Ohio State has to replace six starters on defense in 2021. Five of them were selected to one of the All-Conference teams. In one case, an entire position group will be wiped out by the NFL draft.
While the Ohio State offense will be down only a few starters in 2021, the defense will be a different case.
The good news for Ohio State is that it is replacing all of these departures with juniors and seniors. They will all be players with years in the system who have logged some snaps during garbage time in previous seasons.
In more good news, there some extremely talented freshmen coming in on the defensive side of the ball. It may not pay off in 2021, but over the next few years, this defense will continue to reload.
Projecting the Ohio State Starting Defense in 2021
Defensive line: Tyreke Smith, Zach Harrison, Haskell Garrett, Atwuan Jackson
It’s next man up on the Buckeye’s defensive line.
The big surprise here is that Garrett opted to forgo the NFL draft. Next to him will probably go Jackson, who is taking advantage of his extra year of eligibility. Taron Vincent will get a lot of playing time as well.
On the ends, it’s Smith, who will be a senior, and Harrison. The latter will be a junior, and though he wasn’t a starter last season was still a Second Team All-Big Ten selection. There will be an infusion of new talent that will get cycled in with the starters. Jack Sawyer will be coming in, and the Buckeyes are hoping J.T. Tuimoloau will join as well.
Linebackers: Teradja Mitchell, K’Vaughan Pope, Dallas Gant
The linebackers are going to be more difficult to project since the Buckeyes are losing all three starters and the first linebacker off the bench.
Though this group lacks starting experience, they will all be seniors. They have all spent years in this system, which will mitigate the lack of playing time. All are four-star recruits that bring good athleticism to the table so the transition looks to be smooth.
Another name to look out for is Reid Carrico, who is already attracting attention on campus as a freshman. He won’t start at first but could come in for injuries and will certainly get a chance to play on special teams.
Defensive Backs: Sevyn Banks, Cameron Brown, Marcus Williamson, Josh Proctor
The only defensive back Ohio State is losing is First Team All-Big Ten Shaun Wade. Brown, a senior, will be the next man up.
Other than that, there’s not much change in the secondary. Marcus Hooker will also be a featured player at safety, along with Lathan Ransom, who saw an increase in playing time towards the end of the season. Proctor will probably play in single-safety sets, which will be most of the time. Hooker and Ranson will come in for two safety formations.
Sophomore Lejond Cavasos is an incredible athlete who played both cornerback and safety in high school. He might be in the mix as well.