It was bound to happen sooner or later, but the time has finally come. After over a month of waiting around for the Big Ten to make a decision as to when they will next take the field, Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade has declared for the NFL Draft.
Thank you Buckeye Nation!— Shaun Wade (@shaunwade24) September 14, 2020
Forever a Buckeye! pic.twitter.com/VFjKukLpLV
The decision comes just a few days after the Buckeyes’ All-American guard Wyatt Davis also declared for the NFL Draft. Neither of the two supremely talented players had to come back to Columbus in 2020, as either would have almost certainly been a first-round selection in last year’s draft. However, both guys felt the need to return to Ohio State for one more season to chase a National Championship — an opportunity that was unfortunately taken away from them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are expecting a decision on a potential Big Ten season beginning in October sometime in the next few days, and while both Davis and Wade have already made their announcements, it does not necessarily close the door on their collegiate careers. With the new NCAA rules, they are allowed to declare for the draft and even sign with an agent while still being allowed to return to Ohio State as long as they don't receive any payment in the process or do anything to compromise their eligibility.
That being said, we cannot assume that either guy would reverse course with all the money they have on the table, and so it would be a safer bet to say they are gone for good, and then have the potential pleasant surprise waiting if they do decide to come back. Either way, Davis and Wade have represented the Buckeyes as well as anyone both on and off the field, and while we are certainly sad to see them go, we wish them all the very best moving forward.
So, what does Wade’s exit specifically mean for Ohio State if they do in fact take the field at some point this fall? Kerry Coombs already had his hands full in his return to the program, as the now-defensive coordinator was previously tasked with replacing both Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette — a pair of first-round NFL Draft picks in 2020 — and has now just lost his No. 1 option at the cornerback position. Luckily for the Buckeyes, the school has become a DB factory, thanks largely in part to Coombs’ first stint in Columbus.
The weight will now be cast to the shoulders of Sevyn Banks and Cam Brown. Banks, a former four-star recruit, saw action in all 14 of the Buckeyes’ contests in 2019, and registered his first career interception in the team’s win over Northwestern. Brown, who actually came to Ohio State as a wide receiver, played the most snaps of any corner outside the obvious trio of starters a year ago, and finished the year with 14 tackles including two for a loss.
Even with Wade on the roster, it would have likely been Banks and Brown as the guys around him in the defensive backfield, and so their roles have not really changed all that much despite moving up a spot on the depth chart. The pair are certainly lacking in an abundance of experience at the college level to this point in their careers, but they are both physically gifted. Banks had been dazzling in what limited practices Ohio State has had this offseason, while Brown is one of the fasted DBs in college football. These juniors should have no problem stepping it up a notch under the tutelage of Coombs.
Coombs and Ryan Day will also now need to find themselves a third starting corner, and that job will likely be won by either Tyreke Johnson or Marcus Williamson. Johnson, a five-star recruit in the 2018 class, has not yet lived up to the lofty expectations for a player who came to the program so highly touted. Williamson, the only senior in Ohio State’s defensive back room, finds himself in a similar boat. We’ve seen guys take big jumps in years three and four many times in the past, and it will be up to Johnson and Williamson to make that a reality as DBU looks to keep chugging on.
With Wade off the board, it does open the door for increased playing time for freshmen Cameron Martinez and Ryan Watts. The NCAA is not counting this weird season towards anyones eligibility, so either guy could take the field as much as they want in their first year on campus and it still basically function as a redshirt season regardless. Even if Martinez and Watts don't run with the ones, expect to see them on the field a lot late in blowouts as they have the unique opportunity to earn valuable experience.
Ohio State is accustomed to losing a ton of talent to the NFL Draft each year. It is the price you pay for bringing in the country’s top players time and time again. Usually the losses don’t come in such tough circumstances, but the Buckeyes could have easily lost both Davis and Wade to the draft last season, and so they must press on as if that was the case. As is always the mantra in Columbus, it has to be a ‘next man up’ mentality as the team is still hoping to get a chance at competing for a national title this year.