Oklahoma's Tanner McCalister moves to Buckeyes following former defensive coach Jim Knowles
January 7, 2022
The former Oklahoma State safety Marcus Freeman committed to Ohio State on Wednesday. With the departure of starting safety Chris Crocker, the Buckeyes now have a versatile, veteran presence in the defensive end secondary layer.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Tanner McCalister started all 39 games for the Sooners in the 2019 season and recorded 39 tackles, six pass breakups, and one interception. He was a three-star prospect in the 2019 class by 247 Sports. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, NCAAF extended McCalister's season of eligibility.
Ohio's defensive end roster depth
Aside from Josh Proctor, who is recovering from a broken leg, the safety position was not a pressing need for the team this offseason. Key contributors in Proctor's absence include safety Bryson Shaw, outside linebacker Kourt Williams, and cover safety Cam Martinez and Marcus Williamson.
McCalister is already familiar with the scheme and the various elements of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' defensive system, which McCalister utilized during his senior season. He'll be a vital component in the Huskies' secondary with the addition of Kye Stokes and Sonny Styles.
Furthermore, with the injuries that occurred to safety Josh Proctor and defensive end Lathan Ransom, McCalister became a valuable piece of the team.
Knowles' defense masterplan
When Knowles was at Oklahoma State, he relied on athletes like McCalister to carry the load. The result was an improved defense that finished fourth in the country in total defense.
According to Pro Football Focus, McCalister was the 13th-best player on Oklahoma State's defense who played over 300 snaps. He mainly played as a hybrid safety/cornerback under Knowles.
Knowles used a three-safety package at Oklahoma State. He was able to utilize both man and zone coverages. Having a solid hybrid safety/cornerback helped Knowles' flexibility when he needed to switch from man-to-zone coverage back and forth.
McCalister's transfer to Ohio
Being comfortable with Knowles' defensive scheme is the primary reason for McCalister's transfer to Ohio.
After entering the transfer portal on December 22, McCalister got a call from Jim Knowles, the new defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Knowles asked his former safety to join him at Ohio. "I got a call from Coach Knowles and he was basically like, 'Man, let's run it back. Let's come home to Columbus and we can get things going,'" McCalister said.
Upon transferring to Ohio State, McCalister felt like he was getting a home away from home. He said he was already comfortable with Ohio's program and the people around him and felt like he was getting a great deal out of it.
McCalister also knows about the success of the Ohio State defense, which includes the likes of Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker, who were both first-round picks of the NFL. He also heard good things about the program from his childhood friend Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
McCalister believes he will fit in well with the culture of Ohio State. He said, "I think my discipline and my toughness, that's something being at Oklahoma State, Coach Gundy always preached, being disciplined and tough."
He also knows that he'll have to earn his spot in the starting lineup, so he's willing to line up wherever the coaching staff thinks fits best. Lastly, McCalister is convinced that Knowles will do what he can to help McCalister and his teammates.