COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio State footballs are already testing vulnerable cornerback depth in preseason camp.
Sophomore Jordan Hancock, who is expected to challenge one of the top three spots at cornerback this season, appears to be battling a lower leg injury. He was seen walking through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after Tuesday’s practice with a wrap around his calf and a slight limp.
Asked if Hancock could be off for an extended period of time, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said: That’s above my paycheck. He said security measures Jantzen Dunn and Cam Martinez were training at cornerback to add depth to a room with only six stock players at the start of the camp.
Knowles said Dunn and Martinez were suggested by secondary coach Tim Walton and safety coach Perry Eliano as the best athletics to train between the two positions.
I think it’s long-term, Knowles said of the lows at cornerback. I think we had to keep those guys fresh.
We had to take a double train like Cam, Jantzen. Because you get curves that run back and forth all the time. You’re getting soft tissue injuries and we need to be fresh. It was definitely something we kept our eyes on and made sure we got multiple guys there reruns.
Cornerback depth has been an issue for the past two seasons. It’s no coincidence that OSU’s defense underperformed in both seasons, both statistically and on the field in key matchups.
Denzel Burke, a freshman All-American last season, and senior Cam Brown return as the presumptive starters. Hancock and red shirt freshman JK Johnson came closest to having veteran backups. The other two scholarship players are real freshmen Jyaire Brown and Ryan Turner.
Kicker Jake Seibert has also practiced with the position group to help with numbers.
Johnson missed much of last season with his own injury issues. When asked if he had put himself in a position to exert influence, Knowles said: It’s too early to say.
Martinez stuck into his third year as a player with a compelling quarterback-turned-defensive back background. He has yet to find a permanent place in defense and went from nickel back to deep safety midway through last season. He worked as the second string of nickel safety behind Tanner McCalister in the practice periods open to reporters during the first two practices last Thursday and Friday.
However, Martinez did work at cornerback as a true freshman under Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes.
I’ve been impressed with him since I first saw him, Knowles said. I think he’s got a speed, he’s got a toughness, he’s got a mental attitude and fortitude.
He is a playmaker and focused and does not get angry. Don’t panic. Make a play, come back, make another. Not saying much, but you can tell he’s locked up.
Hancocks’ injury surfaced early enough in preseason camp that it couldn’t affect his opening night standings. However, if it sticks, Ohio State probably needs corner help from a previously unexpected source.
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