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Football: Ohio State finds depth at safety with White and Wade

Ohio State freshman cornerback Shaun Wade (24) runs downfield towards Indiana senior wide receiver J-Shun Harris II during the first quarter of the game on Oct. 6. Ohio State won 49-26. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo Editor

Ohio State safeties coach Alex Grinch did not know what would happen with Jordan Fuller on Saturday. But he did have a backup plan.

With lack of depth coming into the Nebraska game at the safety position, and sophomore Isaiah Pryor out with a shoulder impingement, Grinch said he knew Thursday that sophomore Brendon White would be the next guy in. That he had earned the right to be the next player up if the secondary needed it.

And the Ohio State secondary did need it: Fuller was ejected from the game in the second quarter after being called for targeting.

White entered without much in-game defensive experience. But, like many other members of the secondary before him, he earned his spot with playing time on punt and kickoff returns.

This was how White earned the trust of his position coach, enough trust to be placed in the spot he was in against the Cornhuskers. That being said, Grinch said many safeties have had similar opportunities this season, especially with no real secure hold on the other safety position.

“It’s one thing to get the opportunity. It’s a whole other thing to take advantage of the opportunity,” Grinch said. “That has been a little of the frustration is several guys have had some opportunities and maybe haven’t risen to the occasion as much as we’d have liked them to.”

White rose to the occasion, recording 13 tackles and two tackles for loss in Saturday’s 36-31 win over Nebraska on Saturday.  

Now, with the majority of the secondary healthy, White has still vaulted himself into the conversation as the starting safety next to Fuller against Michigan State. But not with Pryor, with redshirt freshman Shaun Wade.

This has been a transition season for Wade, moving from corner to nickel to a hybrid position in which he played a lot of safety. Grinch said it’s been a process trying to find the best fit for the redshirt freshman at this point in his career, and said, for now, it’s in the safety room.

In Ohio State’s five-point win over the Cornhuskers, Wade recorded four tackles.

For the safeties coach, it’s not deciding whether White or Wade will start and the other will never see the field.

“We are certainly not opposed to playing more than just one or the other,” Grinch said. “That’s the message to them, keep competing and the more guys that play, the better.”

Even with the pressure of a starting job resting on his performance in practice heading into the game against the Spartans, White said he’s not really looking to change much.

“I’m going to keep doing what I have been doing, and that’s going hard every day, having that eager to want to be great and wanting my teammates great,” White said.

In Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference, head coach Urban Meyer said Pryor will be fighting for playing time as well, saying that he is healthy to play.

Instead of talking about the safety position opposite Fuller like it is a weak spot in the secondary, the place for opposing offenses to attack, players and coaches alike are praising its depth.

Despite no starter at the position at this point, the players know the team has the talent to find production no matter if its Wade or White.

“When you got a lot of guys that can play, I know it’s hard for the coaches just deciding who is going to play, but like they said, they are just going to be battling it out,” redshirt junior cornerback Damon Arnette said. “We all know both of those guys are ballers and whatever decision they decide to make, it’s going to help us regardless.”  

That’s the mindset White has moving forward. He’s going to continue to do what he always does: fight for the team’s success as a whole.

“At the end of the day, whoever gets the starting job, the coaches made the right decision and I’m going to be there for it if it’s me or if it’s not me,” White said. “At the end of the day, I want the team to win.

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