Movie Review: What Kind of Player Does Ohio State Get in Transfer Safety Tanner McCalister?

The State of Ohio received a pledge from Oklahoma State transfer cover security Tanner McCalister yesterday who brings with him several years of experience in the Jim Knowles system. With the Buckeyes hiring Jim Knowles, bringing in an experienced player in his defense will pay dividends for Ohio State in the long run.

Last season, the Ohio State defense lacked emotional leadership and leadership. McCalister brings both to the table, and his ability in that department will be his greatest asset when he arrives at Columbus. Today we’re going to see how his tenacity shows up in the way he plays the role using some of his films. McCalister’s film shows a physical running defender, a strong male cover defender and a true defensive playmaker. Today we’ll see what kind of player the Buckeyes have in transfer security.

Execute the defense

The Ohio State cover safety stance was best played by Shaun Wade during the 2019 season and a major factor in that has been Wade’s willingness to get involved in the running game. McCalister fits this mold, and he plays the position with the necessary physique needed in the running game.

In the clip below, TCU runs a speed option on the travel side. McCalister (No.2) is the defensive player lined up above the center receiver and in this scenario he’s playing a male cover against the receiver. When the ball is broken, the TCU receiver tries to run away from McCalister, but McCalister immediately identifies the race. Rather than aggressively flying the field, McCalister knows he has help on the inside and he’s the containment advocate on the outside. The outside linebacker plays the back, forcing him out to McCalister who is in perfect position and makes a physical play behind the line of scrimmage.

Approach in space

The first play was a good example of that, but something else we haven’t seen from the cover safe stance is a willingness to take blocks to make a tackle. In the next piece, we take a look at McCalister defending a bubble screen against Boise State.

McCalister lines up outside the shadow of the point in the Condensed Travel Group set. In this play, Boises State takes a bubble out of the peloton and McCalister is responsible for setting up the advantage. The first blocker tries to reach McCalister’s shoulder, but McCalister is able to fight through the initial block. The second blocker is forced to try to block McCalister, but McCalister takes advantage of the block and maintains control. The Boise State receiver is unable to catch the ball, but we see McCalister fighting through the blocks and making another physical tackle in space.


The other aspect of blanket security is the blanket ability and McCalister is one of the best inside blanket players in college football. In the few rooms I’ve seen where McCalister was on the men’s cover, he was playing with solid technique.

Vs Texan technology, McCalister has been tested extensively several times and has managed to break a good portion of the plays that have come down to him. In Knowle’s defense, cover security is often responsible for being the cover guy closest to the line of scrimmage. Texas Tech runs “Four Verticals” and McCalister is first beaten by the wide receiver. He keeps calm, fixes his eyes on the receiver and is able to catch up with the receiver. The quarterback throws the ball, which helps him get back into the game a bit, but the key here is for McCalister to end up in the hands of the receiver breaking the pass. He shows technique and discipline by trusting his supervision allowing him to make a difficult game.

Zone coverage

The last piece we’re going to look at is McCalister in zone coverage, his discipline here and movement in his zone is a manual. The Buckeyes last season saw players fall into the blanket and stay in their grass covering zone allowing receivers to find holes. This is something that will be addressed with Knowles as the defensive coordinator.

Texas lines up in a travel set, we’ve seen in some past film studies how the state of Ohio has struggled with group sets this season. Texas uses a “Flood” concept. McCalister’s area responsibility is the flats, in most cases the defender would stay on the five yards. In this example, the outside is covered immediately and McCalister has the help of an inside linebacker who allows him to sink. He identifies the way out, is able to cut the quarterback’s throw and he makes an impressive game on football with the interception.


We took a look at some of McCalister’s best games, but these four games showed his versatility and the physique he plays the position with. For the Buckeyes, he brings something to the position that we haven’t seen since Shaun Wade held it a few seasons ago. His experience in the Jim Knowles scheme will be an invaluable transition tool next season and with that experience the Buckeyes will be able to plug him in and play him immediately.

In addition to his background in stratagems, McCalister brings a physique and an advantage to the position that was lacking in defense in its entirety. The Buckeyes’ defense last season also lacked veteran leadership and McCalister brings a ton of experience to this department. His energy and leadership have been a key part of the identity of the Oklahoma State Defense.

The Buckeyes have a player who wants to play at the highest level and at Ohio State he will have the chance to do so. When the time comes, week one, McCalister will be ready to shine for the Buckeyes.