It should be an easy week for Ohio State. While the Buckeyes’ defense has been porous, it seems highly unlikely that Akron will remain competitive for very long in Saturday’s game in Columbus. With one final week before Big Ten play starts full-tilt, the Buckeyes’ defense has an opportunity to tighten up some prior errors and start the long learning curve that could still end in post-season glory.

Here are 5 Ohio State defenders who we’d like to see step up.

1) JT Tuimoloau

There’s still not been a clear indication of whether Zach Harrison, who missed last week against Tulsa, will be back in the lineup. It’s fair to suspect that even if he is, he’s probably not going to be at 100 percent. Yes, Tuimoloau is learning on the job right now. But he’s a ridiculous physical specimen, and in his brief playing time, he does seem to be catching on (3 tackles, 1 pass broken up, 1 QB hurry).

With or without Harrison, it would be nice to see JT get more action and flash his unique athletic skills —  think of a TreVeyon Henderson-like difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, Tuimoloau isn’t there yet … but why not jump-start that progression against Akron?

2) Tyleik Williams

Similarly, true freshman Williams has shown some ability in the middle of the defensive line. In minimal playing time, he’s managed 4 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, including a sack. Haskell Garrett and Antwaun Jackson are pretty well known qualities, and if Williams could continue to play productive to spell one or both in conference play, it certainly might help the inside push up front for OSU. Williams is a good candidate to see plenty of snaps on Saturday.

3) Sevyn Banks

On the other hand, Banks is a wily old veteran, but one who hasn’t seen the field much yet in 2021. He played briefly in the Tulsa same, but Banks was a solid starter last season, breaking up a team-high 8 passes. With guys like true freshman Denzel Burke seeing time in Banks’s absence, he’ll have to earn his way back into time. But as last week’s 400+ yard passing day by Tulsa proves, the Buckeyes can use a veteran leader in the secondary, if he can work his way back into game condition this week.

4) Cody Simon

Simon, a second-year player, has been among the Buckeyes’ tackle leaders (he’s third, with 16 stops, and ties for the team lead in tackles for loss with 2). He made his first career start with Teradja Mitchell being out last week with an apparent minor injury. Simon and the OSU front did a solid job against the run with Tulsa, but also were victimized in the passing game in a manner similar to what went down for most of 2020. Whether Mitchell plays Saturday or not, Simon needs to continue working on his positioning and consistency. OSU knew they’d be inexperienced at linebacker after losing their top four guys at the position last year, but Simon has to be part of the solution.

5) Bryson Shaw

The third-year safety became a starter when Josh Proctor went down to injury. Shaw showed promise last week, making 5 tackles and breaking up a pass. He had just a pair of tackles coming into the season, but finds himself at the heart of the effort to shore up the Buckeyes’ secondary. As the presumptive starter, Shaw stands to gain a wealth of experience, and hopefully stop the flood of passing yards that accrued last week at the hand of Tulsa. Does the return of Sevyn Banks impact Shaw? In any case, after OSU allowed 400+ passing yards for the 4th time in 11 games under DC Kerry Coombs, playing the pass is certainly at a premium.