Buckeye Secondary Takes Another Hit

As the Ohio State secondary has taken hit after hit during the past few weeks, one of the constants in the situation has been junior strong safety Kurt Coleman. But after suffering an ankle injury in practice this week, the Buckeyes will now have a new starter in Coleman's place. Get all the details here.

A defensive backfield that has already taken four hits in the past six weeks absorbed yet another blow this week. Junior safety Kurt Coleman, Ohio State's starting strong safety, will not play in the season-opening game against Youngstown State after rolling an ankle during Monday's practice.

The injury is not believed to be serious, but head coach Jim Tressel said the decision had been made to keep Coleman out of the game because the team has to be thinking about the junior's long-term best interests.

"I don't know that we've told him that yet, but you have to think about the long haul," Tressel said. "You know him; he'd probably play if his leg were broken in half. Today being Thursday, that's what I'm seeing."

As a sophomore, Coleman started all 13 games at strong safety and finished third on the team with 64 tackles, forced one fumble and broke up four passes. He earned defensive player of the week honors for his seven tackles against Illinois in week 11.

In his place steps sophomore Jermale Hines, a converted linebacker who missed the first five games of his freshman season as he dealt with an academic situation. Although he was not converted until after spring practice was completed, Tressel said the coaches have been impressed with Hines from day one.

Day one once he came back last season, that is.

"You can really draw a conclusion from all the time he missed last year and yet our coaches didn't want to redshirt him," Tressel said. "They just saw so much promise. He's such a smart player. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a player that can line up at so many positions and probably didn't get coached. He's just got natural instincts and an understanding of the game of football."

Hines' combination of size (6-2, 210) and speed are what convinced the Buckeyes to move him to the secondary as a way to counter the numerous spread offenses being deployed against them. Prior to Coleman's injury, Hines had been serving as the team's ‘Star' – a hybrid defensive back/linebacker position who enters the game when the Buckeyes go into their nickel defense.

However, Tressel said Hines is not merely a hybrid safety but rather an every-down type of athlete.

"He's just got some real instincts," Tressel said. "Now the only discussion today was, ‘Don't we have him doing too many things? He's on every special teams (unit), but that's a good problem. We'll work that out."

He will not be the only player to see time at the safety position, however. Tressel mentioned junior Aaron Gant and senior Nick Patterson – who actually started the first game in 2006 at free safety before being replaced by then-redshirt freshman Anderson Russell, who remains the starter.

Gant was one of two freshmen to appear on the OSU two-deep at the end of the 2006 season, but a right foot injury hindered his development last year. Patterson nabbed an interception against Northwestern and returned it 34 yards.

Coleman's injury is not the only loss the OSU secondary has seen. Starting cornerback Donald Washington and reserve strong safety Jamario O'Neal are both suspended for the first two games of the season, while cornerback James Scott is not with the team and his status remains uncertain.

Speaking with BuckeyeSports.com on the team's photo day August 7, Hines said the switch to safety full-time had been going smoothly.

"It hasn't really been a hard adjustment," he said. "I played it a little bit in high school. It's just reads and stuff like that are a little bit different."

As a senior at Cleveland Glenville, Hines recorded 97 tackles along with eight sacks and four interceptions and earned honorable mention all-state laurels. As a freshman, he played on special teams and recorded three tackles while seeing action in seven games.

"It's another opportunity for me to help my team," Hines said of the position switch. "That's all it is."

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