What prompted Ohio State’s football safety switch against Notre Dame?

Josh Proctor came in for a tackle.

As Notre Dame wide receiver Lorenzo Stiles Jr. caught a pass from quarterback Tyler Buechner on the first play from scrimmage in Ohio State’s win over the Irish on Saturday, Proctor fell on him.

But instead of wrapping up Styles as he landed around the Notre Dame 24-yard line, Proctor saw him relax.

That resulted in a 54-yard reception with Styles scampering down the sideline.

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On the Irish’s next drive, Lathan Ransom had replaced Proctor.

The switch to strong safety has been one of the more unexpected change patterns since the Buckeyes’ season started.

Ohio State defensive end Lathan Ransom tackles Notre Dame tackle Michael Meyer.

Ransom played 46 snaps on defense, according to Pro Football Focus tracking, replacing Proctor, a fifth-year senior who appeared for just five snaps.

Months ago, Ransom’s status was uncertain as he spent the offseason rehabbing a broken left leg suffered in the Rose Bowl.

Although he recovered in time for preseason training camp, his absence in spring practice left Proctor in line to start at the safety spot known as the “Bandit,” lining up on the edge or short side of the field.

Safeties coach Perry Eliano said the secondary was motivated by a desire to help Proctor maintain his composure after the missed tackle rather than a move that was part of a game plan drawn up before kickoff. Proctor was also coming off an injury, a similar broken leg that sidelined him for most of last fall.

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“It wasn’t planned that way,” Eliano said. “What I wanted to do was calm Josh down. Lathan ended up playing quite a bit because he got into a rhythm.”

Ransom made an impact in the first row filling in for Proctor.

With Notre Dame backing up toward its end zone and facing a third-and-7, tight end Michael Meyer caught the pass a yard short of getting the first leg and promptly fell under Ransom before he could step up and try to move the chains.

It was the first of seven tackles by Ransom, who finished second on the team behind only defensive tackle Tommy Eichenberg.

“He’s just a football player that’s very instinctive,” Eliano said. “When it goes, it goes. He has a big impact when he plays with the ball.”

Ransom first caught Eliano’s eye in the summer.

He observed Ransom working out on the indoor court at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, going through various drills on his own.

“I would just watch from afar,” Eliano said, “and I was impressed, because he shouldn’t be doing that. This let me know that he had a wish. He was intrinsically motivated. Once we got to the camp, every day, he worked.”

Eliano said Proctor wasn’t fazed by his early benching.

Ohio State safety Lathan Ransom attempts to block a kick by Notre Dame's John Schott.

Ohio State safety Lathan Ransom attempts to block a kick by Notre Dame’s John Schott.

“Josh was great on the sideline,” Eliano said. “He was fantastic. We talk about brotherhood being selfless.”

A day after the game, Iliano met individually with Proctor and others at the position to go over their performances. They also got together on Tuesday to do a movie review.

“He’s ready to go, and that’s what you love about him,” Eliano said. “He’s resilient and he’s ready to put his best foot forward.”

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Coach Ryan Day said the snap counts are likely to be a little lopsided this week. Notre Dame ran fewer than 50 total plays, nearly a third less than Tommy Rees’ offense averaged last season.

It reduced the available playing time for the Buckeyes’ defense and put the safety snaps in greater contrast.

“I think more of that is coming to the surface,” Day said. “We’re going to need Josh. Josh will have to play for us and he will certainly play a significant amount this year.”

Eliano echoed the sentiment, noting that both Proctor and Ransom would be integral parts of the rotation.

“We need both of them to do what we need to do this year,” Eliano said.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

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This article originally appeared in The Columbus Dispatch: Why Ohio State football traded Lathan Ransom for Josh Proctor

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