Ohio State Football: Old dogs and young pups will solidify safety unit

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Damon Webb /

Many wonder how the Ohio State football team will rebuild the back-end of the defense after losing three players to the NFL as first round draft picks in April. The answer, the Buckeyes will reload and be just fine.

I have already written about the cornerback situation in Battle of the Stars. Now let’s look at the safety situation. The unit will be led by old dogs (seniors) with young pups nipping at their heels.

It’s difficult to think of a 21 or 22-year-old as an old dog, but in college football years, like dog years, they go by quickly.

The young men are now in their final year in the program and are expected to perform at a high level as well as lead the younger players. The Buckeyes have two such players who can do just that, Damon Webb and Erick Smith.

First let’s take a look at Webb the returning starter.

Webb had a nice season in 2016 teaming with Malik Hooker to form one of the best safety combos in college football. Webb didn’t put up the numbers Hooker did but he performed admirably.

For the season Webb made 57 tackles and returned his one interception 36 yards for a touchdown.

Now for the other senior, Erick Smith.

Want to talk about bad timing. Smith came to Ohio State in a package deal with Cleveland Glenville teammate Marshon Lattimore in the 2014 Ohio State recruiting class. He was the 6th ranked safety and No. 66 overall player in the country but had players like Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell in front of him. Then it was Webb and Hooker.

Now in his senior year he will have a chance to become a starter for the first time. But to do so he will have to beat out this talented young player.

Sophomore Jordan Fuller was one of the freshmen last year I predicted would play last season, and he didn’t disappoint. He was just too versatile and talented to keep off the field.

Fuller performed well on special teams and got his feet wet at the safety position. He is now listed at 6 ft. 2, 207 pounds and I expect great things from this athletic young man. The next player may be a carbon copy of Fuller.

Brendon White excelled on both sides of the ball in high school, and the only question with him was what position would he play in college. He was the No. 3 ranked athlete in the 2017 class according to the 247Sports Composite, but would he be a safety, or grow into a linebacker like former Ohio State linebacker coach Luke Fickell envisioned?

After performing well as a wide receiver during football camps last summer, that was the position White played last spring as an early enrollee at Ohio State. Now he has been moved back to the safety position.

Brendon is a very talented kid and is 6 ft. 2, 210 pounds. Just think if he becomes a bigger version of his father William White who was a star safety for the Buckeyes before moving on to a successful 11 year NFL career.

Another guy who has made waves since he stepped foot on campus as an early enrollee is Isaiah Pryor. He was the No. 8 safety and ranked as the No. 62 player in the country in the 2017 recruiting class, and has shown the Ohio State coaches why he was ranked that high.

Pryor was one of the first freshmen to lose his black stripe to officially become a Buckeye. Along with Brendon White, I see Pryor playing as a true freshman.

Both players are extremely talented, and it will be important for them to gain experience with Webb and Smith moving on after the season.

More from Scarlet and Game

Another cornerback who was moved to safety is redshirt freshman Jahsen Wint. I haven’t heard much about him lately but you may want to remember the name.

Wint went to Erasmus Hall in New York, the same high school Curtis Samuel attended. He is another one of those players who played multiple positions in high school, linebacker-wide receiver, that Urban Meyer likes. At the very least, Wint can provide more depth to the unit this season.

I doubt that any safety on the Ohio State football team will match Malik Hooker’s eight interceptions, or return three picks for touchdowns this year. That was a season for the ages.

However, the overall talent at the safety position may be better than it was in 2016.

Next: Will Buckeyes Collect 2017 Season's Big Ten Offensive Awards?

At least the unit should be deeper, and coach Greg Schiano has proven what he can accomplish when he has talented players at his disposal. I have a feeling the safety unit for the Buckeyes will be just fine this season.