Out Of Position

When Ohio State welcomed in its recruiting class of 2005, a few players quickly found themselves at positions other than where they primarily played in high school. Three of them now make up 75 percent of the Buckeyes' starting secondary. Find out who they are and why they moved.

When Ohio State opened the 2007 season against Youngstown State, they probably did not expect to have a wide receiver, a running back and a safety all lining up in their secondary.

But looking at a list of recruits who signed to OSU on National Signing Day in 2005, that appears to be the case. There it is in black and white: three-star wide receiver Donald Washington, three-star running back Anderson Russell and three-star safety Malcolm Jenkins.

My, how things have changed. Anchored by last year's first-team All-Big Ten cornerback – not safety – Jenkins, the three players comprised 75 percent of the back four in the Buckeyes' defense when the Penguins snapped the ball for the first time against OSU.

It's just that none of them were playing the positions they primarily excelled at during their prep careers.

"A lot of schools were recruiting me to play receiver, but Ohio State wanted me to play defensive back," Washington said. "That didn't really upset me or anything because I had played, actually the first position I had played in high school was defensive back."

After lining up both at corner and safety during his prep career, Washington said it took just a few days at OSU for him to be permanently rooted at cornerback. After redshirting for his first season, the 6-1, 195-pounder started nine games during his redshirt freshman season while serving as the Buckeyes' nickel back. When he entered the game, OSU would typically shift fifth-year senior Antonio Smith to the team's Star position.

Sometimes, however, Russell would get time there as well. That position is typically reserved for the team's best playmaker in the secondary.

This season, Jenkins and Washington are the two starters at cornerback with Russell lining up as a safety. When the Buckeyes go into their nickel defense and redshirt freshman Chimdi Chekwa checks in, it is Russell who mans the star position.

The native of Atlanta did not start playing on the defensive side of the ball until his senior season of high school.

In essence, Chekwa is this year's Washington. Last season, Washington brought home the team's award for the most outstanding first-year defensive player after recording 41 tackles.

Things have not been perfect for the trio, however. Washington drew some good-natured ribbing from his teammates for dropping an interception during OSU's 44-3 drubbing of Indiana.

"We always talk about how the worst thing a defensive back can do is drop an interception," OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes said. "It's not nothing that they want to do. Donald didn't want to drop it. The hard thing about it is you never know when you're going to get that opportunity again."

Of the three, Jenkins is the only one not to use a redshirt season. However, Russell missed the final seven games of his redshirt freshman season after suffering a torn ACL during OSU's week five victory over Iowa.

Jenkins said the biggest thing a freshman needs to possess in order to play early is confidence – something he has never lacked during his OSU career.

"You're going to make mistakes," he said. "It's just, are you going to make the plays that come to you or not? Do you have that mentality that the guy in front of you is not going to beat you? A lot of freshmen come in and they don't have the confidence in themselves."

Now with their college careers half over, the trio acknowledges that they all came in together – in spite of the fact that none of them were so-called "high-profile" recruits. Washington listed Duke as one of his final five choices and Russell's other major offer was also from the Blue Devils. Jenkins boasted offers from Virginia Tech and Rutgers, among others. The

"It means a lot," Washington said. "We all came in together, me, Anderson, Malcolm, so we all kind of jell together just because we've known each other for such a long time. With each other back there, it's a lot of confidence."

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