Plenty of players saw time in the secondary during the 2008 season and many of them are back, although some are in new, key roles. That is why safeties coach Paul Haynes rejects the notion that Ohio State will have a young, inexperienced secondary this fall.
"Everyone talks about how young we are, but we're not," Haynes said. "Really there's only going to be one new face back there. Everyone else has been back there. So when you talk about us being young, we're not as young as they sit there say."
It won't be easy to replace the production of Jenkins, a likely first-round pick in this month's NFL draft. Jenkins had 57 tackles, 4.0 for a loss with a sack and three interceptions last season and was regarded as one of the top shutdown corners in college football. Washington also added 22 tackles with an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery as a junior in 2008. With both gone, it gives players such as Chekwa a chance to step into a key role. Chekwa saw plenty of playing time in '08 and will be OSU's top corner this fall.
"I think he can do it all," Coleman said of Chekwa. "He's a cover corner and he can hit. He's not afraid to do anything. I think this is really going to be his year to break out. He was behind Malcolm and Donald, and I think this is going to be his year."
The main question mark for the cornerbacks lies in who will be the No. 2 corner. There are plenty of candidates, led by Andre Amos. Amos will be a fifth-year senior this fall and has been limited by injuries during the previous two seasons. Devon Torrence, Travis Howard, Donnie Evege and C.J. Barnett are also battling for reps this spring. Amos and Chekwa were the first-team corners during Tuesday's practice with Howard and Torrence manning the second unit. Evege and Barnett were with the third team.
"I think it's really close," Chekwa said of the battle to be the No. 2 corner. "I just think everyone should expect to play. To be honest, I think they're all capable of playing this year. They should expect everybody to play."
The safeties are led by Coleman, who returned to practice on Tuesday after missing time with an ankle injury. Coleman was back on the first team defense along with Russell. The second team safeties were Zach Domicone and Rocco Pentello, with the third team safeties being Domicone and Travis Wood. Aaron Gant was listed among the top safeties on the spring depth chart, but a knee injury has kept him off the field. Orhian Johnson is also working with the safeties
Coleman said he has confidence in the secondary, even if they are challenged early in the upcoming season.
"I have no doubt that we'll be alright," Coleman said. "The first couple of games teams are going to go after them like they've done in years past. I think we have so much talent and we're ready to step up. I talk to them all the time and they're confident. That's what you have to be when you're a DB."