Ohio State Buckeyes: Pair of defensive backs leaving program

Ohio State defensive backs Bryson Shaw and Lejond Cavazos entered the transfer portal Monday.

Shaw started 12 games last season as a sophomore safety. The 2019 three-star recruit had one interception and was third on the team with 59 tackles.

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He became the full-time starter at free safety after Josh Proctor was lost for the season to a broken leg against Oregon, but Proctor’s return in a limited capacity and a shift to a new defense put Shaw’s status in flux this spring.

Cavazos was a four-star prospect in the class of 2020, but injuries limited him in his two-plus seasons in Columbus.

The San Antonio native had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

He was recruited as a cornerback, but new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said last week he was working at nickel along with Tanner McCalister and Cam Martinez.

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The new scheme has five starting defensive backs, but a glut of scholarship players still exists on the roster and the coaches who recruited them — Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes — have moved on to other jobs.

Ronnie Hickman, who led the Buckeyes with 100 tackles last season, figures to start at boundary safety or free safety while McCalister is the early favorite to take over at nickel. McCalister played that position for Knowles at Oklahoma State last season.

“I think our nickels are really solid with Tanner, who understands everything about me and the scheme, and with Cam,” Knowles said last week. ‘And Lejond’s been playing there, too. I think we’ve got some impressive nickel play.”

Proctor could reclaim the free safety role or become the team’s boundary safety, which is known as the “Bandit” and involves more run support responsibilities than it did in the previous scheme.

Kourt Williams, who had 27 tackles in 10 games last season as a sophomore, is also a candidate to play the Bandit. Coaches past and present have raved about his approach to the game, but Williams is built more like a linebacker at 6-1, 220 so his ability to match up with receivers in coverage could be a concern.

“If anything he needs to improve, it’s that, and I got to make sure I put him in good positions,” said Knowles, who praised Williams’ leadership ability. “But I know I can go with him. I know I can trust him, and I know that he’s going to give everything and that it’s a matter of me putting him in the right position.”

Knowles and head coach Ryan Day both said they would like to see Proctor in the new defense if he can get healthy.

“I wish he could do more right now, but he’s kind of inching his way back,” Day said last week. “But that’s OK. It’s a long way until August.

“He’s rangy. He can cover a lot of ground. He’s extremely physical. He will absolutely get after you, whether it’s receivers downfield or coming up and playing the run game (or) blitzing.”

Ohio State returns two starters at cornerback in sophomore Denzel Burke and Cam Brown while redshirt freshmen Jordan Hancock and Jakailin Johnson and Jyaire Brown, a true freshman early enrollee fro Lakota West, are also among those in the mix.

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