Two-thirds of the way through Ohio State’s football season, the safety position opposite Jordan Fuller remains unsettled.
Isaiah Pryor has started there for all but one game. Jahsen Wint started against Indiana while Pryor served a half-game suspension for targeting. Shaun Wade and Brendon White also have been in the mix.
On Urban Meyer’s radio show Thursday, defensive co-coordinator Alex Grinch, who coaches the safeties, acknowledged his frustration with production at the position.
“We have to find the right guys next to (Fuller) to allow us to play at a higher level,” Grinch said. “We’re looking for someone to step up and be that guy.”
He said safety is not the only position on defense where that applies. But issues there have been glaring, especially because it’s the last line of defense on a unit victimized repeatedly by big plays.
Ideally, Grinch said, the Buckeyes would stick one player on the boundary (short) side of the field and another on the field side.
“A lot of times that’s a luxury, but it’s what you’re working toward,” Grinch said. “If you don’t have that, you have to jockey some guys around. That’s what you’re seeing the first eight weeks.”
Grinch has been particularly frustrated by performance on so-called 50-50 balls when both the offensive and defensive player have a chance to make a play.
“Until we do (better on those), we’ll continue to move guys around and give guys opportunities,” he said.
Grinch, who’s in his first year with the Buckeyes, put the blame on himself.
“It always comes back to coaching,” he said. “The best coaches out there will put the finger back on themselves.”
All indications are that Blake Haubeil will continue to handle kicking duties. Sean Nuernberger injured his groin in warmups before the Minnesota game; he missed the 2016 season with a similar injury.
Haubeil, a sophomore, is 5 for 6 on field goals. The miss was a 33-yarder against Purdue. He earned the removal of his black helmet stripe, signifying full-fledged Buckeye status, when he made a 60-yard field goal in practice this week.
“He's officially known as Kicker 2 here,” Meyer said. “Kicker 2 is a great guy. He can smash a ball.”
It’s a noon game on Saturday, but the Buckeyes nonetheless will go with a blackout effect by wearing black jerseys. They are asking fans to wear that color also.
“It started several years back to give fans and recruits and players some energy,” Meyer said of alternate jerseys. “We were very skeptical at a place like Ohio State. I remember calling Archie (Griffin, asking). ‘What do you think?’
“It turned out to be a huge hit. The first one was the night game against Penn State. Last year was another one. It’s great for our players and recruiting.”