Ohio State Considering All Options At Safety Following Josh Proctor’s Season-Ending Injury

"This is going to have to be a long-term fix.”
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Ohio State added injury to insult when it was revealed earlier this week that senior safety Josh Proctor will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on the fractured right leg he suffered in Saturday’s loss to Oregon.

“He was really poised to have a great year,” head coach Ryan Day said during his radio show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday afternoon. “He was running around and making plays for us. It was hard to be out there with him (after he suffered the injury). It’s a tough game. He came up, really did a great job, put his face on (the ball carrier), made a tackle and had another guy come in a kind of land on his leg.

“To see that happen to him, that was tough. Certainly, my prayers are out to him for a speedy recovery, but it’s going to be a long road to get back. Hopefully we can get him back next year, get him healthy and then have a full season.”

After Proctor was carted off the field with his leg in an air cast in the third quarter, he was replaced by redshirt sophomore Bryson Shaw, who finished the game with three tackles in 54 snaps at free safety. He’s still having growing pains, though, as evidenced by his inability to make a tackle on a 77-yard touchdown by Ducks running back C.J. Verdell earlier in the game.

“The communication was an issue up front and the fit was wrong,” Day said during his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not going to throw out specifics, but the fit was wrong and then it spit to the safety and the safety didn’t get him down to the ground, so it was a lack of execution.

“We’re looking at all that to try to make some adjustments. Losing Josh for the whole year kind of changes things and we’ll have to make some adjustments. Bryson has had some good snaps in there, but we’re going to have to take a look at what gives us the best chance moving forward and maybe possibly trying some guys at different spots.”

Now, Day and his staff are considering all options at the position, which effectively serves as the last line of defense whenever the Buckeyes deploy a single-high safety.

“Bryson, obviously, is a guy that we have. Marcus Hooker’s there,” Day said during his lightning round media availability on Thursday. “We’ve also looked at Ryan Watts maybe also playing the safety position for us. Kourt Williams, too, so we have a couple guys there that we’re considering because this is going to have to be a long-term fix.”

Hooker started five games last season but has yet to play a single defensive snap this year after being suspended this offseason for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Watts started at cornerback in the season opener at Minnesota but only appeared on special teams in the loss to Oregon. Williams, meanwhile, is coming off an ACL injury that cost him his entire freshman season and has primarily practiced at the Bullet position.

With that, which of those four player ultimately ends up getting the start in Saturday’s game against Tulsa (3:30 p.m. on FS1) remains to be seen.

“That’s why we have depth,” Day said. “It’s a tough part of the game and you certainly hate to see, but that’s why depth is so important.”

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