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Leaders of the Room: Which corner must step up alongside Shaun Wade?

A look at Ohio State’s cornerback room and how the team will replace two first-rounders

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to Leaders of the Room — one of a few recurring themes we will be visiting here at Land-Grant Holy Land to help you prepare for what hopefully remains of the upcoming Big Ten-centric season. With Ohio State’s six-week preseason camp originated slated to begin today, we are going to truck forward with the notion that football is going to be played.

With that being said, now is as good a time as any to start taking a deep dive into the depth chart to find out who the Buckeyes will turn to at each position as they look for leaders both on and off the field in 2020.

Today’s unit: the cornerbacks.

When looking for a leader in this year’s largely unproven but highly-touted position group, the clear and obvious answer is Shaun Wade. With the opportunity to declare for the NFL Draft following the 2019 season, Wade elected to return to Ohio State for another year. When we last saw him out on the field, he was being ejected for an incredibly questionable targeting call on what should have been a sack during the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson. The poor taste in his mouth from that game plus the opportunity to move to the outside and showcase his versatility to NFL scouts likely both played large factors in his decision.

Wade was an integral part of the Buckeyes’ stellar pass defense this past season as the team’s starting slot corner. At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, the redshirt sophomore filled the stat sheet, racking up seven pass break-ups, two sacks, four tackles for loss, an interception and two forced fumbles. He showcased his incredible skillset all season long, possessing both the speed and intelligence to lock down speedy slot receivers while also functioning as a weapon on corner blitzes. A Third-Team All-Big Ten selection in 2019, Wade will be the undisputed leader of the unit as the only returning starter as he transitions to his new role as Ohio State’s top coverage guy on the outside.

We all know that Wade is very good, and while he will clearly fill the role as the big man in the room, it would be a boring cop-out to sit here and just name him the position leader and move on. Instead, let’s take a look at the guy in the unit not named Shaun Wade who must step up and provide stability and leadership for the Ohio State secondary this season.

While we may learn more over the course of preseason camp as position battles heat up, the next logical option to lead this deep and untested group is Sevyn Banks.

Banks is entering his third year with the program, the year where Ohio State’s coaching staff really expects you to turn it on. A former four-star recruit and a Top 100 player in the ESPN 300 (No. 58) in the 2018 class, the 6-foot-1 defensive back out of Florida appeared in all 14 games for the Buckeyes in 2019 in a reserve role. Banks totaled three pass break-ups and 1.5 tackles for loss in limited action, and recorded his first career interception in the team’s 52-3 win over Northwestern. He was also the one responsible for returning a blocked punt for a TD against Michigan in 2018.

Now, Banks is projected to be the starting corner on the other side of Wade, with Cameron Brown likely filling in at the slot position. Spring practices were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic back in March, but the junior had already begun to impress coaches and show flashes of elite talent during that limited timeframe. He has also received high praise from this year’s No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft, former OSU corner Jeff Okudah, who last season touted Banks as “the next great corner at Ohio State.”

Luckily for Banks, he doesn’t quite have to be the next Okudah — although it certainly wouldn’t hurt! However, the Buckeyes will need someone to step up to complement Wade on the other side of the field, much like how Damon Arnette performed last season. We haven’t yet seen a heavy dose of what Sevyn Banks is capable of in a full-time role, but if he can step up in year three as one of Ohio State’s leaders in the secondary, the pass defense in Columbus is going to be something to behold.