Aug. 7, 2017

by Eric Roth | Athletics Communications Student Assistant

Seniors Damon Webb and Erick Smith are primed to be key defensive players this year for the Buckeyes. Webb is the only returning starter in the secondary while Smith is battling for a spot as the other starting safety.

The secondary lost three first round picks to the NFL Draft including Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley. Webb is looking to step into a leadership role for the Buckeyes this year and be the playmaker they need.

“I think I am very important,” Webb said. “Last year they set the standard. It’s definitely up to me to be a leader and show them. We call ourselves B.I.A [Best In America] for a reason. I have to set the standard and keep the tradition going.”

Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano has given high praise to Webb recently.

“As I said back in the spring, he has been the one guy to practice like a big time player,” said Schiano. “He has picked up right where he left off. He is in the best shape of his life. He understands it better than anyone on the back end. We need him.”

Schiano believes Webb is a very important player for the Buckeyes secondary as the “glue” that keeps everything together on the back end of the defense.

“I’m not sure we would rotate Damon Webb. He kind of holds it all together back there.”

Webb knows he has to be the guy to help everyone in the secondary and always do the right thing and is looking to exhibit leadership everyday for his teammates.

“It’s just knowing that I had to take on the responsibility,” said Webb. “There are younger guys looking up to you. The spotlight is on you to make the right decision. It’s just up to me to go out each and every day knowing that I’ve got people looking up to me and bring the juice.”

One thing that Webb’s teammate Smith has always brought to the table is a tough, hard-nosed style that resonates with the rest of the secondary.

“Erick is physical and a great tackler,” said Webb. “That’s what Erick does for us. He gets the guy to the ground.”

Smith is looking to become an everyday starter for the Buckeyes. He has been working very hard to do just that and knows what he has to work on.

“It’s always small things like my alignment,” said Smith. “Just focusing on the details of my game.”

Schiano has noted that Erick is in a battle right now for a starting position.

“I think Erick Smith right now is trying to win a spot,” said Schiano. “It’s hard to lead when you are in the middle of a competition. I think right now he’s trying to win a spot. He’s doing a heck of a job working at that.”

Smith has battled since the day he arrived at Ohio State, including coming back from a knee injury that occurred during his sophomore campaign in 2015.

“I just had to reflect on everything and had to go back to my foundation on why I even started to play football,” said Smith. “After I looked at my foundation and set my vision, I had to just keep going forward.”

Smith would describe himself as a sound defensive safety but also someone who could switch it up and make a big play when needed.

“I might make the crowd go ooh and aww. But behind that, I try to be sound with my technique,” said Smith. “I’m not really trying to go out of my way to make a play but do my job.”