From the time that Josh Proctor committed to Ohio State out of Owasso, Oklahoma as one of the top safeties in the 2018 recruiting class, he was seen as a future starter at free safety for the Buckeyes. He spent his first two years in a backup role. That role expanded last year and even though he wasn’t technically a starter, he has plenty of experience being on the field for the Buckeyes.
This year, however, his role has expanded even more. Proctor spent all spring as the team’s No. 1 free safety. It has seemingly been a long time in the making, but it’s also the first time he’s really played the position since 2019.
In an effort to help build the required comfort, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and secondary coach Matt Barnes kept Proctor in that one spot all spring long. This allowed them to get a good, long look at what he can do, and also allowed him to build up the kind of confidence to play the position the way it needs to be played.
Given that it’s really the only spot he played in the spring, it’s also where he expects to be when the season opens up.
“I think so. I mean, I’m just basically getting used to that one spot and I can actually sit and learn what I need to learn,” Proctor said this spring. “But as far as moving around in other spots, I’m still the same person that wherever you need me, I’ll be there. It doesn’t matter.”
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day prefers a one-high defense and Proctor is looking like that one-high guy. The Buckeyes were searching for consistency at that spot all year last season and never really found it. They can’t let the same thing happen two years in a row.
“I’d say I’m pretty comfortable. I’m confident in what I do and in my abilities and I know I work hard, so I’m very comfortable back there,” Proctor said.
That comfort was put to the test this spring, but that was just the start of it. The Ohio State secondary had its issues last season and many won’t be surprised to see those issues continue this year.
Proctor’s offseason is ongoing and so is his process toward being a better player than he was last year. He was feeling good about where things stood this spring after recognizing areas where he needed to improve.
“I’m feeling confident,” he said. “I know everything I need to work on, but my biggest thing this year is really just working on improving my consistency and being consistent with everything I do.”
Some of those issues are common among defenders. For instance, a safety’s eyes can be debilitating. There can be paralysis by analysis, or there can even be a rattlesnake-like approach where a safety strikes at the first thing he sees. Both can be disastrous for a free safety, which is why Proctor has worked so hard to eliminate those issues.
“I think I’ve improved the most in that I kind of slowed everything down for myself,” he said. “Like how I’m a player, I get excited sometimes. My eyes get going everywhere and I start thinking about a lot, but I think I’ve slowed down.”
The thought process hasn’t slowed. Instead, it has caught up with the speed of the game, which then has the sensation of slowing the game down.
The potential has always been there for Proctor, and now he might be on the verge of reaching the expectations that he and others have always had for him. Perhaps most importantly, he still wants to make big plays for the Buckeyes, but not at the expense of the right play.
“I said it earlier, I think it was really just being consistent,” he said of where he needed to improve the most. “Always being in the right spot and knowing what I’m supposed to do and not trying to make that big play or do everything by myself.”
The irony, of course, is that a more relaxed Josh Proctor this year for the Buckeyes could make for a much more disruptive Ohio State defense.