Ohio State currently has six defensive backs committed in the 2021 class, at least if you believe the recruiting services.
Three-star Cincinnati La Salle safety Jaylen Johnson will very possibly be a linebacker at Ohio State, as he could easily project to Bullet for the Buckeyes.
That would bring the current number down to five, but there are still designs on landing one more true corner — as long as it’s the right corner.
Even in its current state, however, OSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kerry Coombs is pretty pleased with how the class has gone.
“I would say fantastic is how I feel,” he said back in April, just two days after 4-star Kentucky safety Jantzen Dunn committed to the Buckeyes.
Dunn (6-2 178) joined the aforementioned Jaylen Johnson (6-1 200), as well as 3-star Cincinnati La Salle cornerback Devonta Smith (6-0 185), 4-star Nashville safety Andre Turrentine (6-0 175), and 4-star St. Louis cornerback Jakailin Johnson (6-0 168) in the class.
One month later, 4-star Scottsdale cornerback Denzel Burke (6-0 189) committed.
While the first prerequisite to land on Ohio State’s radar is to be a tremendous player, there are many other more important factors to consider when it comes to which players to offer.
“I would say that the keys for us in the kinds of players that we’re looking for are found first and foremost in how they fit into the culture of the program. And I don’t want to undersell that at all,” Coombs said.
“And this is true at every position, just finding the right kid is important, not just physical talents or skills or abilities, because of what is going to be required of them here. So I think that those things are important.”
But there are also athlete “types” that Ohio State looks for at every position.
In the secondary, the players are asked to defend the run and the pass, so they better have the frame and the mentality to do both.
“I think that from a body type and what you’re looking for really across the board at five positions in the back end, you’re looking for guys that are long, that can run, that are not afraid to tackle and be physical, that can cover in both man and zone concepts,” Coombs said. “I mean, you’re looking for complete players, but I think the key word for me would probably be versatility.”
Versatility would describe the current crop of 2021 defensive back commits pretty well.
Smith played safety for La Salle last year, but projects to cornerback. He also has experience defending the slot, which may ultimately be where he fits best for the Buckeyes.
Dunn has the length to make for a very intriguing cornerback prospect, but his range as a safety may be too much to pass up in Ohio State’s single-high defense.
Turrentine is in a similar position. He is likely a safety, but Coombs likes to give guys a look at cornerback first.
In the end, the goal is to have enough talented options who are capable of lining up at more than just one location.
Such as a player like Jaylen Johnson who could ideally cover like a safety while playing linebacker.
“We’re looking for some guys that can play at multiple spots,” Coombs said. “And I think that that’s really important because I think that gives you a lot of opportunity to do things and play more guys and play them in different situations. I think the game’s becoming a little bit more situational as it goes. And so we want to make sure that we have guys that are versatile, fast, athletic.”
Landing athletes has never been a problem for Coombs, and doesn’t figure to become one moving forward.
Part of the reason for that is because players want to play at Ohio State and they want to play for Kerry Coombs, but the other side of it is that OSU knows the kind of fit that they are looking for.
And that helps narrow things down considerably
“Most importantly that they fit the culture of the program, and that’s kind of where the recruiting starts,” Coombs said. “And I think for Ohio State, if you’re going to recruit to Ohio State you’ve got a great product, and it’s really easy to communicate that with people.”