All this week, we at Buckeye Empire have profiled and broken down the men who will serve as the last line of defense for the Ohio State Buckeyes. From Christian Bryant to C.J. Barnett and all the young Bucks who will come into old Columbus town this fall, the safeties unit is quite possibly the second most important defensive unit next to the defensive line.
We are all too aware that championships are won in the trenches, but without the safety net behind them, the line can only do so much. It will be up to players like Barnett, Bryant, Vonn Bell and Devan Bogard to step up and make plays in space while looking good in their uniforms. For if the secondary breaks down, all hell can break loose against a high flying team and the hopes and dreams of a crystal ball in Pasadena come January are all but lost.
It will be crucial for the safeties to improve upon their 2012 performance and the Senior leadership of the starters should serve to do just that. Bell and Bogard, as well as guys like Tyvis Powell (who could start at Star and perhaps even see some time as a true safety) would do well to sponge as much knowledge from them as possible, for they are the next generation of great safeties to wear the Scarlet and Gray. They may even be called upon to perform at a high level in the coming season, depending on injuries and rotations.
Bell looks to be the one incoming Freshman that could see the field immediately. The signing day surprise from Tennessee is a beast in open space, as evidenced by his highlight tape shown below. He has quickness rarely seen in a defensive back and can not only make the open field tackles required of his position, but has the speed to run down opposing tailbacks and wideouts should they break through the linebackers corps.
Do not sleep, however, on Redshirt Freshman Powell though. Ohio State looks to be using a fair amount of nickel defense in the upcoming season, and Tyvis shone at the Star position in spring practice as well as the Ohio State LiFE Sports Spring Game. The 2012 early enrollee from Bedford is a student of the game in all facets and could rival former Buckeye signal caller Craig Krenzel as the smartest man to pass through the halls of Ohio State. He immediately became an OSU Scholar-Athlete upon arrival on campus and shows no signs of slowing down his pursuit of not only a National Championship, but a college degree as well.
Bogard, coming off an ACL injury last year, is looking to regain that form and nastiness that made him on of Head Coach Urban Meyer’s favorite players from his inaugural season in Columbus. Devan hits as hard as anyone on the field, but the key will be for him to be in the right position to make those hits. As you’ll see in the highlight video below from high school, Bogard will likely get his most of his reps on special teams as a gunner who can flat out level the ball carrier.
All in all, the safeties unit is probably one of the more stable groups on the field. Returning both starters and getting some outstanding players on the field in Bell, Bogard, and Powell, the safeties could be the very key to making the trip to southern California in January to play for all the marbles. Look for Barnett and Bryant to improve on their ballhawking skills and interrupt the passing lanes to grab more interceptions than in 2012.
It will be an interesting and exciting year for the defensive backfield, to say the least. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the unit can do in 2013.