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Ohio State’s Denzel Ward has designs on being the next Buckeye first round pick at corner

After being the “third starter” at cornerback last year, Ward looks to step into his own this year.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s a very gifted player. He’s had a great offseason and he’s demonstrated some terrific leadership. I’m very excited about him.”

Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs on Denzel Ward via Ben Axelrod, Land Of 10

Ohio State has been churning out first round picks at the cornerback position over the past few years, and now Denzel Ward is hoping he can position himself to be the next coming out of Columbus. Even though Ward wasn’t technically a starter at cornerback last year as a sophomore, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs says that people should call Ward the third starter at cornerback last season since he was out on the field just as much as fellow cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. In fact, Ward registered nine pass breakups last year, which tied Lattimore for the team lead.

Not only has Ward already displayed a high football IQ to be able to be in the correct position to allow him to register the high number of pass breakups, but he is also the fastest player on Ohio State’s roster. Now Ward is evolving even more as he heads into his junior year, taking on more of a leadership role. With a couple of very talented freshman cornerbacks coming in with the 2017 recruiting class, Ward will be pushed even harder to excel on the field, as well as to show the younger corners the ropes as they adjust to the college game. If Lattimore and Conley are taken in the first round of the NFL Draft later this month, it will give Ohio State four cornerbacks taken in the first round over the past four years. With a strong junior year, Ward might have a chance to make that five cornerbacks taken in the first round over a five year span.

“I’d say Joe is ahead of (the other quarterbacks). But they’re both getting reps. Tate had his best day, too, the other day in the scrimmage, so it’s good competition that brings out the best in people.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via Jacob Myers, The Lantern

There isn’t any question who will be the starting quarterback for Ohio State when the Buckeyes take the field against Indiana to open up the 2017 season, but one of the most entertaining position battles heading into the regular season will be at backup quarterback. In mop-up duty in six games last year, Joe Burrow threw for a couple touchdowns and ran for another. As of now Burrow is the odds-on favorite to sit behind J.T. Barrett on the quarterback depth chart, but the redshirt sophomore will likely face some stiff competition from redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins and true freshman Tate Martell.

Even though Haskins didn’t see the field in 2016, he made a name for himself in the lead-up to the Fiesta Bowl with his work on the scout team mimicking Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Martell comes to Columbus with plenty of accolades following a high school career in which he went 45-0 and threw 113 touchdowns. Many have compared Martell to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel because of his ability to make plays not only with his arm, but with his legs as well. The competition for the backup quarterback spot this year could give Ohio State fans a glimpse into life after J.T. Barrett in 2018.