The safety position is historically one of the most athletically demanding positions in the game of football, and surely one of the most important. Whether strong or free, a safety is required to make touchdown saving, sometimes game saving plays. They have to have quick instincts and reactions, as well as a fearlessness to go up and make a big play. They can be asked to cover the fastest receiver, blitz off the edge, or take on running backs at the line of scrimmage. They can play up, they can play deep, they can play fast, and they can play physical. They are sometimes on the front line, but more often, and importantly, they are the last line of defense.
It’s long been said that it’s never a good thing to have your safety as one of your top tacklers on your team. This can be both true and false. Sure you don’t want running backs and receivers making it to the third level of the defense, but with an aggressive defense those guys are often closer to the second level. Enter Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. Both seniors, and returning starters, these two look to anchor a defense that only has four seniors total. Big hitters and playmakers, Bryant and Barnett were 2nd and 4th, respectively, in tackles for the defense in 2012. This kind of output can be expected again given both players’ willingness to come up and make a hit.
What needs to improve, are both players breaks on the long ball. Combined Bryant and Barnett registered only 3 interceptions last season. Simply put, this must improve. Something that can happen with safeties who love to blitz, love to hit, love to register tackels, is that their defense of what matters, the air, can suffer. With the departure of Travis Howard, the teams leader in INTs, the Buckeye safeties are going to have to pick up the slack. Sure Bradley Roby returns at corner, but with his growing notoriety teams will likely be avoiding throwing his direction.
There has been some talk of the younger talent coming in over the Spring in Devon Bogard and Vonn Bell, but look to experienced nickel back Corey Brown to step up in the play-making section this year. With extensive experience, and being a former 5-star recruit himself, Brown will be looking to make some key plays on the 3rd and long, and 2nd and longer scenarios. The nickel defense is going to be a big component of the Ohio State defense this year, as with a terrifying defensive line opponents are likely to be passing it quite often on 2nd and 3rd downs.
These kind of situations are where young guys, and older ones trying to make an impact, have to step up. Our defense has always prided itself on its run defense. For as long as I can remember the silver bullets have been blowing up running backs at the line of scrimmage. We’ve always believed in our run defense, but the pass defense has always seemed to be the question mark. With Urban Meyer‘s recruiting, and those left from the Jim Tressel era, we may have the most talented group of safeties I can remember. Talent can go far, but not as far as it can go without experience.
Luckily for the Buckeyes defense the majority of the seniority and experience lies within this safety unit. These are the guys who are saving touchdowns. These are the guys asked to make a play on that 230lb running back who’s just broken through the linebackers. They are back there recognizing offensive schemes, and relaying what they see to the guys up front. They are there to make sure the opponent doesn’t reach the endzone. We have to rely on them, because they’re there to defend, but only if needed. So we’ll watch them, because they can take it, they’re the last line of defense.