Land of 10/file photo
Ohio State has two of the nation's most talented cornerbacks in Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade — and they might not even start.

Ohio State football’s depth, talent at cornerback almost hard to believe

Austin Ward

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Imagine how many schools across the country would sign up for that starting tandem at cornerback in a heartbeat.

Now picture the fact that Ohio State is more than likely going to be bringing them off the bench. The pipeline of talent and recruiting success at that important position in the secondary is obviously well known by now, but the embarrassment of riches this spring is almost comical. The Buckeyes lost a surefire first-round pick to the NFL with eligibility on the table, and they’re still going to have the ability to roll out four top-shelf cornerbacks if that’s what they want to do.

How much will Shaun Wade factor into those plans with Jeffrey Okudah? Given their potential, work ethic and skills when healthy, there isn’t a reason to just automatically write them off as possible starters. But in all likelihood, it’s probably a year early for that tandem to handle the first-team roles when Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette are still around.

Ohio State-Kendall Sheffield-Ohio State football-Ohio State Buckeyes-cornerbacks-NFL draft-depth chart
Kendall Sheffield got stronger as his first season at Ohio State went on, and he’s poised for a big year at cornerback. (Land of 10/file photo)

Sheffield, in particular, looks like the guy to take the torch from Denzel Ward and keep the first-round streak alive in 2019. He had some early struggles last season after transferring in to the program from junior college, but he improved every week and down the stretch really lived up to the buzz that surrounded his initial 5-star recruitment coming out of high school. Just in case there were any lingering doubts about his athleticism, Sheffield has gone out of his way to erase them by competing in track this offseason, which might boost his personal confidence as well.

When Okudah gets fully healthy from his offseason shoulder surgery, he’s going to be a factor and no doubt will provide competition for Arnette. Ohio State appears to be back in the sort of situation it was a couple years of ago when Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Ward shared the snaps in a three-man rotation that worked out quite well in the backend. Okudah’s freshman season offered glimpses at his enormous upside, and watching his development figures to be pretty entertaining for the Buckeyes moving forward.

The same is true with Wade, although he hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do in a game yet after battling injuries all of last season. He’s certainly turning some heads with his natural ability at the position so far during spring practice, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ohio State and new position coach Taver Johnson use all four of their top cornerbacks this season.

But when it comes to tabbing starters, it’s probably going to take another season before it’s safe to expect Wade and Okudah to lock down those roles together. But absolutely go ahead and pencil them down for 2019 as the leaders of a unit that shows no signs of slowing down.

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