After an early season turnaround, Ohio State's Shaun Wade wants to make more strides

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade (24) celebrates with defensive end Zach Harrison after returning an interception for a touchdown against Indiana on Nov. 21.

Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade saw lots of room for improvement earlier this season.

In the aftermath of wins over Penn State and Rutgers, a stretch in which he allowed three touchdowns in coverage in the two games, he said he needed to be better.

Recent weeks have given him opportunities to bounce back.

Wade returned an interception of Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. for a touchdown in a win over the Hoosiers last month. Then he allowed only one completion and picked off another pass in a game at Michigan State.

It was enough of a turnaround to give Wade a push toward being selected as the Big Ten’s defensive back of the year this week, the first time a Buckeye has been recognized since the award was introduced in 2011.

But speaking with reporters on a Zoom call this week, Wade said he felt unsatisfied, believing he had more room for growth, especially as he continues this season’s transition from slot corner to outside corner.

“I'm just hard on myself at the end of the day,” Wade said, “so I feel like I always got a lot to improve on. Even if I'm looking good on a field, I'm gonna come back and be like, 'I know I didn't do this right, so I know I got a lot to improve on still.' ”

It has not helped Wade’s development that three of the Buckeyes’ past five scheduled games have been canceled, limiting repetitions at his spot in the secondary.

Most of his experience has been confined to practices and workouts matched up against teammates.

“You go up against the same people in practice,” Wade said, “and the game is not practice.”

If the Buckeyes reach the College Football Playoff, a berth that is likely if they prevail in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern on Saturday, Wade will have a critical role.

They are currently holding the final spot in the rankings, a seed that would put them in a position to face Alabama.

The potential semifinal game would present a matchup against DeVonta Smith, the speedy wide receiver for the Crimson Tide who is among the Heisman Trophy front-runners (as is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones).

Other likely playoff participants feature top passing games. Notre Dame’s Ian Book is the winningest quarterback in school history. Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft next spring.

The biggest test for Wade came against Indiana, and while he had a pick-6 against the Hoosiers, he still gave up a touchdown while matched up with Ty Fryfogle, the Big Ten’s wide receiver of the year.

But though he has looking to make further strides, Wade said he does feel more accustomed to playing outside corner than when the season began two months ago.

“I'm definitely more comfortable,” Wade said. “I go against the best receivers in the nation every day (in practice), so I have to get more comfortable.”