Doran Grant Ready to Become the Player OSU Needs Him to Be
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A football player can get away with under-performing on the field if he is not a starter. But once he finds himself at the top of the depth chart, the room for error is as thin as the blades of grass under his feet.
As the football fortune cookie says, "An under-performing starter is soon replaced."
The Buckeyes were in a unique situation last season with two All-Conference performers at cornerback in Bradley Roby and Travis Howard, so they were able to overcome their relative lack of depth and experience at the position.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Doran Grant began spring practice last season as the third cornerback because, even though he was just a true sophomore, he was the third-most experienced cornerback on the roster.
He played well at times in that role, most notably against UAB when he started for the injured Roby. He finished with seven tackles, an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery against the Blazers, displaying the considerable abilities that everyone knew that he possessed.
However, there were also struggles. He would lose sight of the ball at times last year. He had tackling issues. There were a few pass interference calls. Basically, it wasn't the type of season that one would brag about.
"Disappointing," Kerry Coombs said of Grant's season. "I think that's an accurate phrase. He was our third corner last year. I expected him to play more."
"Last year, the expectations were high and I didn’t really meet them," Grant agreed.
"This year, I’ve been practicing well and I’m a little faster. I’m moving quicker. I feel better. My body feels good. I’m just learning from Coach Coombs and Bradley Roby to try to be the best I can be."
The process of getting Grant from where he was to where he is was not an easy one. In fact, it may have never happened if not for some intensive film study by Coombs.
Doran Grant and Kerry Coombs
Photo by Jim Davidson
"It's my opinion in studying him closely last year, that there was a disconnect or a delay between what he saw and what he did," Coombs explained.
"I'd be lying if I said that I noticed that in season, because I don't have time to notice that in season. But in the offseason, okay let's figure this out. Was it a crisis in the fall last year? No, we had Travis Howard. Okay, now it's a crisis, so let's figure it out, so that's what we're doing and that's what we're working on."
One of the ways they are attempting to improve Grant's reaction speed is through the use of the Dynavision D2 machine. The first time he used the machine, which measures hand-eye speed and reaction times, Grant scored a dismal 48. He now has the team-high score of 108. It's a significant improvement, and Coombs is hoping that it's indicative of more to come.
"I don't know that we're fixing it," he cautioned.
"I think we're better. But I could see it on film and I could freeze the film and show him in drill work even where this guy, this guy and this guy sees it and acts, and you see it and … act. We've got to fix that, and that's what we're doing. Because he's a 4.3 guy – he's a legit 4.3 guy – so let's fix that, and we are."
For his part, Grant has bought into every suggestion and training technique that has been suggested to him because nobody wants him to get better than he does. Ohio State cornerbacks have a legacy to uphold, and Grant plans on doing his part.
"I just feel older, more mature and ready for the game at a college level," he said.
"I’m just ready for the season to start. It’s more like hunger. I’m just ready to play. Just go out there and make plays. No pressure at all."
Coombs believes that Grant is ready to take that next step. Let's not forget that he was a high school All-American, as well as one of the nation's most sought after cornerback recruits. He possesses a ton of ability, and the expectation is for that ability to make its mark repeatedly this season.
"He's not missing anything," Coombs said.
"And I'm learning how to coach and process him, and I'm excited about that, and I think he's going to get better and better."
Grant will have no choice but to produce. After all, he's on top of the depth chart right now. There's no where left to hide.
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