OSU Secondary Remains United Despite Losses

It's not easy being an Ohio State defensive back right now. With one player dismissed from the program, another potentially on his way out and two others suspended for the first two games, it has taken a piece of motherly advice to put the situation in perspective for the Buckeyes.

As Shaun Lane can attest, a little motherly advice can go a long way.

Now in his fifth year at Ohio State, the cornerback from Hubbard, Ohio, is currently surveying a situation within his position's meeting group than the one he had initially planned on seeing this year.

Gone for good is cornerback Eugene Clifford, who was dismissed from the team during the summer for repeated brushes with the law. Suspended for the first two games are cornerback Donald Washington and safety Jamario O'Neal for team violations. Gone and facing an uncertain future is cornerback James Scott, who did not report to fall camp.

As he surveys the situation, Lane – who now sits on the two-deep on the depth chart as the primary backup to sophomore Chimdi Chekwa – was reminded of a piece of advice his mother, Denella Stanford, gave him when he was a child.

"My mom always told me that people always remember you for what you do bad," Lane said. "No matter how much good you do, they're always going to remember you for what you did bad."

If that is the case, the OSU defensive back unit might want most people to simply forget it exists altogether. The loss of four players for at least the first two games of the season has created a depth chart with plenty of question marks. The biggest hit is at cornerback, where Washington started all 13 games last season alongside Malcolm Jenkins. Clifford, Scott and O'Neal were all pegged as backups this season, but their status has created holes that a number of players are fighting to fill.

Athletes such as Andre Amos, Devon Torrence and Lane, among others, how face the very real possibility of seeing significant playing time for perhaps the first time in their respective OSU careers. That has apparently created a practice environment that has each player striving to take advantage of the situation.

"I still see a lot of depth, even with those three not being with us for the first couple games," Jenkins said. "I think we're fine as far as guys getting in and filling their holes because we have a lot of depth."

Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said he has not noticed a change in practice, however, stating that each player is always aware of the possibility of earning playing time. He, too, praised the depth he feels the Buckeyes have in the secondary while citing the fact that players such as Chekwa – who would have been the primary backup to Washington for the season-opener against Youngstown State – Lane and Amos have all seen game action during their careers.

But with a number of players not in the mix, Lane said he knows this is his chance to throw his own name into the mix.

"It definitely helps, because your ultimate goal is to play," he said. "When you see an opening, everybody is rushing to get in that one door."

Jenkins finds himself with a unique vantage point. After turning down a big payday and the allure of playing in the NFL, the Thorpe Award candidate said he wanted to return so he could enjoy another year with his teammates in college.

Instead, he has had to watch as now four players have put their status in jeopardy.

"I'm close to the guys, so I understand what they're going through and I know all that's going on," he said. "It's disappointing, but at the same time I have their backs and I know they'll (Washington, O'Neal and Scott) be back by the end of the year."

Although they are not allowed to play until the third week of the season, both O'Neal and Washington have dedicated themselves to working as hard as possible in practice rather than sulking and allowing their performance to drop off.

"It is a good feeling, but it's an expectation too," Johnson said of that sentiment. "When you're here, you're expected to do whatever is best for the team. I think those guys understand that. Those guys have been here four or five years and they know what it takes. They know what is expected."

Scott's future is less certain, although Johnson said he was not certain the sophomore was done with the program or not. The coach said he speaks with him on a daily basis, as does Lane.

Needless to say, it has been a difficult couple of months for the OSU defensive backs. But regardless of what becomes of the situation, Lane is confident things will turn out for the best.

"It's definitely hard seeing your brothers get in trouble or when they let you down, but we're still a team," he said. "That's one thing about Ohio State: You have good depth. We recruit the best, so the next guy might not be that he's not as good as the first guy. We have a lot of potential and we still learn from our mistakes and we hold onto our brothers to try and help them get through their hard times."

Right now, they are likely clinging harder than ever.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories