared to be Amos and Washington – either one of whom will also be expected to push Smith for a starting spot.

Washington (6-1, 195) was a late but welcome addition to the 2005 class from Indianapolis Franklin Central. He was an outstanding two-way player there with 45 catches (10 TDs) and four interceptions as a senior. He redshirted this past year and came on nicely in the spring. He could be a force to reckon with sooner rather than later.

Amos (6-1, 180) came in last fall from Middletown, Ohio, and redshirted this past fall. He is another big corner who factored heavily in the corner competition this spring.

"I think all of them have stepped it up," Jenkins said. "Kurt Coleman really had a good spring. Donald Washington has really stood out to me and he was running with the ones. I think Andre Amos looked good this spring, too. He's really improved his technique, which I think has helped him out a lot."

Welch (6-0, 185) made his name as a special teams player as a freshman in 2004. But he was in and out of the dog house in 2005. He played in eight games and logged five tackles.

Roberts (5-11, 185) could also get a look. He will be a fifth-year senior in 2006, although his playing time has been minimal to date.

Underwood (6-2, 180) is tabbed by many as a bigger version of his brother, E.J. Underwood. He played in two games in 2005, logging three tackles. He has been saddled by shoulder injuries during his time at OSU, but came through spring ball and put himself in the competition here.

Lane (5-10, 180) has ping-ponged back and forth between cornerback and tailback as needed for depth reasons. He played in eight games in 2005 on special teams. He is back on defense now and will try and compete for a job.

Coleman (5-11, 185) was ranked as one of Ohio's top 10 prospects as well as one of the nation's top corner prospects. He had 92 tackles and three interceptions as a prep senior at Clayton (Ohio) Northmont after tallying 10 interceptions as a junior. He enrolled early for spring ball and excelled, notching a nifty interception in the spring game.

Chekwa (6-1, 180) will arrive in the fall. As a senior at Clermont (Fla.) East Ridge, he had 44 tackles and seven interceptions. He is one more big corner prospect who could get a serious look in the fall.

Evege (5-11, 185) will be a senior at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne this fall. But he ended the suspense by committing early to the Buckeyes on Tuesday. He reportedly has run below 4.4 seconds in the 40 and is a versatile player who could help the Buckeyes in a number of ways.

* Still Looking: You can never have enough fast guys who can cover, so it is my bet that OSU will try and sign one or more corners again in 2007.

The Buckeyes have offered several players who have committed elsewhere. They also have offers pending to a number of top corners nationally, including the Michigan trio of Ronald Johnson (6-0, 185), Cedric Everson (6-1, 176) and Dionte Allen (6-0, 170). OSU has also reportedly offered Florida's Art Evans (6-1, 175) and Aaron Henry (6-0, 175).

Safety

* Departed Seniors (2): Nate Salley, Donte Whitner (junior eligible for NFL draft).

* In The Fold (5): Brandon Mitchell (Sr.), Curt Lukens (Jr.), Nick Patterson (So.), Jamario O'Neal (So.), Anderson Russell (R-Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (2): Michael Dougherty (So.), Marcus Williams (Fr.).

* New This Fall (2): Aaron Gant, Grant Schwartz.

* Verbal For 2007 (1): Nate Oliver.

* Analysis: Salley and Whitner were cornerstones on defense the last three years and will definitely be missed.

Coming out of the spring, the starters appeared to be Patterson at free safety and O'Neal at strong safety with the veteran Mitchell and Russell as the backups.

Greatness has long been predicted for O'Neal (6-1, 190), and he will get his shot beginning this fall. He came in as one of the nation's top DB prospects and as the state's top overall prospect in 2004. He repped early at corner, but settled in as Whitner's backup at strong safety. He played in 10 games in 2005 and tallied two tackles. He seemed to solidify his hold on the strong safety spot in the spring.

Patterson (6-2, 210) came in a versatile athlete from St. Louis' Hazelwood Central High School. He has a bright future after redshirting in 2004 and playing in all 12 games this past year. He tallied six tackles. He is an intelligent player who has the coaches' trust after a fine spring.

Mitchell (6-3, 205) is one of the biggest hitters and best tacklers on the team. He has played in 33 games, starting eight in his career. He split time with Jenkins as the nickel back in 2005. He had 12 tackles as a junior. Even though he has one year of eligibility left, Mitchell has already received his bachelor's degree. He was in graduate school this year. At this rate, he could have his Ph. D. by the time he leaves. He had a strong showing in the spring game and, as long as he produces, could have a shot at meaningful playing time again this year.

Russell (6-0, 200) was one of the unqualified success stories of the spring. He seemed to be everywhere in the two public scrimmages. This heavy hitter is listed as O'Neal's backup. He could see heavy action as the nickel back. He was, perhaps, more well known as a running back at Atlanta's powerful Marist High. He redshirted this past year, but will be in the mix for playing time in 2006.

