Production Key In Search For Safeties

Paul Haynes is not just looking for two solid safeties to fill the spots of a pair of graduated starters this spring. The Ohio State safeties coach wants someone who knows when to step out of line to change a game.

When it comes to replacing a pair of long-time starters at safety, Paul Haynes is less worried about production than names.

That means while Jermale Hines and Orhian Johnson have taken the lion's share of reps with the first team defense so far in April, their spots are not safe when the team reconvenes in August for preseason camp.

What Haynes, Ohio State's sixth-year safeties coach, is looking for in his new safeties is a matter of what he terms production - interceptions, sacks, tackles-for-loss, pass breakups, fumbles forced and fumble recovered.

"I can throw anybody out there just to play the deep third, but you've got to make plays," Haynes said Thursday night. "So that's what you look for. I don't want to come out of the game just doing right. I want to come out of the game being productive, and that means doing something maybe out of the realm, but that's kind of what you look for instead of just a guy."

In terms of production lost, Kurt Coleman is tough to beat. He intercepted five passes last year and knocked down four more. He forced three fumbles, recovered one and made 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack. Throw in fellow graduated senior Anderson Russell's three interceptions, three pass breakups, two TFLs, a fumble forced and a fumble recovered, and the difficult task facing Haynes this spring is not hard to comprehend.

Fortunately for Haynes, the cupboard is not empty.

While fans might need a translation, Hines was quite familiar with the "P" word coming from Haynes.

" 'It's a production business,' he says every day. That's basically all he talks about," Hines said. "Just go out there and make it happen. Do it."

Hines is no neophyte when it comes to making plays. The senior has played extensively the last two seasons as the "star" in Ohio State's nickel package, a time in which he has picked off two passes, broken up four more, recovered two fumbles and made 5.5 tackles for loss.

How did he make those things happen? Hines wasn't quite sure how to explain.

"It's just instinctive," Hines said. "It's like second-nature."

Haynes had no problem whatsoever understanding that sentiment when it was relayed to him.

"I don't think you can coach that," Haynes said. "It's just some guys have it and some guys don't. The guys who don't are passive. You've just got to let them understand that this is the time to make mistakes. I'm still going to get after you, but this is the time to do it just to see if you can make the play, because if you never learn to do it, you'll never play."

The good news, then, is that Haynes sees another instinctual defensive player in Johnson, a 6-2, 203-pound sophomore.

"If you look at him, he's got everything that you want in a safety," Haynes said. "He's long, he's got good range. I think with him it's just experience. Now that he's getting the reps and has to make all the calls, he's coming along."

He corrected a reporter who said Johnson appeared to have solidified his spot as a starting safety.

Haynes explained art of this spring is taking time to experiment, putting players in different spots to see what they can do when it comes time to sculpt a new defense this fall.

So even though Johnson and Hines have consistently taken reps with the first team, usual second-teamers sophomore Zach Domicone and senior Tyler Moeller (who is limited to noncontact drills as he recovers from a head injury that cost him all of the 2009 season) need not fret that their chance to earn a starting spot has passed already. The same is true of senior Aaron Gant, junior Nate Oliver, sophomore C.J. Barnett and redshirt freshman Jamie Wood, players who have mostly mixed in with the third team but whom the coaches are taking long looks at nonetheless.

"We're putting a lot of different guys at star, a lot of different guys at safety so we can have a lot of flexibility if we end up moving guys around," Haynes said.

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