“We don’t challenge it, we don’t even concern ourselves with that anymore… They can have ‘DB U.’ We call it ‘BIA,’ Best in America.” – Former Ohio State Buckeye CB Jeff Okudah at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine when asked about which school produces the best NFL secondaries
There are a lot of instances where players are far too confident in their program and team, but in this case, Okudah has a point — Ohio State’s has produced the best NFL talent we have seen and is routinely one of the best secondaries in each college football season.
This past year, in particular, the Buckeyes had one of the best secondaries we have ever come across in the PFF College era. Ohio State ranked first in expected points added (EPA) allowed per dropback among FBS secondaries in 2019 and slotted in at fourth among 774 iterations of FBS secondaries since 2014. When filtering to just targets on the outside, the Buckeyes allowed the fewest EPA per play out of every single one of those 774 FBS defenses.
When Ohio State’s outside cornerbacks saw a target come their way last year, they surrendered just 4.85 yards on average, gave up a first down 20% of the time and allowed just one touchdown on 127 targets.
They ranked first in all three of those metrics by quite a bit in 2019, and a lot of that has to do with the play of 2020 first-round draft picks Jeffrey Okudah (third overall to the Detroit Lions) and Damon Arnette (19th overall to the Las Vegas Raiders).
Okudah is right there behind Jalen Ramsey and Marshon Lattimore as one of the best cornerback prospects we have ever evaluated. I’ve said this in other articles, but I’m going to say it again: Okudah is like Michelangelo’s David of cornerbacks. He’s precisely what you want at the position with his length and athleticism. Okudah was one of the top press corners of the 2019 season —the definition of lockdown. He allowed only 3.1 yards per target in press, allowed just a 26.7 passer rating and made five more plays on the ball (nine) than first downs allowed (four) — all of which cracked the top three among qualifying FBS cornerbacks.
Arnette played the 2019 season with a cast on his hand, yet he managed to allow only 25 catches on 56 targets and 345 coverage snaps, surrendering 32 yards or fewer in all but three games (under 60 yards allowed in every game). On the outside, he allowed the seventh-lowest rate of targets resulting in a first down in the FBS.
Simply put, losing Okudah and Arnette hurts. And we can't forget that the Buckeyes also lost starting safety Jordan Fuller. For any other program, this would likely set them back significantly for the next season — but that’s not the case for the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s secondary could still very well be one of the “Best in America” with who they have replacing Okudah, Arnette and Fuller.