Every head coach in college football has a range of numbers that they want at each position on their team. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day likes to have four scholarship quarterbacks, for instance, but knows that’s difficult to do. Every position has an ideal number that fluctuates by a couple depending on how things work out with attrition and injuries.
Nowhere was the importance of numbers exhibited as blatantly as it was last year when Ohio State took on Alabama in the College Football Playoff national title game. The Buckeyes’ generally want 19 scholarship players in the secondary. Against Alabama, they had 12 available and over half of those players had never really played significant minutes in more than one game in their respective careers. It was a room of inexperience that the coaches couldn’t trust as much as they needed to, and it showed.
The number this year, however, is back up to 19 — if you count the Bullets. Overall, though, Day is much happier with the options in the secondary than he was six months ago.
“I mean, I’m very encouraged with what we did this spring on defense in general, I think we have some really good young talent back there,” he said after spring ball had wrapped for the Buckeyes.
Despite the increase in numbers, the spring still featured an injury to starting cornerback Sevyn Banks. The presumed starter on the other side — Cameron Brown — was still recovering from an injury he suffered last year. Redshirt freshman cornerback Lejond Cavazos missed the spring game with an injury and redshirt freshman Bullet Kourt Williams was also working his way back from an injury last year.
The news there, however, is positive.
“The forecast is that we’re going to get everybody back here,” Day said. “So we did have some surgeries, different things, and so that was frustrating that these guys weren’t able to get as many reps in the spring as you would like. But the good news is the cavalry is coming on this thing. And we’re gonna have really great depth back there.”
Another part of that cavalry is incoming freshman cornerbacks Jakailin Johnson and Jordan Hancock, as well as safeties Andre Turrentine and Jaylen Johnson.
The inexperience is still going to be an issue, but young players like Lathan Ransom and Ryan Watts put in a ton of work in the spring, and veterans like Josh Proctor and Marcus Williamson got more comfortable at their respective positions.
This summer will continue be an important time of development. Those who partook in the spring need to continue their work, and those who didn’t need to get up to speed so that they can hit fall camp without missing a beat.
“When you look at our numbers and where we’re projected to go into preseason camp, I’m fired up about that,” Day said. “But like you said, summer is going to be really, really important. Preseason is going to be really, really important. We do have some some guys who have had some reps back there with Sevyn and Cam. Those guys have been in the program for a while, Marcus Williamson too.
“And we also have some young guys, some freshmen that are coming in, but I was encouraged by what I saw back there. I thought that some of the young guys really stepped up and they used these 15 practices to get better. So we’re going to be much deeper in the secondary than we’ve been. We’re also going to be younger. So there’s a give and take there. But I think the future is very, very bright. I’m really happy with where our recruiting is at and where our count level is back there.”