Ohio State football safeties Jantzen Dunn, Cameron Martinez cross-training at cornerback
Ohio State safeties Jantzen Dunn and Cameron Martinez took repetitions at cornerback during practice on Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said.
The cross-training is a step toward addressing concerns over limited depth at the position.
The Buckeyes entered preseason training camp last week with only six scholarship cornerbacks, low numbers that could be even thinner if Jordan Hancock remains banged up.
But no matter the timeline for his return, Knowles sees a need to uncover more depth in the upcoming weeks.
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“You're going to get corners who run all the time back and forth,” he said. “You're going to get soft-tissue injuries. And we need to be fresh. So I feel it’s definitely something we are keeping our eye on and making sure we get multiple guys their repetitions.”
Knowles said he turned to Dunn and Martinez after conferring with secondary coach Tim Walton and safeties coach Perry Eliano.
“They decided those are the guys that have exhibited that kind of foot quickness and speed and athleticism to fit the corner position,” Knowles said, “and I thought they looked pretty good. I really do.”
Martinez played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last fall. Dunn appeared in only one in his first season with the program.
A majority of Martinez’s snaps were as a cover safety. He also lined up as a free safety.
“I was impressed with him since I first saw him,” Knowles said. “I think he's got a quickness. He's got a toughness. He's got a mental attitude and fortitude. He’s a guy who’s a playmaker and focused and doesn’t get upset, doesn’t panic. Makes a play, comes back and makes another one. Doesn’t say much, but you can see he’s locked in.”
Kicker Jake Seibert has also been practicing with the cornerbacks since the start of camp.
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Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers are OSU linebacker standouts
Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers have solidified themselves as Ohio State’s top linebackers, Knowles said.
Both of them were the starting linebackers for the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl and have made an impression through the first week of preseason training camp.
“Tommy is the quiet leader of the defense,” Knowles said. “He studies. He shows up like he knows what he's supposed to do. He rarely makes mistakes.”
Eichenberg was among the Buckeyes’ most productive defenders last season with 64 tackles, second-most on the team.
Chambers is still new to the position after switching from running back last summer.
But Knowles said Chambers has shown a “confidence a little more than the other guys” and considers him “battle-tested.” He started last season’s final four games.
The Buckeyes are using a 4-2-5 base defense under Knowles, a scheme that involves two starting linebackers.
Multiple safety spots for Lathan Ransom
Lathan Ransom is practicing at all three safety positions after primarily lining up in the slot last fall.
“We’re really trying to find a way to get him involved,” Knowles said.
Ransom missed spring practice while rehabbing a leg fracture sustained covering a kickoff in the Rose Bowl, giving Knowles his first glimpse at him in practices in preseason camp.
His instincts have stood out to the new coordinator.
“He’s great at pulling his trigger,” Knowles said. “He can see things and really react.”
Black stripe watch
Linebacker Chip Trayanum became the first player in preseason training camp to lose his black helmet stripe on Tuesday.
"Chip is one of the most athletic people I've seen come through this facility already," linebacker Teradja Mitchell said.
Trayanum, who transferred from Arizona State this offseason, was among the midyear enrollees who went through spring practice, but only Oklahoma State transfer safety Tanner McCalister and freshman Kye Stokes and Caden Curry shed theirs over March and April as part of the rite of passage for newcomers.