Most Important Buckeyes: No. 3
By Brandon Castel
Unless Braxton Miller’s right arm falls off, I think we all know who is going to be No. 1 on the list when it comes to most important players on the 2013 Buckeyes. He still might be in the top five without his right arm, as long as he can carry the ball in his left arm and use those fancy feet of his to dance around defenders in the open field.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Quarterbacks are always going to get the glory because they touch the football on every play, but the world is exactly opposite for the No. 3 player on our countdown of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes. Bradly Roby probably won’t touch the ball all season as much as Miller does on the opening drive of Ohio State’s first possession against Buffalo, but if he ever does get the rock in his hands, look out.
What Makes Him Important
Roby’s ability to change a football game goes far beyond what he can do with the ball in his hands. He may get a chance to return some kicks this year, but what really makes Roby critical for the Buckeyes this season, just as he was a year ago, is his ability to be a game-changer on defense. Go back to the Wisconsin game at the end of last year. Roby was matched up with the Badgers’ primary weapon, Jared Abbrederis for most of the afternoon, but it was the play he made on their fullback that helped Ohio State win that game in overtime.
It looked like Derek Watt was going to waltz into the end zone untouched for the game-tying score, but Roby came flying across the field to break up what otherwise would have been a sure touchdown. That play set up Ryan Shazier’s strip of Montee Ball at the goal line, and while the Badgers would eventually tie the game, they lost in overtime.
It’s those kinds of plays that make Roby one of the most exciting players in college football, but what truly makes him important enough to be No. 3 on this list, ahead of guys like Jack Mewhort, Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Carlos Hyde is the confidence he brings to the defense. Roby is a naturally confident guy, but it’s his play that oozes confidence. He is a natural in coverage, so natural in fact that he has the rare ability to know where his man is going while also keeping an eye on the rest of the play. Having him out there will give the young guys up front confidence they have time to get to the quarterback because No. 1 is back there.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
That probably depends on whether Roby can keep himself out of Bloomington, Indiana on the weekends. Since the Buckeyes don’t play at Indiana this season, Roby should only have to miss the opener against Buffalo for his incident over there summer, and it’s hard to think he’s going to feel many effects from missing a game like that.
If anything, Roby should be pretty amped to get back on the field in week two against San Diego State, which is a much bigger game for the Buckeyes than Buffalo. Outside of Braxton Miller, Roby is probably the most physically-gifted player on the roster and the expectation for him this season to play like an All-American. Anything less would be disappointing for a guy who is being talked about as one of the first defensive backs to come off the board in next year’s NFL Draft.
Stranger things have happened, certainly, but it’s hard to imagine Roby not playing well enough this season to make it his last in Columbus. He has also talked a lot about leaving a legacy behind as one of the best corners to wear the scarlet and gray. That would mean a big season for the redshirt junior out of Georgia, but all the ability is certainly there. If he can lead this team to perfection, his place in history will be cemented forever.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
We saw what happened last year when the Buckeyes had to play without him against UAB. The defense struggled and it lacked that dynamic force on the back end to change the game with a single play. That’s what Roby brings to the table, and without him the Buckeyes would, truthfully, be pretty average on the back end of the defense.
Maybe we will feel different about that when we get to see Doran Grant in his first full year as a starter, or seniors Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett in their last, but all three of those guys are going to be on the field whether Roby is out there or not. What we’re going to get a chance to see in the opener against Buffalo is sophomore Armani Reeves. The former 4-star prospect out of Massachusetts is going to fill in as the starter across from Grant while Roby sits out the first game, and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself.
If this were a rebuilding team or a young group of Buckeyes, it might be fun to watch a guy like Reeves work his way into a comfort level out there, but that’s not what this season is going to be about. The 2013 Buckeyes are about one thing, chasing down a championship, first in the Big Ten and then in the nation. To do that the Buckeyes have to have their best players on the field for the most important games. There aren’t many of them this year, but without Roby there would be serious question marks about a defense that is already replacing six starters in the front seven.