Total scholarship players: 14
Average star ranking: 3.3
Total returning starts: 62
Notable stats: The 10 veterans have a combined 406 tackles (6.5 for loss), 32 pass breakups and 13 interceptions.
2012 outlook: This qualifies as Ohio State’s eldest position, and easily so, as seven of the 14 scholarship players are upperclassmen Although the defensive line boasts of more collective starts, five returning defensive backs have at least nine career starts, a group led by safety C.J. Barnett.
Barnett has a secondary-high 15 starts and is second among the group with 84 tackles to his name as he enters his junior season. He showed promise at the start of the 2009 season before suffering a serious knee injury, and he returned last year to post an uneven year. The Clayton (Ohio) Northmont four-star recruit was among those to earn praise from new head coach Urban Meyer during spring practice, and he can be looked at for a big season.
The same could be said also of Christian Bryant, a junior who started nine games next to Barnett last season and also suffered through some ups and downs. The aggressive Cleveland Glenville product broke up a team-high eight passes last season and posted 68 tackles, but his penchant for going for the kill shot on every hit cost him dearly on more than one occasion as missed tackles led to big plays for the opposition.
Senior Orhian Johnson, who started four games last season and 11 the year before, can be expected to push for playing time as well. He has a secondary-high 92 career tackles and is a heady player who improved late last season.
There is no shortage of help at safety should a front-liner go down as senior Zach Domicone returns from knee surgery for one last go-round and juniors Corey Brown and Jamie Wood are back as well. Brown has the skills to play cornerback in a pinch.
At cornerback, Bradley Roby enters his sophomore season with high expectations. The former Vanderbilt commitment had a breakout redshirt freshman campaign that included 47 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions. He was the team’s most reliable corner in terms of tackling and coverage. He is tough against the run and brings great confidence to the position.
On the the other side, rising sophomore Doran Grant did enough to impress the new coaching staff to leave spring practice listed as a co-starter with Travis Howard, a senior who broke up five passes and intercepted two more as a starter last season. Grant is a four-star prospect while Howard was a three-star in high school but considered by many to be a sleeper in the class of 2008.
Behind that trio, there is a significant drop as only third-year sophomore Adam Griffin has more than a year in the program.
Redshirt freshman Ron Tanner and true freshmen Tyvis Powell, Najee Murray, De’Van Bogard and Armani Reeves are all waiting in the wings this season.
Powell, Murray and Reeves are slated to begin their college careers at cornerback, where a lack of depth could mean a quicker path the playing time could exist depending on the health of the older players. A move to safety for one or more of them should not be ruled out, either. Reeves, a four-star prospect from Massachusetts, is considered the most likely to earn a spot in the two-deep.
The youngsters from the 2012 class all might be advised to make their marks quickly, however, as highly regarded high school seniors Cameron Burrows and Eli Woodard will arrive in 2013 and be expected to push for playing time.
Three-star 2013 verbal commitments Jayme Thompson and Darron Lee are also on their way next season to add depth at safety, although Lee could end up at linebacker or even on offense.
Current status: Veteran
Future outlook: Positive and improving