Projecting Ohio State football’s way-too-early 2022 defensive depth chart

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We’ve already gone through the exercise of throwing out our first knee-jerk attempt at projecting the Ohio State football offensive depth chart for 2022, and now we’re running it back and doing the same for the defense.

There are still some unknowns out there, so things are bound to change, but at this point, we have a fairly good idea of who will come back, what kind of gifts and defections the transfer portal is providing, and who might be working their way through injuries as the depth chart is put together for next season.

Remember, this is very, very early, and with a new defensive coordinator and staff members overseeing things, players new and old will have to make impressions to solidify their spots.

Off we go.

Defensive End

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Zach Harrison (9) bats down a pass by Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Zach Harrison

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 6-inches, 268-pounds
Hometown: Lewis Center, Ohio

Backup

Jack Sawyer

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 4-inches, 240-pounds
Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio

Where things stand

We now know that Zach Harrison will come back for one season, so you can expect him to be penciled in as the starter on one side. Jack Sawyer is primed for a breakout but might have to wait his turn behind the experience ahead of him.

Defensive End

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau (44) leaves the field following the NCAA football game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Ohio State won 54-7. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Zach Harrison

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 6-inches, 275-pounds
Hometown: Edgewood, Washington

Backup

Javontae Jean-Baptiste

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 5-inches, 253-pounds
Hometown: Spring Valley, New York

Where things stand

Tyler Friday will likely be in the mix here too, but J.T. Tuimoloau separated himself as a playmaker off the edge and will probably get the first look to start opposite Harrison. Javontae Jean-Baptiste saw plenty of snaps in 2021 and will also be in the rotation, likely in a frontline backup role.

Defensive Tackle (3-technique)

Big Ten football and biggest game expert picks and predictions, Week 5
Big Ten football and biggest game expert picks and predictions, Week 5

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Tyleik Williams (91) celebrates after sacking Akron Zips quarterback DJ Irons (0) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Akron Zips on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Tyleik Williams

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 3-inches, 330-pounds
Hometown: Manassas, Virginia

Backup

Ty Hamilton

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 3-inches, 290-pounds
Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio

Where things stand

Tyleik Williams flashed and became a playmaker as a freshman last season. With Haskell Garrett moving on, he looks like the most likely guy to take the starting spot over. Someone else will have to back him up, and Ty Hamilton or Jerron Cage could move to the 3-technique to provide depth.

Defensive Tackle (Nose)

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Taron Vincent (6) runs a drill during Ohio State’s first football practice of fall camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Taron Vincent

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 2-inches, 300-pounds
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Backup

Jerron Cage

Class in 2022: Super Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 4-inches, 310-pounds
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Where things stand

Ohio State will rotate players in and out on the defensive line, so more than these guys will be in the mix, but Taron Vincent started to finally reach all that potential hanging around his neck last season. Jerron Cage, if he decides to come back for another year should also be in the rotation.

Linebacker (Mike)

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Cody Simon (30) pressures Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Cody Simon

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 2-inches, 232-pounds
Hometown: Jersey City, New Jersey

Backup

Tommy Eichenberg

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 2-inches, 235-pounds
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Where things stand

Cody Simon was a playmaker as the season progressed in 2021 but then was befallen by injury late in the year. If he comes back healthy and on time, he will likely start. Eichenberg was on the field a lot, and will be in the rotation as well. He’ll likely spell Simon or be on the field as a third traditional linebacker in certain situations. Incoming freshman Gabe Powers with his size and speed could be a wild card here.

Linebacker (Will)

WATCH: Ohio State executes fake punt beautifully against Rutgers
WATCH: Ohio State executes fake punt beautifully against Rutgers

Nov 7, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Steele Chambers (22) runs the fake punt for a long first down during the second quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Steele Chambers

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch, 220-pounds
Hometown: Roswell, Georgia

Backup

C.J. Hicks

Class in 2022: Freshman
Measurables: 6-feet, 3-inches, 215-pounds
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio

Where things stand

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Steele Chambers starting here. He was also one of the top playmakers at times on the defense. We’re making the call that freshman sensation C.J. Hicks elbows his way into the two-deep. He’s too talented to keep off the field unless someone else shines in camp.

