Roby Out to Prove He’s Ready for Greatness
Former Vanderbilt Commit on Verge of Stardom
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the Buckeyes are going to have a resurgence on defense in 2012, it’s going to start with players like Bradley Roby.
The third-year cornerback out of Georgia is not a household name in the college football world just yet—maybe not even in Columbus—but he could be on the verge of a breakout season under Ohio State’s first-year cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
Photo by Dan Harker
“If Bradley is not a first-round (NFL) draft pick down the road, that would be a shame,” said Coombs, who came to OSU from the University of Cincinnati, where he coached the defensive backs for the past five seasons.
“It will only be a result of failure to stay diligent in his craft, and I don’t think he will (let that happen). I think he’ll be very diligent and I think that’s exactly who he should be and what he should be.”
Maybe that explains why Roby will switch his number from 25—which he wore during his first two seasons at Ohio State—to No. 1 this fall. It’s a number that was coveted by many players in the OSU secondary, but Coombs saw something special in his redshirt sophomore during the spring.
“He’s big and he’s fast and he’s physical,” Coombs said of the 5-11, 190-pound Roby.
“He’s also intelligent and he’s got great change-of-direction. His transition is outstanding.”
According to teammates, Roby was among the fastest players on the field when the Buckeyes ran the 40-yard dash this summer. He reportedly ran a sub-4.4 in the 40, but his weapons at cornerback go far beyond his foot-speed.
Photo by Dan Harker
As a former receiver, Roby has an exceptional ability to blanket receivers in coverage, but he’s also not afraid to step up and make a big hit when the time is right.
“Roby is an athlete. He does it all,” said teammate, and fellow starter, Travis Howard.
“He comes down and makes the tackle, he can pick the ball and he can play man coverage. He’s that all-around corner that you need.”
Not to mention the kind Ohio State fans are used to.
There is a rare tradition when it comes to playing defensive back in the scarlet and gray—something Roby knew a little bit about when he picked the Buckeyes over Auburn back in 2010. He was familiar with names like Shawn Springs, Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements, Chris Gamble, Malcolm Jenkins and Chimdi Chekwa, but even Roby didn’t quite imagine himself in this position just two years later.
Certainly not while he was committed to Vanderbilt as a little-known wide receiver product out of Suwanee, Ga in the summer of 2009.
“A couple years ago I never would have guessed I’d be here playing corner right now,” Roby told The-Ozone.
“That’s just how things worked out. That’s how God wanted me to do it, so I’m happy with it.”
As a high school senior, Roby was just hoping to land a scholarship offer from the hometown Georgia Bulldogs when he took a visit to Columbus in January 2010.
It came at the urging of Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. She’s the mother of former Ohio State defensive standout Cameron Heyward, who went to the same high school—Peachtree Ridge—as Roby.
Instead of waiting for Georgia to figure things out after head coach Mark Richt fired then-defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, Roby committed to play for former OSU head coach Jim Tressel.
Having played mostly receiver early in his high school career, Roby was coming off a senior season in which he recorded 11 touchdowns, 42 tackles and six interceptions. What he lacked in technique and understanding, Roby made up for with athleticism.
His ability to recover from bad breaks and close on the ball forced opposing teams to look the other direction. Even last season, when Roby became a full-time starter for the Buckeyes as a redshirt freshman, there were not many passes thrown in the direction of No. 25.
He still tied for the team-lead with three interceptions last season—he also led the team with nine passes defended—but Roby knows he still has a long way to go if he’s going to one day fulfill Coombs’ prophecy about his future.
“I love playing corner, but I can get so much better at playing the position,” Roby acknowledged.
“My potential is sky-high at corner. Technique-wise, I’m still a real raw corner. I’ve worked hard on my technique over the past year, so I’ve gotten better with that. I feel like I’m going to be so much better this year, it’s going to be crazy.”
Coombs wouldn’t have it any other way.
“All great corners have to have the same psychological makeup—they have to be fearless,” the 51-year old said.
“They have to have absolutely no memory and very little conscience. Those are the guys you're looking for at that position.”
Coombs won’t have to look far to find his No. 1 this fall.
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