"Anderson Russell, he's just explosive," Jenkins said. "We keep a production chart and he has the most production out of everybody, even me. Anderson has a lot of speed, he's an explosive player and he makes a lot of plays."

Lukens (6-3, 215) redshirted in 2003, piling on 28 pounds so he could play linebacker. He then suffered a shoulder injury and was lost for the 2004 season. He has trimmed back down 13 pounds to 215 so he could play safety. He played in four games in 2004 before injuring his shoulder. He then played in four games in 2005. He just needs to stay healthy and hope for some luck.

Gant (6-0, 205) had 42 tackles and two interceptions as a safety for Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's Prep. He also had 829 yards rushing as a senior. He picked OSU over Washington and Michigan.

Schwartz (6-0, 200) was a standout at quarterback and defensive back at Dana Point (Calif.) Dana Hills. He set 15 school records as a prepster. As a senior, he rushed for 655 yards and seven TDs and also threw for 1,219 yards and 10 TDs. He had 15 tackles, an interception and a kick return for a score as a senior.

Oliver (6-0, 195) helped lead Lakewood St. Edward to the Division I state semifinals as a junior. This past fall, he tallied 70 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions. He was one of the first players OSU offered for the 2007 class and he verbaled on Feb. 1.

* Still Looking?: The Buckeyes are in real good shape at safety. They even have a jump on 2007 with the verbal commitment by Oliver.

OSU has an offer pending to Cincinnati Colerain's Eugene Clifford (6-2, 190), who is also has offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and West Virginia.

Others whom the Buckeyes may keep an eye on include Lakewood St. Edward's Diauntae Morrow (6-0, 185), Canfield's Sean Baker (6-1, 190) and Copley's David Arnold (6-1, 183).

Canton (Ohio) South's Devon Torrence (6-1, 190) could also merit a strong look. Torrence is a multi-talented athlete who could play offense, defense and return kicks at the college level.

Kickers/Punters

* Departed Senior (1): Kicker Josh Huston.

* In The Fold (3): Punter A.J. Trapasso* (So.), kicker Ryan Pretorius (So.), kicker Aaron Pettrey (R-Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (7): Kicker Andrew Good (Jr.), kicker Jonathan Skeete (So.), punter Tyson Gentry (So.), punter Jonathan Thoma (R-Fr.), kicker Michael Mattimoe (R-Fr.), punter Evan Jablonka (R-Fr.), punter Jason Weihrauch (Fr.).

* Analysis: Trapasso (6-1, 220) enjoyed a fine first season as the starting punter, averaging 40.4 yards per punt. He outdueled Gentry for the job in preseason camp and, barring something unforeseen, will hold it for the next three years.

The kicker job was wide open with Huston's departure. Pettrey and Pretorius each went on scholarship this past year and they waged quite a battle in the spring. When the dust settled, it appeared that Pretorius had the upper hand. But Pettrey seemed destined to at least kick off and was ready to relieve if Pretorius would slump.

Pretorius (5-10, 190), a native of South Africa, pushed Huston for the job in preseason camp last year. Pretorius, who is 27 years old, seems to be very consistent from inside 50 yards.

Pettrey (6-1, 195) has waited a long time for this opportunity. He graduated from Raceland, Ky., in 2004, then sat out that fall as a grayshirt. He walked on last fall and redshirted. He was put on scholarship for winter quarter. Pettrey made a state-record 58-yard field goal in high school and made some waves in the spring when his 59-yard boot won the special teams scrimmage for his side. Kicking off and long field goals could be his forte in 2006.

"Ryan Pretorius has three years left and Aaron Pettrey has four, so we weren't really looking for a kicker this past year," coach Jim Tressel said.

Skeete (5-10, 195) would have been right in the thick of this competition. But he is just back on the team after his arrest last spring on drug charges.

Good (5-10, 185) originally signed with West Virginia, but transferred to OSU last year.

Gentry (6-2, 165) spent the spring also working as an extra wide receiver. He suffered a serious neck injury after making a reception in practice. There have not been a lot of updates regarding his status. But, at last report, he remained hospitalized as he began an arduous rehabilitation program.

Thoma (6-1, 190) stands as the backup punter. He is hopeful of going on scholarship, but that may depend on whether he appears in a game.

* Not Looking: Trapasso did a fine job in his first year as the starting punter, so there is no urgency to find his replacement. Likewise, by putting Pettrey and Pretorius on scholarship, it couple be a couple of more years before OSU goes out to sign another kicker.

Here are the archives from the previous installments of the post-spring edition of The Big Board:

Part 1: QBs, RBs and Receivers

Part 2: Tight Ends and Offensive Line

Part 3: D-Line and Linebackers


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