Most Important Buckeyes: No. 20
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While he has yet to play in an actual game for the Buckeyes, nickel back Tyvis Powell should figure in prominently for Ohio State this season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
A redshirt freshman from Bedford, Ohio, Powell used a strong offseason performance to land the starting job at star to open the spring. He then performed well against the pass, and showed a knack for big hits in run support throughout the spring. However, just because he has the job now, doesn't mean he won't have to work to keep it once camp opens.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, Powell is a cornerback in a safety's body, and he will also be asked to play like a linebacker. The Ohio State defense figures to play extra defensive backs quite a bit this season due to the spread offenses that they'll face, and a strong year from Powell would go a long way towards a strong year from the entire Buckeye defense.
What Makes Him Important
The Ohio State defense has roughly nine spread offenses on the schedule this season, so a base 4-3 defense isn't always going to work. In fact, more often than not, the star could be in the starting lineup instead of a strongside linebacker.
Last season, safety Orhian Johnson started five games at star, and the year before Tyler Moeller started 10 games at star. Clearly, this is a key position that will be counted on to produce.
Powell spent his first season at Ohio State redshirting at cornerback, so the coaches have high hopes for his coverage abilities. However, his size gives those same coaches confidence that he won't be overpowered against the run. The ability to succeed in both pass defense and run defense is what makes Powell an ideal candidate for this position.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
This spring, Powell was the starting star from day one, and he never relinquished the position. He'll face some battles in fall camp from the likes of Devan Bogard, Corey Brown and Vonn Bell, but expectations are high for Powell.
"Right now we feel like our nickel is the best look for us with guys like Tyvis Powell," co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said this spring.
"Hopefully we can continue to recruit guys like him who can play in those spots. That’s where its going. It allows you to be faster on the field, more athletic in space. That’s where football is going.
"No question, this was a huge spring for Tyvis in a lot of ways. Going into last spring we didn’t know. We came out of the fall thinking this guy has some ability, and he was able to take that and go into a star position and play well and be productive. He answered the bell for us."
Powell allows the Ohio State defense to stay versatile, as a more traditional 4-3 alignment would leave them susceptible to the spread passing game, and a straight nickel with a 5-foot-10 corner would make them an ideal target to run against. The hope is that Powell will be equal parts cornerback, safety and linebacker.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
Sophomore Devan Bogard was a standout on special teams last season until he injured his knee. He never really got much time on defense, however, though he was definitely one of the favorites to be the starting star in Game One this year.
Senior Corey Brown is in the mix at both back-up safety and dime, but he would also get a long look without Powell in the picture. He struggled in pass defense at times last season, which would be a concern when it comes to the star facing so many different types of players.
True freshman Vonn Bell was talked about quite a bit by both cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs and Withers this spring, and they mentioned him being in the mix to play pretty early this season. While nobody ever wants to go with a freshman in Game One, he will certainly be battling for a spot in the rotation.
Still, just a redshirt freshman, it is Powell that the coaches are most comfortable with currently. Speaking at the Big Ten Media Days, Urban Meyer said that Powell was "inexperienced but very talented and right on target."
In the end, if the 2013 Ohio State defense is going to be at its best, they'll need Powell to be at his.
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