Ohio State Buckeyes: Shaun Wade’s versatility another key to defense’s rebound

A major player in Ohio State’s defensive rebound this season is a player whose position is hard to define.

Is Shaun Wade a safety, a nickel back or a cornerback?

He lines up in the box most of the time, but the 6-foot-1, 194-pounder is not the physical enforcer one thinks about in that role such as Brian Dawkins, Roy Williams or (more recently) Kam Chancellor.

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Nickel backs also line up inside the defensive formation like he does, but as the name implies that is a fifth defensive back. Ohio State’s base defense so far has been a 4-3 with four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs, so that tag doesn’t quite fit, either.

Cornerbacks line up on the outside, but that’s the domain of Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette, so what should we call Wade?

If “football player” is not specific enough, “slot corner” seems to do the job. The first word indicates where he lines up while the latter lets people know he has extensive coverage duties, as a traditional cornerback would.

Of course, that’s not all.

"Oh, you get to do a whole bunch of different things,” he said. “You get to blitz, you get the be in the box if you like to tackle. It's a lot of different things you do from slot corner (compared) to corner."

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So far this season, Wade, who was the team’s nickel back last season, has 14 tackles, including three for loss and two sacks. He has broken up five passes and created plenty of confusion for opposing coaches trying to game plan against the Buckeyes, not to mention quarterbacks and offensive linemen trying to figure out what he is going to do from play to play.

"It's exciting on the field. Linemen pointing at you like, ‘He's comin’! He's comin’!’ And then I don't come — or I do come. It’s just exciting seeing linemen pointing at you cuz I never had that happen in my life."

Wade’s strong first half of the season has some wondering if the third-year sophomore who redshirted in 2017 could be headed out of Columbus in January to begin his NFL Draft journey, but he insists he has not paid much mind to that yet.

“I block it out,” he said. “I don't I don't like hearing all that stuff.”

While he would embrace the chance to play a more traditional cornerback role — those guys who lock up with the other team’s star receivers on every play tend to be in higher demand (and thus command more money) on draft day — this year or next if he returns for his fourth year in Columbus, he insists all that is on his mind at this point are team goals.

“At the end of the day I'm just trying to get to the natty,” he said, referring to the College Football Playoffs. “My dream for real is winning the natty."

Secondary coach Jeff Hafley said playing Wade outside has been discussed and remains a possibility.

“Yeah, there's no doubt Shaun can play outside and there's some snaps where he has played outside,” Hafley said. “There's some games where I still think he will play outside. I think he could be a very good outside corner.”

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