Bullet (linebacker/safety)

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Ronnie Hickman (14) returns the ball for an interception touchdown during the game against the Akron Zips at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 25. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Ronnie Hickman

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch, 205-pounds
Hometown: Wayne, New Jersey

Backup

Kourt Williams

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch, 215-pounds
Hometown: Harbor City, California

Where things stand

Ronnie Hickman was a revelation last year as a playmaker in the bullet position. As long as new defensive-coordinator Jim Knowles still uses the position as expected, the leading tackler from last season should be the starter there again. Now healthy, Kourt Williams was always thought to be the future of the position and will see plenty of time as well.

Cornerback (Outside No. 1)

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Burke (29) intercepts a pass during the first quarter of an NCAA Division I football game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Denzel Burke

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 189-pounds
Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

Backup

Lejond Cavazos

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 195-pounds
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Where things stand

Denzel Burke will build upon a season in which he was named to the Freshman All-American team. Behind him, the very athletic Lejond Cavazos is also in line to get plenty of time in the rotation.

Cornerback (Outside No. 2)

Ohio State CB Cameron Brown returning to Ohio State for one more year
Ohio State CB Cameron Brown returning to Ohio State for one more year

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Cameron Brown (26) intercepts a pass from Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on October 30, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Cameron Brown

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 190-pounds
Hometown: Saint Louis, Missouri

Backup

Jordan Hancock

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch 170-pounds
Hometown: Suwanee, Georgia

Where things stand

The speedy Cam Brown should get the first look here again as the previous starter. Beyond that will be interesting. There are several options but we’re going with Jordan Hancock for now. Jakailin Johnson will push and could also land the backup role.

Safety (Free)

WATCH: Ohio State safety Bryson Shaw intercept Cade McNamara
WATCH: Ohio State safety Bryson Shaw intercept Cade McNamara

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Bryson Shaw (17) hits Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Christian Dremel (82) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Bryson Shaw

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 195-pounds
Hometown: Eldersburg, Maryland

Backup

Cameron Martinez

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 5-feet, 10-inches, 170-pounds
Hometown: Muskegon, Michigan

Where things stand

As much as OSU fans maligned the fact that Bryson Shaw was the starter, it’s hard to believe that someone will supplant him because of the experience, and with the improved play throughout the year. An unknown in all of this is Josh Proctor. Will he return and be 100% healthy? If so, he could take the starting spot. Without him though and you’ll at least see a push from Cam Martinez who is about as athletic and versatile as they come.

Safety (Cover)

Ohio State lands former Oklahoma State safety via the transfer portal
Ohio State lands former Oklahoma State safety via the transfer portal

Tanner McCalister and the Oklahoma State Cowboys will face Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl at noon on New Year’s Day in Glendale, Arizona. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Tanner McCalister

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 5-feet, 11-inches, 195-pounds
Hometown: Heath, Texas

Backup

Lathan Ransom

Class in 2022: Junior
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch, 200-pounds
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Where things stand

Tanner McCalister followed new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and you have to believe he’ll jump right into the mix as a former starter at Oklahoma State that knows the scheme and culture. Assuming Ransom recovers from a serious injury in the Rose Bowl, he should be right in the mix to spell McCalister when needed.

Kicker

Ohio State Buckeyes place kicker Noah Ruggles (95) kicks the game-winning field goal during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2022. The Buckeyes won 48-45. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Starter

Noah Ruggles

Class in 2022: Super Senior
Measurables: 6-feet,195-pounds
Hometown: Odessa, Florida

Backup

Jake Seibert

Class in 2022: Sophomore
Measurables: 6-feet, 1-inch, 200-pounds
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Where things stand

We haven’t yet heard from Ruggles, but the belief is that he will come back for another year at Ohio State. If not, it’ll be the more than capable Jake Seibert’s job.

Punter

Ohio State Punter Jesse Mirco sheds black stripe - Buckeyes Wire
Ohio State Punter Jesse Mirco sheds black stripe - Buckeyes Wire

Ohio State punter Jesse Mirco warms up before the start of an NCAA college spring football game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, April 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Starter

Jesse Mirco

Class in 2022: Super Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 40-inches, 210-pounds
Hometown: Fremantle, Australia

Backup

Michael O’Shaugnessy

Class in 2022: Senior
Measurables: 6-feet, 3-inches, 200-pounds
Hometown: New Albany, Ohio

Where things stand

No surprise here. Mirco has the job nailed down.

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