2013 Spring Recap - The Star and Dime
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State defense was hardly ever in a base 4-3 defense this spring. There were usually five or six defensive backs on the field for every scrimmage snap. With a schedule featuring a large number of spread teams, this was not merely coincidence.
This spring, the Buckeye coaches wanted to take a good, long look at their extra defensive backs and see how well each of them would perform. Ideally, this would give them a pretty good idea of which players they can count on when the season comes.
As offenses become more versatile, so must defenses. Ohio State has been using a fifth defensive back (the Star) for quite a few years now, so they've been ahead of the curve, and the results bear that out.
The reason for more defensive backs is so the defense can cover more ground, and individuals can match up better against spread offenses. But if they can't tackle as well as a linebacker, the advantage the coaches are looking for is gone.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, things didn't look too bad this spring. There is still plenty of room to grow, however.
"You've got to be able to play man-to-man to be the nickel and do the coverage stuff that we want to do," cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said this spring.
"So rather than limit ourselves by coverage, by playing bigger guys, we want to play guys that can do that, and teach them leverage points and get them strong. Now we're not strong enough yet, to be honest with you, we're not. But they've got to do that. That's their job between now and August, but they've got to learn the position in the spring."
Returning Starter: None
Others Returning: Tyvis Powell (rFr.), Adam Griffin (rJr.), Devan Bogard (So.), Najee Murray (So.), Corey Brown (rSr.)
On the first day of spring practice, it was redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell, all six-foot-three of him, patrolling the field as the first-team Star. On the last day of spring practice, he was still there. He was solid in coverage and was a big hitter as well. He was tough in run support, but was also seen applying violence to those who dared cross the short middle of the field.
The staff had nothing but glowing things to say about Powell all spring long.
"No question, it was a huge spring for Tyvis in a lot of ways," said co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers.
"As a freshman coming in last year, you're thrown into it. 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 the Star position and play well and be productive. It was a huge spring for us and he answered the bell."
Adam Griffin was right there with Powell for much of the spring, though they make quite the pair when standing next to eachother, given that Griffin tops out at about five-foot-eight. Despite the lack of height, there is certainly no lack of heart. However, his size still holds him back.
Sophomores Devan Bogard and Najee Murray would also be in the mix at Star were they both not still recovering from ACL injuries. After last season, most would have considered Bogard the favorite to land the Star job in 2013.
"Adam Griffin's playing there right now and doing really well," Coombs said.
"You've got Najee Murray. I think there's a variety of kids that can play that position. The more that kid is like a corner than like a linebacker, the more things you can do in coverage against the spread teams."
"When you start looking at guys and plugging them into positions, I think Devan [Bogard] was headed in the right direction," said Withers.
"It’s a shame he and Najee Murray were injured during the season. Hopefully we can get those guys back moving around in the summer and hopefully get them back for camp. That will allow us to build some depth."
Senior Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown was the main guy when it came to the dime spot. He had his ups and downs. He was effective in run support, but would have issues staying with wide receivers. The staff is asking a lot of Brown, who also has to play reserve safety and a number of special units.
"I think Pitt's doing a really nice job because he's got to do a variety of jobs," Coombs said. "He's got to be a safety and he's got to be ready to play. We've got two veteran kids there, but he's got to be ready to play. He's also the dime guy and he's got to be prepared to play the nickel. So there's a lot on his plate."
Newcomers: Vonn Bell (Fr.), Jayme Thompson (Fr.), Darron Lee (Fr.), Chris Worley (Fr.)
None of the newcomers were in for the spring, so they'll all come in on even footing, which is to say shaky footing. Vonn Bell is the star of the group, though Darron Lee was step for step with him at an Ohio State camp. Lee may eventually outgrow safety, as may Chris Worley. Jayme Thompson is a tremendous all-around athlete. The OSU coaches brought each of these players in for very specific reasons, and they are going to try to get something out of them immediately.
"There will be some competition at the nickel spot with Vonn Bell and Chris Worley and Jayme Thompson," said Coombs.
"We've got a good mix of guys coming in at the safety position, so there will be some competition there and at the dime spot. Our expectation, our clear expectation, is that every one of those kids coming in here is going to contribute and play this fall. We didn't recruit them to come sit on the bench and redshirt."
NICKEL BACK (STAR)
Tyvis Powell (6-3 201, rFr.)
Adam Griffin (5-8 183, rJr.)
Devan Bogard (6-0 195, So.)
Chris Worley (6-2 200, Fr.)
Corey Brown (6-1 201, rSr.)
Vonn Bell (6-1 190, Fr.)
Jayme Thompson (6-2 185, Fr.)
Darron Lee (6-2 200, Fr.)
Secondary Could Be Primary For Buckeyes in 2013
My Spring Standouts: Defense
Nickel and Dimed: OSU Defense Aiming to be More Versatile
Spring Football Notebook: Hall Missing, Pitt Brown Leads Goal Line Stand
Spring Practice Insider: Defense Shows New Look
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