Spring Position Battles to Watch: Cornerback
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With so many openings in Ohio State’s front seven this offseason, not many people are talking about the departure of fifth-year senior Travis Howard.
They would be if Bradley Roby had decided to leave early, which would have left the Buckeyes in need of two new starting corners for the 2013 season. Roby’s return puts less of an onus on some of the younger guys, but it could be in interesting offseason battle across from Roby this spring.
Shoes to Fill: Travis Howard
Photo by Dan Harker
He wasn’t always a fan favorite during his five-year career at Ohio State, but Howard did lead the Big Ten in interceptions this past season. He was also an athletic guy who played his best football as a senior this past season.
The former four-star prospect out of Florida was a two-year starter for the Buckeyes, replacing Chimdi Chekwa in the starting lineup before the 2011 football season. Howard got picked on at times over the last two season, but he also came away with some big plays.
One thing he always brought to the field was a confidence level that rubbed off on his defensive teammates.
The Favorite: Doran Grant (5-11, 190, Jr.)
Photo by Jim Davidson
Now the Buckeyes are hoping a little bit of that confidence rubbed off on Doran Grant. He has been Ohio State’s future at corner basically since he committed to play for the Buckeyes over his dad’s alma mater, Michigan State, two years ago.
Grant played a lot as a freshman in 2011, all things considered, but it wasn’t much of a learning experience. Luke Fickell was running the entire team, while Taver Johnson and Paul Haynes were still coaching the secondary.
The Akron native has found his footing under the next staff, including cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. He played with the No. 1 defensive secondary at times last spring and he came out of the spring drills listed as the back-up to Howard at one of the two cornerback spots.
His role expanded quite a bit as a sophomore this past year. He only started one game, which Bradley Roby missed because of a shoulder injury, but Grant was considered a de facto third starter by Coombs and the defensive staff.
The Challenger: Armani Reeves (5-10, 195, So.)
Grant had better play well this spring, because he has a number of young guys trying desperately to chase him down for that other starting spot across from Roby, who passed up a chance to leave early for the NFL.
Tyvis Powell and Adam Griffin were both inside playing the ‘Star’ position at the start of camp, but Armani Reeves is the one guy who could really emerge as the challenger for Grant and the lone vacancy in the starting secondary.
At 5-10, Reeves is pretty average sized for a corner, but he has a solid build and good footwork. The 4-star out of Massachusetts was ranked the No. 6 cornerback in the nation by Scout.com, and he was considered the No. 2 player in his state by Rivals.com.
Reeves is originally from Alabama, and he has the look and feel of a southern kid who probably would have stayed down south and played for one of the big boys in the SEC. Instead, he as emerged as Ohio State’s No. 3 corner this spring.
The Darkhorse: Cameron Burrows (5-11, 200, Fr.)
The other guy playing corner with the second-team defense during the first week of practice was freshman Cam Burrows. Classmate Eli Apple also got a few looks with he second group on day one of spring camp, but it appeared as though Burrows is a little bit ahead in the race to see the field.
At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Burrows has excellent size for a corner. He could end up switching to safety at some point, but the Buckeyes really need to develop some depth at both spots heading into the 2013 season.
The Trotwood-Madison product was an Under Armour All-American back in January, and was rated as high as No. 38 nationally by Rivals.com. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 62 player in the country for the 2013 class, and Burrows enrolled early to get a head start on his playing career.
He is a two-time state track finalist in the sprint relays and has all the natural instincts to be a tremendous player in the OSU secondary for the next 4-5 years.
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