Most Important Buckeyes: No. 7
By Scott Dame
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Bradley Roby may not be entering the 2013 NFL Draft, but he’s talented enough to play with the pros right now.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The redshirt sophomore cornerback from Suwanee, Ga., has announced he will return to the Buckeyes for the 2013 season, but he very well may have been a first day draft pick after his redshirt sophomore season at Ohio State.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Roby doesn’t want to settle for being a first day guy.
“I think he still has things that he wants to accomplish,” said OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
“And I don't think the least of those things is being part of a team that has a chance to play for a national championship. So I would expect Bradley to be here and to be around, and I'm looking forward to coaching him another year.”
It’s scary to think how good Roby could be next year, especially considering he is already No. 7 on our postseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes for an undefeated season in 2012.
What Made Him Important?
Speed. Roby said he ran a 4.31-second time in the 40-yard dash last summer. It was the fastest time on the team. It is this type of speed that allows Roby to make up ground on seemingly open wide receivers and to break on the ball once the quarterback throws it in his general direction.
Sub-4.40 speed is rare and extensively coveted by NFL teams, so it figures to make him a rich man in the not-too-distant future.
Clutch plays. As Brandon Castel pointed out, Roby made one of the most important plays of 2012; a play that was not only hard-nosed, but one which symbolized Ohio State’s entire 12-0 season.
Clinging to a 14-7 late in the fourth quarter in Madison, Wisc., Roby dropped off his man in coverage to run down fullback Derek Watt just in time to bat away a potential game-tying touchdown catch. The Buckeyes went on to win 21-14 in overtime.
Photo by Dan Harker
Another example of Roby’s ability to make plays in pressure situations came against Michigan State. After begging Urban Meyer to call a block attempt, Roby blocked a Spartan punt in the second quarter. The Buckeyes went on to win that one 17-16.
Numbers. Roby finished second on the team with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown vs. Nebraska. While he’s not quite Antoine Winfield yet, Roby made more than his share of stops for the Buckeyes, finishing with 41 unassisted tackles, which was second to only Ryan Shazier’s 70. Roby was third on the team in total tackles with 63, trailing only Christian Bryant (71) and Shazier (114).
Versatility. Although Roby’s desire to play on offense was never realized, he made his mark on many special teams units. Besides his key role on the punt- block team, Roby returned a punt and three kickoffs. Roby was also used on the corner blitz, recording a sack for a loss of 11 yards in the 35-28 win vs. Cal.
Toughness. Speaking of the Cal game, this is where Roby had his greatest display of grit, as he suffered a shoulder injury but returned after missing only three plays. The shoulder injury ended up keeping him out the next week against UAB, but it was the only game Roby would miss.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
We got a brief glimpse of that when the Roby-less Buckeyes struggled against UAB despite winning 29-15. (The Blazers ended up 3-9, which included a 35-point loss to Memphis.)
Doran Grant, a sophomore from Akron, filled in ably for Roby, recording five tackles, a sack and an interception. Next season, Grant figures to take the starting corner spot vacated by departing senior Travis Howard.
Despite Grant’s skill, there is no denying that Roby was one of the most vital cogs on a Buckeye defense that went from a weakness at the beginning of the season to a strength at the end.
Roby’s coverage ability allowed Bryant to play near the line of scrimmage against physical running teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The Spartans managed 34 yards and zero TDs on the ground against the Buckeyes; the Badgers rushed for 206 yards and one TD, but that was on 56 carries.
How Does it Compare to Our Preseason Expectations?
Roby was rated No. 10 in our preseason rankings, and a rise to No. 7 seems about right to me; I had him eighth on my list.
As you will see with the remainder of this countdown, it was a tough year to try to get into the Top 5 Most Important Buckeyes. In my opinion, Roby would have been the best player on at least four teams in the Big Ten. I also believe he’ll be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton