Josh Proctor holds starting safety spot as Ohio State opens spring practice

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

Josh Proctor began as the first-team free safety when Ohio State opened spring practice on Friday morning.

“He played extremely well and is going to play really well,” defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said.

Proctor took the starting spot during last season’s final three games, including the College Football Playoff.

His hold has only strengthened with the absence of Marcus Hooker, who was suspended indefinitely by the team after he was cited last weekend for operating a vehicle while impaired.

Ohio State safety Josh Proctor (41) reacts after missing a chance at an interception in a 2019 game at Indiana.

Rather than participate in Ohio State’s first spring workout, Hooker was scheduled to appear in Franklin County Municipal Court for an arraignment, which was continued to April 12, according to online records.

Hooker started four of the first five games for the Buckeyes in 2020 before an unspecified injury sidelined him for the Big Ten championship game, allowing Proctor to claim the starting role.

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Behind Proctor in the safety rotation during Friday’s practice was Bryson Shaw, who came in with the second-team defense, while Jantzen Dunn also saw repetitions at the deep spot in the secondary.

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Neither reserve boasts a ton of experience.

Shaw played a total of 38 snaps on defense in his first two seasons at Ohio State, according to Pro Football Focus’s tracking.

A former four-star recruit from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dunn was among a program-record 15 freshmen to enroll a semester early in order to participate in spring practice.

Coombs suggested other defensive backs could also be called on to supply depth at the deep position in the secondary.

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“We're going to be versatile,” Coombs said. “We're going to have some guys that are going to be able to do more than one job in the back end. We're going to have to. That's one thing COVID taught you. You got to have guys that can do it. Same thing’s true if injuries or anything else arises.”

The emergence of a consistent presence at safety is critical for the Buckeyes as they seek to maintain a single-high scheme, a coverage that Day helped first install with former defensive co-coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison in 2019.

Hooker’s ultimate status with the team, and how he could factor into the rotation, is unknown.

Day didn’t rule out a return when he spoke with reporters earlier this week, but said only that he would be suspended indefinitely as they gathered more information surrounding his OVI charge.