“Brendon White was playing two positions. The Buckeyes apparently are moving toward a position for a hybrid linebacker/safety and White is the leading candidate for that role.”
Ohio State is coming off arguably one of their worst defensive seasons in recent memory. Finishing the year ranked 72nd in total defense, the Buckeyes allowed an uncustomary 403.4 yards per game. Their biggest problem area was the running game, wherein they allowed 2,251 rushing yards on a whopping 4.6 yards-per-carry average. Compared to the 2017 season, in which they allowed only 1,471 yards on 2.9 yards per carry, this is clearly an area of concern that new head coach Ryan Day will look to correct in the upcoming season.
Starting in the offseason, Day has already taken big strides to turn the defense around, hiring an almost entirely new coaching staff on that side of the ball. Day will have to contend with the loss of some big-name personnel on defense, losing the likes of Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones and Kendall Sheffield to the NFL Draft. However, Ohio State is returning their entire secondary outside of Sheffield, including senior safety Jordan Fuller — who will miss spring practice as he rehabs from offseason surgery. They also have some incoming talent that could make an impact right away, namely true freshman Zach Harrison.
Day has already began experimenting with changes to the lineup on the first day of spring practice, testing out safety Brendon White at a hybrid linebacker/safety position. White was a breakout star for Ohio State last season, recording 46 tackles (four for loss) and an interception in just five starts. With the Buckeyes struggling to find a starting safety opposite Fuller, White’s 13-tackle performance against Nebraska earned him the job and he never looked back.
The tallest task for Day in his efforts to resurrect his defense are clearly at the linebacker position. The DBs should be just fine, while the defensive line headed by Chase Young should also see very little drop-off. Outside of Malik Harrison, who got better and better as last season went on, the starting spots at linebacker should be very much in the air as both of last year’s starters in Tuf Borland and Pete Werner were not exactly stellar. It would not be surprising for guys like Justin Hilliard, Teradja Mitchell or Baron Browning to step into one if not both of those spots, with all five guys having the chance to win the job with a strong spring.
Day’s willingness to experiment with White at a different hybrid position shows a clear change in philosophy at Ohio State, one where the goal is to get as many of the best players on the field as possible regardless of their position. The Buckeyes have a ton of talent on their roster, and hopefully with a brand new coaching staff they will find the best way to utilize as much of that talent as possible as they look to get back into the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016.
Ohio State has always been an NFL factory, and this year is no different. A bunch of Buckeyes got to participate in this year’s NFL Combine, and many of them showcased that their talent will transfer very well to the next level. The league’s official Instagram dropped a post showcasing their “All-2019 NFL Combine Offensive Team”, and you will recognize a few of the faces up there. That’s because of the 13 players recognized in the post, five of them are former Ohio State players.
Parris Campbell probably had the best combine of the bunch in terms of increasing his draft stock, tying for the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among all players with a blazing 4.31. He also posted the fifth-highest broad jump at 11 feet, 3 inches and continued to showcase his immense athleticism with some crisp performances in different receiving drills. While Campbell has been known in the past for being a fast receiver with shaky hands, he really worked on catching the ball in 2018 and it showed. He will likely be rewarded for his efforts, as some are predicting Campbell is the first wide receiver off the board, potentially in the first round.
Mike Weber and Terry McLaurin also looked very good in their workouts, despite being players that may have been overlooked in their time at Ohio State. Weber posted the third-fastest 40 time among running backs with a 4.47 while also tying for sixth in the bench press with 22 reps. McLaurin excelled all over the field, running the fifth-fastest 40 time with a speedy 4.35 while also finishing ninth among receivers in the broad jump and 10th in the bench press.
Michael Jordan put in a good among of work as well, described by Chad Reuter of NFL.com as working smoothly in drills, giving him the look of a starter. Jordan posted the third-best broad jump among offensive lineman at 9 feet, 8 inches and the fifth-best vertical jump. After playing center for Ohio State last season, Jordan will almost certainly play guard in the NFL, where he was stationed for the Buckeyes in the two years prior. Jordan will likely come off the board in the second or third round.
Dwayne Haskins was Dwayne Haskins. While he certainly wasn't the fastest in the 40-yard dash, posting a 5.04 time to the dismay of the Stephen A. Smith’s out there who believe Haskins is a run-first quarterback, his throws were clean and on the money. During drills, the TV announcers described Haskins’ throws as just coming out differently than the other guys out there, impressed with his arm strength and accuracy. Haskins will likely be the first QB taken in the draft and almost certainly a top-10 pick.
Ohio State enters the final week of the regular season as they travel to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats on Wednesday night. They will again be without leading-scorer Kaleb Wesson, who is continuing to serve a suspension for a violation of team rules. Northwestern is just 3-15 in Big Ten play, and has lost their last 10 contests. Check out LGHL’s full game preview here.
The lady Bucks will take on Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon. After finishing the regular season 10-8 in conference play, Ohio State entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed. The Buckeyes are defending Big Ten Tournament Champions, winning their sixth title last season. OSU is no stranger to this Wisconsin team, beating the Badgers twice in an 11-day span in late February.
As the regular season champion and No. 1 seed, Ohio State has earned a bye to the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, where they will host the lowest remaining seed from the quarterfinal round at 3:30 p.m. ET on March 17 at Value City Arena. This is the second year in a row all three rounds will be held at campus sites. In each of the first five years, a different team has won the Big Ten tournament, with OSU and Michigan yet to bring home the postseason title.