The Ohio State Buckeyes have opened up spring practice with some serious concerns about depth in their secondary, particularly at safety. Head coach Urban Meyer talked about how much he like the group he has but lamented only having “three of them right now.” On Thursday, three became two after Vonn Bell underwent surgery to repair a minor tear of his medial collateral ligament, forcing him to miss the remainder of spring practice. His absence could push the concern over depth at safety into full-blown panic heading into the 2014 season.
Ohio State is trying to rebuild their defensive backfield in 2014 after losing three seniors and cornerback Bradley Roby early to the NFL Draft. Improving the pass defense is a huge focus for Meyer and the Buckeyes staff after the team finished No. 11 in the Big Ten in pass defense last season, allowing an average of 268 yards per game and surrendering 31 passing touchdowns on the season (most in the conference). Bell figured to be a major piece of that rebuild this fall after breaking into the starting lineup late last season as a freshman, recording his only interception of the season in his start in the Orange Bowl.
That performance put high expectations on him for his sophomore campaign but spring practice was supposed to be where Bell nailed down his spot in the starting lineup. While he is expected to be cleared to resume working out at full speed in May, Ohio State will have to look to Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows to take the reps at safety during the spring. If one of them has a breakout practice period, Bell could find himself back on the sideline in 2014 hoping to get into the defensive back rotation next fall.
There’s no denying the talent level of Bell or his saftey counterparts but Ohio State has reason to worry about their low numbers at safety. If Bell is able to come back 100 percent healthy for fall camp and take his place as one of the starting safeties next season, will the Buckeyes simply hope that he is able to stay healthy? Or should the team identify a talented athlete at receiver who doesn’t figure to be in the mix for playing time next season and convert him to defense?