The Next Two-Way Star?
Roby Could Fill Playmaker Role on Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Once a receiver, always a receiver.
At least that’s the way Bradley Roby looks at it.
Photo by Jim Davidson
While he now believes he was “born to play cornerback” at Ohio State, the third-year sophomore out of Georgia is throwing his name in the ring as a candidate to help replace the injured Jordan Hall as a playmaker on the other side of the ball.
“I always tell the coaches I can play receiver too,” Roby said Friday as the Buckeyes broke fall camp for the first time under head coach Urban Meyer.
“One of these days, they’re going to put me on the other side.”
Roby, who led the Buckeyes with three interceptions a year ago, said he spoke to position coach Kerry Coombs, as well as wide receivers coach Zach Smith about the idea, but has yet to address it with his head coach.
He may not have to.
Meyer may be the one who ultimately approaches Roby during camp if none of his other candidates prove capable of handling such a critical role in Ohio State’s new offense.
“As we start (camp), we don’t have that hybrid No. 3,” said Meyer, who recently called Hall’s injury ‘a punch across the mouth.’
“I call him the No. 3. He’s the guy on the left side of the hash that can do it all. We don’t have that guy right now.”
Meyer was worried he might not have one on his entire roster when he first took the job back in November. That’s why he made it such a point to go hard after offensive skill guys like Stefon Diggs and Davonte Neal in his first recruiting class.
It was Hall who emerged as that offensive playmaker in the spring.
Now Meyer is searching just about anywhere and everywhere to find someone who has the kind of speed it takes to stretch the field, both vertically and horizontally, the way he likes at that position.
“Philly Brown, Evan Spencer ran an extremely fast 40. You have to be really fast because we run a jet sweep off of that,” Meyer said.
“If you hand a jet sweep to a slow jet, it’s like a citation compared to a king air. We got a little issue there, but there are some candidates.”
Meyer named freshman cornerback Najee Murray as one of the guys he is looking at for the playmaker role on Ohio State’s offense.
“He’s had a really good summer,” Meyer said of the youngster out of Steubenville.
“We’re always going to look at body types that don’t have to run east-west all the time. That’s where Jordan was a perfect guy. Percy Harvin, Brandon James, Jeff Demps; those were perfect boy types (at Florida). Great acceleration and great speed, but also toughness.”
Speed certainly would not be an issue for Bradley Roby, arguably the fastest player on the entire roster. Especially in the eyes of, well, Bradley Roby.
“Yeah, I ran a 4.31,” Roby said of his 40 time over the summer.
“And I ran it twice, so it wasn’t a fluke. That’s just a result of the workouts we’ve been doing. I’m already kind of fast, so it just helped me.”
According to Roby, it was his fastest time ever in the 40-yard dash—a full nine-hundredths of a second quicker than his time from last summer—and the fastest time on the team.
Roby was only a redshirt freshman when he ran a 4.4 in the 40 last summer, when he was heading into his first season as a starter in Ohio State’s defensive backfield.
“I feel a lot faster. I gained five pounds and I’m still faster,” said Roby, who is up from 186 pounds last year to 191 pounds this fall.
“When your body gets stronger and you do more work, even with the extra weight it brings more speed.”
That quickness was something the new coaching staff noticed immediately in the spring. Before it was over, they had Roby back on both kick and punt returns. He expects to open fall camp as the No. 1 kick returner, replacing Hall, who had returned kicks for Ohio State the last two seasons.
“I’m excited about it,” said Roby, brimming with confidence.
“I’ve been trying to tell coach Meyer and the rest of our coaches to put me back there for a while. In the spring, I had a couple good returns, so they’re putting me back there.”
Roby also showed enough in the spring that he earned the right to wear the No. 1 jersey at Ohio State this fall. Switching his number from 25 to 1 was something he had been wanting to do for a while, but the new coaches wanted him to show them he was ready for the responsibility that comes with it.
“Coach Meyer called me one day and said, ‘I’m going to give you No. 1 like you asked,’” Roby said.
“‘You showed me the things that you said you were going to do. I can see greatness in you, so here you go. Now make sure you don’t slip up or anything.’”
A former high school receiver who originally committed to Vanderbilt as an offensive player, Roby wasn’t sure exactly where he would play at Ohio State. When the Buckeyes stuck him it corner, it was an immediate fit.
He won a starting spot last year, beating out Dominic Clarke during camp, but now Roby is ready for the challenge of being the next-two way star at Ohio State.
If they will let him.
“I just love having the ball in my hands, really,” he said.
“You can’t be scared. You’ve got just to run and when you see a hole, hit it and make a play.”
Right now, that's all his new coach is looking for..
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