The Ohio State Buckeyes had to replace three starters in its secondary this offseason: cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, and safety Malik Hooker. Through four games into the 2017 season, Ohio State’s secondary is showing how inexperienced it is.

Currently, the Buckeyes rank 67th in pass defense, but that statistic is a little deceiving. Against Army, the Black Knights only threw for 19 yards as part of their game plan in the triple option offense. If you take out that game, Ohio State is allowing 298 yards per game. That would rank 121st in the nation. And that ranking should concern Buckeye fans going into B1G play.

The biggest improvement Ohio State needs to make as the season progresses in the secondary is its No. 2 corner position.

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Junior Denzel Ward has been arguably the Buckeyes’ best corner this year. He has been very impressive and some of the plays he has fallen victim to this season have simply been outstanding efforts by the wide receivers. His counterparts, not so much.

Whether if it’s been Kendall Sheffield or Damon Arnette, the No. 2 corner play has been less than ideal. Arnette have been times that he came up and made some impressive plays against the run or swing passes, but his coverage downfield has been suspect. Last week against UNLV, Sheffield had a forgettable performance and some are perhaps wondering if the “one and done” chatter was just crazy talk for the JUCO transfer.

While the No. 2 corner play has been lackluster, Ohio State’s secondary has been called for more then a handful of passing interference penalties this year. In the win over UNLV last week, the Buckeyes were flagged for a handful of pass interference penalties. So the work isn’t done yet for defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. And one could assume that upcoming opponents will look at the Indiana or Oklahoma tape, when an onslaught of passes and clever use of play action gave the Buckeyes problems, to come up with game plans to attack the Ohio State defense.

Although the secondary has been up-and-down, it is gaining more and more experience each week. The Buckeyes have recruited exceptionally well and have an abundance of talent to work with in the secondary, but perhaps the Silver Bullets just needed some time to develop that the schedule didn’t really allow.


Not only have Ohio State’s defensive backs gained more experience week in and week out, they have shown ability to make plays on the ball – Ward, Arnette, and starting safeties safeties Damon Webb and Jordan Fuller each have an interception this year – and they have been solid in run support. However, this unit will ultimately be judged on whether it can cut down on allowing big plays against more prolific passing teams.

Around the B1G, there is typically a stigma that every team doesn’t possess Big 12 or Pac-12 type offenses that sling the ball 40-50 times per game. The general idea with college football fans around the country is that the B1G is run heavy conference. But this season, one could argue that that stigma is invalid.

The B1G have several quarterbacks who have been some of the most effective passers in the nation. Quarterbacks like Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook, Iowa’s Nate Stanley and Penn State’s Trace McSorely all rank in the No. 26 in passing efficiency (Hornibrook is No. 3, Stanley comes in at No. 17 and McSorely is at No. 26).  So, the B1G can definitely throw the ball around the field this year.

The good news is that the Buckeyes still have time to improve and coach Urban Meyer has said that the defensive backs are making strides. Plus, they still ample time to hit their full potential as Ohio State doesn’t face Penn State and McSorely until late October. But if the Buckeye secondary doesn’t keep on improving, it will be hard for them to contend for a B1G Championship this season.