There are signs that safety will have a different look this season, however, as 6-1, 216-pound senior Jermale Hines (who has started a handful of games at safety in the past two seasons) and 6-2, 203-pound sophomore Orhian Johnson took the lion's share of safety reps during spring practice (Senior Tyler Moeller, a 6-0, 210-pound former linebacker, is a wildcard as well).
Like Hines and Moeller, the 6-1, 190-pound Tanner looks like he could be a candidate to fill the Star position, a hybrid linebacker/safety spot in the Ohio State nickel defense, as well.
Seeing him operate the Eastmoor Academy offense as a left-handed quarterback gives on the impression Tanner has the football sense to excel in that role, and the breakaway speed he shows on a couple of touchdown runs leaves one with the impression he has the physical ability as well.
On defense, Tanner shows the ability to cover a lot of ground when the ball is in the air and make a big hit when it reaches its target.
Tanner can play with physicality near the line of scrimmage, and he lacks nothing in terms of being able to come up and smack a ballcarrier, although one would like to see him tackle lower.
In terms of football sense, probably the most impressive moment on Tanner's junior highlight tape comes early during a pass play in the red zone. Stationed near the middle of the field, Tanner is the first player to recognize the quarterback's intention to swing the ball to a running back in the flat, and the future Buckeye takes a couple of steps toward the intended target before the ball is even out of the passer's hand. With the help of that head start, he arrives in time to make a tackle for minimal gain at a spot on the field that any mistake would have resulted in six points.
Despite Tanner's obvious size and skill, however, he probably will need to bring plenty of patience with him to the Ohio State campus.
In 2011, Tanner and fellow safety verbal commitment Jeremy Cash will find a depth chart with potentially as many as eight scholarship players ahead of them should Moeller's planned petition for an extra year of eligibility be granted.
In 2012, Johnson is scheduled to be a senior, as are Zach Domicone and C.J. Barnett, the next two players on the depth chart this past spring behind Hines, Johnson and Moeller.
A starting role for Tanner in 2013 might not be out of the question, however, as the field projected field is narrowed to four - Tanner, Cash, 2009 signee Jamie Wood and 2010 signee Chad Hagan - or perhaps five depending on where 2010 "athlete" signee Verlon Reed ends up.