Denzel Burke Ohio State Buckeyes Cornerback

Spring Recap: Buckeyes Showcased Depth, Talent At Cornerback

With spring football now in the rearview mirror for Ohio State, it’s time to look back at what happened with each position group and where things currently stand for the Buckeyes. We continue our series with the cornerbacks.

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Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes returned both starting cornerbacks from last year in Denzel Burke and Davison Igbinosun, as well as starting nickel back Jordan Hancock. All three are veterans with multiple years of experience as starters and reliable defenders. There is young depth at corner in Jermaine Mathews and Calvin Simpson-Hunt, and three very talented freshmen in Aaron Scott, Bryce West, and Miles Lockhart. The depth at nickel is improved as well with Lorenzo Styles, Jr. being available this year.

Expectations Going In

The expectations going in were similar to other positions on this Ohio State team where veterans like Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, and Jordan Hancock would get action but wouldn’t need the amount of reps that everybody else did. The spring would give the young cornerbacks an opportunity to get a bunch of reps and see action against very talented receivers. Also, Lorenzo Styles, Jr. would be able to continue his process of becoming a viable defensive back in this Ohio State defense.

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out of spring is that the Ohio State cornerbacks — including Denzel Burke and Davison Igbinosun — had their hands full with the Ohio State receivers, but they gave as good as they got. It was a battle on a daily basis and everyone got better for it. Jermaine Matthews spent time at nickel, making that position deeper than it was a year ago. Lorenzo Styles performed well before leaving camp following a minor procedure. The freshmen Aaron Scott and Miles Lockhart got opportunities this spring while Bryce West was held back a bit with an injury. Calvin Sampson-Hunt has continued his progress towards being a guy that could play this season.

Any Surprises?

The surprise here may have been Jermaine Mathews showing up at nickel. He is seen as the third cornerback in this defense. He had a very strong freshman season last year and has a ton of promise as an outside corner. But seeing him this spring at nickel shows the faith that the coaches have in him. It also shows the desire for him to get more experience and become a more well-rounded defender so that they can put him on the field wherever they need to this season. That tells you how much value he has and the kind of expectations that the coaches have for him this year. It also speaks to the progress that he has made since last season when they only wanted him working on the outside.

Jeremiah Smith JJ Smith Ohio State Buckeyes Wide Receiver Ohio State Spring Game
Jermaine Mathews breaks up a pass for Jeremiah Smith

Unanswered Question

The unanswered question at this point may be how much will Jermaine Matthews play. In any other year he would have a starting job for the Buckeyes, but because Denzel Burke put the NFL on hold for a year, this is a deeper group than normal. So how much will Matthews play this year? Will there be a rotation of sorts? The coaches continue to talk about the need for depth and the desire to play more guys this season because of the larger amount of games, but could this just become a full-on rotation of three starting cornerbacks? Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and secondary coach Tim Walton have the utmost faith in Matthews, but will they show it during the season when the games are still on the line?

So Now What?

So now the young corners that got all this experience in the spring go back and look at what they did right and look at what they did wrong. And why they did both. This was the first spring for Calvin Simpson-Hunt, who enrolled last June. This was the most action he’s seen as a Buckeye, so this will be a good amount of film for him to go back and look on and make adjustments from. The same can be said for Lorenzo Styles, Jr., who arrived last summer as a wide receiver looking to make the move to defensive back prior to his injury. He was outstanding in the spring when healthy. He has good size, great speed, good burst and has the understanding of life as a slot receiver, which adds to his ability to defend that same position.

One Concern

The one concern here may just be the relative youth of the depth at cornerback for the Buckeyes. Sure, they have experience in Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, and Jordan Hancock, but everybody else on this roster is a first or second-year player. And even in the case of Lorenzo Styles Jr, who is a fourth-year player, this is only his second year at defensive back, so there is some inexperience.

Are We Sure?

Are we sure that it wouldn’t be a fantastic idea for the Ohio State defensive coaches to get their young players on the field as much as possible this season whenever it allows? You are probably losing Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, and Jordan Hancock — all three of your starters — after this season. You will need to replace them, and it will be more productive to replace them with players who have a sizable amount of experience, as opposed to replacing them with guys who could have played this year, but didn’t. There will be opportunities to play the young guys. The coaches just have to make sure that it happens.


“Yeah, I’ve been in the nickel a lot this spring. I’ve been going back and forth. So it’s been a new transition for me but it’s really not that new. I played some nickel in high school. I really didn’t play that much last year because I was just trying to get into the groove of college football. But I’m back to it.” — Sophomore cornerback Jermaine Mathews, Jr. on getting reps at nickel this spring.

Depth Chart


10 Denzel Burke, Sr
1 Davison Igbinosun, Jr
24 Jermaine Mathews, Jr., Soph
22 Calvin Simpson-Hunt, rFr
5 Aaron Scott, Fr
12 Bryce West, Fr


7 Jordan Hancock, Sr
24 Jermaine Mathews, Jr., Soph OR
4 Lorenzo Styles, Jr., rJr
13 Miles Lockhart, Fr

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