COLUMBUS, Ohio — Position battles are winding down. Black stripes are flying off helmets of freshmen. Attention is starting to zero in on the season opener.
Preseason practice is wrapping up at Ohio State as it’s full speed ahead for the Aug. 31 season opener at Indiana. That also means the Camp Questions series is hitting the homestretch, and with the depth chart taking shape, that narrows the focus for our Land of 10 reporters.
All week they’ll be looking at key areas on the roster and forecasting some statistical leaders for the Buckeyes this season. Up next: Who will lead Ohio State in interceptions?
Austin Ward: CB Kendall Sheffield
All three of the primary cornerbacks in the revamped rotation would qualify as breakout candidates, even with Denzel Ward having played extensively a season ago. Damon Arnette also brings experience within the program to the position this season, and drawing comparisons to Bradley Roby is always a positive. But it’s Kendall Sheffield, the junior college transfer and former Alabama signee, who looks poised to emerge as the top playmaker in the secondary now that cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has a second crack at coaching him after coming up short with his first recruitment.
There has never been any question about his physical tools, and he’s only had more time since Ohio State first tried to land him to develop his body and mature. Now he’s got the benefit of working with a coach who has proven he can mold those skills and crank out first-round draft picks at cornerback better than anybody in the country right now, and the combination of Coombs and Sheffield could be frightening for opposing passers.
Plus, if Ward has one side of the field locked down and quarterbacks come into the season not wanting to test the veteran, Sheffield could have extra chances to jump out to lead in the interception department early in the year — and might not ever give it back.
Ryan Ginn: CB Denzel Ward
It was so inconceivable that Ward had no interceptions last season that I checked the Ohio State stats page three times. But it’s true! And yet, I’m still picking him.
Why? Because he’s really good. Ward played the same amount of snaps last season as starters Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, both of whom were first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. That meant that any time Coombs put Ward on the field, he was taking off a future first rounder. Ohio State isn’t running a charity, so those reps were earned through merit.
“He is as good as the other two,” Coombs said this spring. “I played three guys of equally talented ability. I don’t run out a guy who is not as good as the other guys. Who would do that? Have you met my boss?”
Turnovers tend to be one of the stats most prone to wild fluctuation in college football. Sometimes weird things happen with the way the ball bounces. Ward broke up nine passes last season, making him one of the team leaders in the department. That means he’s putting himself in the right position. This year, the odds are that the interceptions will follow.
Previous Ohio State camp questions
The post Ohio State football: Who will lead the Buckeyes in interceptions in 2017? appeared first on Land of 10.
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