Most Important Buckeyes: No. 12
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS — What does it say about a player who led the Ohio State defense in tackles the year prior (75), and who is currently a Thorpe Award candidate for best defensive back in the nation, being just 12th on this list as Most Important Buckeyes?
C. J. Barnett
Photo by Jim Davidson
It probably means that junior safety C.J. Barnett is a bit underrated. In a year of upheaval and inconsistency in 2011, Barnett was one of the two or three consistent Buckeyes in the back seven last season. There is no reason to think that the second-team All-Big Ten selection from last season won't be even better this time around.
What Makes Him Important
Still just a redshirt junior, Barnett enters this season with 15 starts under his belt and a wiki-like knowledge of the defense that he patrols.
Along with his understanding of the defense, he is also a tremendous leader for his teammates. He never gets too high or too low. He's one of the most even-keeled players on the team, and as the last line of defense he provides a calming influence to everyone in front of him.
He's also a pretty fair athlete. Barnett came to Ohio State as a cornerback, so even though he is definitely a safety now, he still has the coverage abilities that are necessary in this age of spread offenses.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
The main thing that can be expected of C.J. Barnett is consistency. However, according to his head coach, he wants to be more than just consistent.
“C.J. Barnett is a guy who just does not accept to be average,” is how Urban Meyer put it recently.
While more of the same should be expected this season from Barnett, it's time for him to take another step forward and become more of a playmaker. He finished second on the team in passes defended last year with eight, but needs to increase the two interceptions that he recorded.
With his range and athleticism, the people around the program certainly expect him to create more turnovers than he did last season.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
Solid in the running game, and disciplined in pass defense, there's a reason that the "communication issues" that occurred last season between Barnett and Christian Bryant were generally put on Bryant's shoulders instead of Barnett's.
Without Barnett, similar issues would likely continue. Depth would also become a concern as Orhian Johnson, the team's third safety, would be thrust back into the starting lineup, which is a place that he has been removed from before.
The other safeties would then move up as well. Corey Brown performed well in the spring, but is he capable of playing either safety spot the way that Johnson can when asked?
To put it simply, C.J. Barnett is a security blanket for Ohio State's coaches, and every coach loves to have blankets in the secondary.
Most Important No. 13 Devin Smith
Most Important: No. 14 Corey Brown
Most Important: No. 15 Jordan Hall
Most Important: No. 16 Christian Bryant
Most Important: No. 17 Reid Fragel
Most Important: No. 18 Ben Buchanan
Most Important: No. 19 Michael Bennett
Most Important: No. 20 Drew Basil
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