It was pretty obvious that Jahsen Wint wasn’t ready for a starting role as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. It was obvious to fans, it was obvious to opposing teams, it was probably apparent to Wint, and if you believe the whispers, and it was apparent to the non-Schiano members of the Ohio State staff.
Despite the misgivings of everyone except for that one guy, Wint saw significant time at safety for Ohio State through the first half of the season. It wasn’t until game seven against Minnesota that Wint saw his spot taken, and while he played the next week against Purdue, he was used sparingly.
Looking back, sparingly is probably the only way Ohio State should have used the embattled Brooklyn native in 2018. He struggled greatly in the hyper-complex, man-coverage heavy Buckeye defense (he certainly wasn’t alone). He drew the ire of fans for his struggles in single coverage (not his fault) and for his poor pursuit angles (partially his fault). After nearly half of a season, Ohio State made the move to replace Wint with Brendon White, who had no interest in surrendering the spot.
That move left Wint as the odd man out, cast to the side after a disappointing showing in the spotlight. However, he isn’t the only one, as Isaiah Pryor, Baron Browning, and quite a few members of the 2018 defense now find themselves entering a year in which they need to prove that they deserve to be back on the field; a year in which they either have to turn things around, or lose their chances at contributing.
With so much young talent in the program, Ohio State has no room for underachievement, and with a new defense designed by people with regular brains, the built-in explanation for poor play is (hopefully) gone.
While the concept of a prove-it year is probably not super pleasant for those players — Wint included — there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for a pretty large portion of that group, and there may not be a player more suited to improve from a scheme change than Wint.
He didn’t fit as a true run-stuffing safety because of his lack of size and pursuit angle struggles, and he couldn’t cut it as a free safety, both because he was never really allowed to try and because he was given some pretty bad coaching by Alex Grinch.
Now, as Ohio State shifts to the addition of the bullet position, and towards a nickel base-defense, Wint actually has a place on the field, a true position, for the first time in his career. And no, in my opinion, that spot isn’t at the bullet, which seems to be where Ohio State has him right now. It’s as a deep safety in passing situations, similar to the role Malik Hooker played in 2016.
Now, obviously Wint isn’t on the level that Hooker was as a natural safety. Hooker was born to be a free safety, and it would’ve taken a whole lot for Ohio State to screw that up. Wint isn’t that. He has, however, flashed the ability to play centerfield, specifically in the spring game, where he snatched two interceptions on the outer thirds of the field, thanks to great anticipation, range, and athletic ability.
Wint certainly isn’t lacking that athletic ability, and with Jeff Hafley now coaching him, I think that he can develop the wherewithal needed to be a true coverage safety.
On top of Wint’s actual talent, and the potential that he has with good coaching, a 4-2-5 is just about the best imaginable fit for that specific type of safety. The 4-2-5 allows for a safety to sit back and serve as a center fielder in ways that the 4-3 just doesn’t, because of the addition of what is essentially a third safety underneath.
If he doesn’t have to worry about tackling underneath, or covering a slot receiver in single coverage, Jahsen Wint has the ability, and now the system, to shine in a Buckeye uniform.
There is one last hurdle, and, well, it’s a pretty big one: he actually has to win the job. Seemingly every spot on the defense is open right now, and while that means Wint has a fair shot at the second safety spot next to Jordan Fuller, it also means that he has a hefty field of competitors to go against. Brendon White is gone, presumably taking the bullet position, but Isaiah Pryor (who could have a similar breakout season), Josh Proctor, and Amir Riep are all firmly in the battle for that job.
That battle will likely come down to Proctor and Riep, because I think Pryor is a much better fit for Fuller’s spot, and he’s not getting that this season, barring something unforeseen. Proctor has the talent, but he’s still very young, and Riep doesn’t seem to have a true position entering year three in the program. That gives Wint a leg up on the competition, but he does still have to prove that he has the talent full-time that he showed during the spring game.
If Wint really can breakthrough, like I think he can, he would add a dimension to Ohio State’s defense that the Buckeyes, frankly, really need. Ohio State was without a safety that could shut down the deep ball in 2018, and while a good portion of the damage against the defense came underneath, the cracks showed down the field against spread teams like TCU, Purdue, Penn State and Nebraska. Without the threat of a deep ball, those teams would be forced to operate entirely underneath against the Buckeyes, and that’s where the new bullet position can really shine.