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Josh Proctor’s absence against Michigan State gave others a chance to shine

After some unsteady performances earlier this year, Marcus Hooker graded out as a champion against the Spartans.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Obviously Ohio State is going to want their best players on the field as much as possible. That wasn’t possible last week against Michigan State, when 23 players were missing due to testing positive for COVID-19, contract tracing, or injury. Even without so many players who saw regular playing, the Buckeyes didn’t let the losses hold them back.

Once it was known that Josh Proctor wasn’t going to be available to play against the Spartans, there was some concerns about production at the safety position. Marcus Hooker has been less than impressive this year. The absence of Proctor led to worries that the Spartans might be able to hit some big plays through the air, which is what helped Michigan State score wins over Michigan and Northwestern this year.

Thankfully those fears never came to fruition, as Hooker graded out as a champion for the first time in the last three games. Hooker looked comfortable and confident out on the field, which is something the Buckeyes are going to need if they are going to match up with the likes of Alabama and Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

Another defensive back who had a big game in Proctor’s absence against Michigan State was Ronnie Hickman. After dealing with injuries last season, Hickman saw his first meaningful action in an Ohio State uniform last week. Hickman was credited with three tackles in the victories, but more importantly showed the same calm and comfort that was on display from Hooker.

The good news for Ohio State is that Proctor returned to practice this week ahead of next week’s Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern. As long as Proctor is available to play the rest of the year, expect him to take the majority of snaps at safety. What last week did for the Buckeyes is show that they can get high-level production at safety without Proctor, if for some reason he wasn’t available.

What last week’s performance also did for the secondary as a whole was build confidence, especially after what Indiana did to the unit a couple weeks before. This year hasn’t exactly been the smoothest for the secondary, but there has been moments of brilliance. While one good performance doesn’t fix everything with the group, it at least does show them they do have the talent to match up with anyone in the country. Now they just have to put it together on a consistent basis.

One player who is in the future plans at safety for Ohio State is Lathan Ransom. The Arizona product has seen mostly mop-up and special teams duty in his first season in Columbus, registering one solo tackle at the end of the Penn State game. There’s no doubt that Ransom can play though, as he was one of the top-ranked safeties in the country coming out of high school.

Growing up, Ohio State wasn’t on Ransom’s radar of where he was looking to play college football at. That all changed after Ransom’s junior season in high school, where he registered 82 tackles and picked off six passes. Ransom also saw some time at wide receiver, catching 27 passes for 625 yards and six touchdowns.

It would have been easy for Ransom to take a scholarship offer from a prestigious school closer to where he grew up, but he knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come to Columbus. Not only did Ransom mention the academics at Ohio State as reason for choosing to become a Buckeye, the recent history of the defensive backs in Columbus had a huge impact in his decision. It only made sense for one of the best defensive backs in the country to come to “DBU”.

Despite some of the hiccups in the secondary, the Buckeyes are still a threat in the College Football Playoff race. Most teams would have folded dealing with some of the issues that Ohio State has in the secondary. Luckily for the Buckeyes, other parts of the defense have picked up the slack. Nobody will remember some of the ugly performances from the defensive backs if the Buckeyes go on to win the national title.

Looking beyond this year, the future is extremely bright for Ohio State with Ransom seeing more playing time, as well as some of the other defensive backs that are already in Columbus, or are on their way in the near future. Expect to see big things from Ransom and the rest of the Buckeyes next year and beyond, as they look to become the next big names out of BIA.