clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Could a key piece of Ohio State’s defense return in 2020?

The Silver Bullets would get a huge boost if their slot corner gives it one more year

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Ohio State needs Wade to provide some continuity in a defensive backfield that would otherwise be completely turned over. And Wade needs to show NFL talent evaluators that he has the athleticism to line up on and shut down outside receivers.”

- Jeremy Birmingham, Lettermen Row

Looking ahead to the 2020 season, Ohio State’s offense will certainly not be a problem. Ryan Day will be tasked with replacing star running back J.K. Dobbins, but the rest of the roster on that side of the ball is pretty stacked. Justin Fields will be returning for his second season, and while the wide receiver room with be losing a few key guys, it will still feature one of 2019’s top targets in Chris Olave as well as the second season of five-star freshman Garrett Wilson and the first season of five-star wideout Julian Fleming.

While putting points on the board should be no problem, keeping them off the board for the opposition is a bit more of a question mark. The defense will for certain be losing seniors Malik Harrison, Damon Arnette, Davon Hamilton, Robert Landers and Jordan Fuller, and it will almost definitely be missing Chase Young and Jeff Okudah — both projected to be top-five NFL Draft picks. The roster seems equipped to fill spots along the defensive line and at linebacker, but it isn’t clear how the secondary is going to shape up. That is what makes the decision of Shaun Wade so important.

Wade was a huge part of an Ohio State secondary that completely turned things around from the year prior to become one of the most dominant units in the nation in 2019. With Okudah and Arnette locking up the outside, Wade was superb at playing coverage from the slot, a position that has become extremely important in the ear of the spread offense. On the year, he collected 26 total tackles with four for loss, two sacks, seven pass breakups and an interception. He appeared to make one of the biggest plays in the game against Clemson on what was originally ruled a sack on a corner blitz, but the play was reviewed and controversially called targeting as he was ejected for the remainder of the contest.

The redshirt sophomore has a tough decision to make regarding his future. Overshadowed a bit by the brilliance of Okudah, Wade would likely be selected in the first two rounds of this year’s NFL Draft, but his stock is not exactly clear. A return to Ohio State for another season would make him the top corner on the roster in 2020, and would provide a chance for Wade to solidify himself as a high first-rounder next year. The early exit of his position coach Jeff Hafley makes things all that more uncertain, but if Ryan Day is able to lure Kerry Coombs back to Columbus — the man who originally recruited him to OSU — it could play a huge factor in Wade’s decision.

“...there is no “of course” in recruiting, not even with five-stars. This is converting an initial attraction into reality. This is talent into production, potential into proof, kids into players, recruits into Buckeyes. This is what it looks like when a team gathers talent at the highest level, and that’s just the start.”

- Doug Lesmerises,

Recruiting is the very basis of a college football team’s performance on the field. Top-tier destinations like the Alabamas, Clemsons and Ohio States of the world are at the top of the rankings each and every year because they are the teams that recruit at the highest level and bring in the most elite talents from all around the country. A five-star rating is never a guarantee that the player is going to excel at the next level, as it ultimately comes down to coaching and development. Fortunately for OSU fans, the Buckeyes do that as well as anyone in the nation.

In 2017, Ohio State hauled in the No. 2 recruiting class in the country. Of the 21 recruits in the class, a whopping five of them were five-star recruits, and all but two of the rest were four-stars. Even with a class that impressive, it is usually the case that at least a few of your highly-touted additions just won't pan out at the college level for one reason or another. That could not be farther from the case for this class of Buckeye commits.

Of the group of five-star recruits, all five of them were key starters on this year’s depth chart: Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Baron Browning, Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis. Two of those players developed into early first-rounders in this year’s draft, while the other three could be heading that direction shortly.

Some of the four-star players in that class? Just guys like J.K. Dobbins, Josh Myers, Pete Werner and Thayer Munford. Day and the rest of his staff did a phenomenal job of helping these guys develop into what looked like all five-star players in 2019. It is one thing to recruit at the highest level, but it is another thing entirely to make sure you get the most out of these players once you have them in front of you. Ohio State’s prowess when it comes to player development is what makes them a national title contender each and every year.

“...multiple sources suggested there wasn’t a culture fit for either party, and a separation will probably help both Yurcich get what he wants as a play-caller and Day gets another crack at identifying the right guy for the Buckeyes.”

- Austin Ward, Lettermen Row

After one season as Ohio State’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Mike Yurcich will be heading south to become the offensive coordinator at Texas. Longhorns head coach Tom Herman, who himself once served as the Buckeye offensive coordinator, is apparently doing his best to build an OSU satellite program in Austin. In addition to Yurcich, Herman also added former Bucks defensive coordinator Chris Ash while already having another former OSU assistant in Tim Beck on staff.

Yurcich’s impact at Ohio State was not entirely clear, as co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson seemed to have a greater role in play calling alongside Ryan Day. However, Yurcich certainly played a part in helping first-year starter Justin Fields to what was an incredible season for the sophomore transfer. Yurcich showed he is capable of calling a high-powered offense, previously spending time at Oklahoma State where his team averaged 38 points per game during his tenure, but he was not given the same opportunity under Day and that likely led him to pursue other opportunities.

The Buckeyes were not caught off guard by his exit, as reports have come out that Yurcich was not exactly a fit with the culture Ohio State was looking to bring. There was also a huge concern that Yurcich was not able to recruit at the highest level, with sources telling Lettermen Row that he nearly botched the pursuit of QB commit C.J. Stroud with a lack of communication.

Day put together basically an entire new coaching staff when he replaced Urban Meyer at the end of last season, and things worked out pretty darn well for all of his new hires overall. There is no reason to think that he cannot find the right people for the job again, as his staff in 2020 will likely be just as good as the one that preceded it.

Stick to Sports