Starters: Josh Proctor (“Bandit” boundary safety), Ronnie Hickman (“Adjuster” free safety), Tanner McCalister (Nickel safety)
Backups: Kourt Williams, Andre Turrentine, Cam Martinez
In the mix: Lathan Ransom, Jantzen Dunn, Jaylen Johnson, Marcus Hooker
Future: Sonny Styles, Kye Stokes
Hickman was one of the bright spots in another bad year for the Ohio State defense last season, and he appears to have impressed the new coaches with his football ability and knowledge of the game. He was the boundary safety last year but spent the spring learning the other deep safety spot in the new defense.
Proctor was the starter at free safety last year before suffering a broken leg in the second game of the season. He was limited in the spring while his recovery continues, but the senior got a look at the “Bandit” position when he was on the field. That could fit his skill set better because it has some run support responsibilities.
McCalister is a senior who was a starter for Knowles at Oklahoma State last season and has helped teach the defense. Nickel is more of a cover position in this defense, so it looks like a fit for the multi-talented Martinez, a third-year sophomore who was a two-way star in high school in Michigan.
Williams is still a man looking for a position, but the coaches have repeatedly expressed respect for his demeanor and work ethic.
Ransom has played off and on the last two seasons but is recovering from a severe leg injury suffered in the Rose Bowl.
Stokes, a four-star freshman from Florida, could find his way into the two-deep after having a big spring, and big things are expected of Styles after the five-star prospect from Pickerington decided to graduate early and join the program this summer.
Starters: Denzel Burke and Cam Brown
Backups: Jordan Hancock, Jakailin Johnson
Future: Jyaire Brown, Ryan Turner
Burke excelled in a trial-by-fire freshman season last fall, and bigger, better things are expected of the ultra-confident Arizona native this season.
Cam Brown showed promise when healthy, but the senior was in and out of the lineup last year while coming off a severe leg injury that prematurely ended his 2020 season.
Denzel Burke says Ohio State freshmen are a bunch of dogs
Hancock and Johnson were both top 100 national prospects in the class of 2021, and both were said to have strong springs. Hancock, a 6-1, 188-pounder from Suwanee, Ga., made a couple of eye-catching plays in the spring game.
Jyaire Brown, a true freshman from Lakota West, and Turner, an early commit from Florida, got valuable experience this spring as at least one of them is likely an injury away from being in the two-deep this fall.