2013 Spring Recap - The Cornerbacks
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs had a pair of returning starters at corner last season, and ended up coaching them both to First-Team All-Big Ten accolades. This year, he returns just one starter, but he's a very good one.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bradley Roby received some All-American recognition last season, and will receive quite a bit more this season. He could have left for the NFL as a redshirt sophomore, but instead chose to return. He was held out of much of this spring due to a shoulder injury, but it was merely precautionary as he could have gone had their been an actual game. When he did participate in practice, he was very much the player that everyone expected.
Roby didn't just sit around all spring, however. Coombs put him to good use as an assistant coach and mentor, so he was out on the field every day helping his teammates to better learn the position.
It was essentially a spring where several inexperienced cornerbacks, including two true freshmen, were given the benefit of two cornerbacks coaches teaching them, helping them, and correcting them.
"Nothing, not a thing," Coombs said, when asked if they lost anything with Roby not taking part in any contact drills.
"In fact, we gained from it. Every time those kids came off the field they went to Bradley. I'm still on the field coaching the next group. All season, all spring long, in every contact environment, when they came off the field they went to Bradley. I'd whistle at Bradley and say make sure you talk about this, so I say we lost absolutely nothing. Bradley Roby doesn't have to prove that he can hit people. He does that. He doesn't have to prove the physical nature of his game."
Returning Starters: Bradley Roby (rJr.)
Bradley Roby was one of the best players in the Big Ten last year, and there is little doubt that he will be again this year. He is a lockdown corner, yet he is just as effective in run support. He is a student of film study and has more than once called his shot days before a game. If there is a complaint, it's that his coaches don't like him trying to bait quarterbacks. Such is life for a bored cornerback, however.
"For him as a player I've given him specific things he has to do this summer to be the kind of player that he wants to be in the fall, and also to be the kind of leader we need him to be," Coombs said. "But his leadership, his growth, in the meeting room, on the practice field, his vocal contributions to the team are leaps and bounds over what they were last year."
Others Returning: Doran Grant (Jr.), Armani Reeves (So.), Najee Murray (So.), Adam Griffin (rSo.), Tyvis Powell (rFr.)
Photo by Jim Davidson
Doran Grant and Armani Reeves both had very solid springs, though Grant was more consistent and Reeves tended to have some up and down moments. The starter's job was Grant's before the spring, and he did nothing but lock the job up even tighter. Without Roby, Grant was moved to the boundary corner spot and never wilted. He was constantly challenged and he held up.
Reeves may have made more plays than Grant, but he also gave up more. But he is certainly a player who finds himself around the football. He appears to be a very solid third corner, and despite not being the biggest guy, he's not afraid to get into a scrum.
"I think you have to give it to Doran Grant," Coombs said, when asked who had the biggest rise between Grant and Reeves.
"The reason you have to say that is this: there were no expectations of Armani coming into the spring. There were incredible expectations of Doran, not only going into last season but certainly coming into this spring. You have to fill this void. We just lost an All-Big Ten corner, and I thought Doran played fantastic, the highest grading corner throughout the 15 practices of spring, played at a very high level, continues to work on every single thing we give him to do. Works on his own, so I thought he had the biggest jump.
"I thought Armani had a great spring. I don't mean to take away from what he did, but I think the expectations and pressure was on Doran and you know this is a position of pressure, so if you can't handle that you can't play, and I thought Doran did a phenomenal job."
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tyvis Powell and Adam Griffin worked mainly at the star position, but they both remain cornerbacks and could provide depth. Both performed very well this spring and have given a great deal of confidence to all of the defensive coaches.
Najee Murray didn't participate in any contact drills during the spring as he continues his recovery from the ACL tear he suffered last season. He will also find himself involved in the nickel and dime spots, as well as cornerback.
Newcomers: Cameron Burrows (Fr.), Eli Apple (Fr.), Gareon Conley (Fr.)
Cameron Burrows and Eli Apple were both in for the spring, and they both got a ton of playing time because of it. With only two healthy full-time corners in Grant and Reeves, Burrows and Apple were with the twos for much of spring practice.
Each of them showed flashes, but they were clearly taken advantage of by veteran receivers at time. However, neither of them ever backed down. In fact, more often than not, they would respond to a mistake with some type of impact play. They both took the teaching that Coombs and Roby were giving, and they applied it in the proper manner.
"Love them," Coombs said of his two freshmen earlier in the spring. "Long. Playing hard. Serious. Not prepared. I wouldn't expect them to be. They should be getting ready to go to the prom.
"They've never practiced like this. It's like a shock wave that just keeps coming and coming and coming. And they are handling it, because I'm giving them no slack because guess what, in the fall there's going to be no slack. We have every expectation that they're going to play in the fall, and that's why they're here. So you've got to go. Here is the fire, jump in and go play."
Gareon Conley is the third of the three freshmen, and he won't get to Columbus until later this summer. There is some question as to whether he ends up at receiver or cornerback, but Coombs has indicated he will start out at corner.
Conley is expected to be raw, and will need to be coached up, but his length and speed have definitely intrigued Coombs. Even if Conley wants to play receiver, he's going to have to make a convincing argument for Coombs to let him go.
Bradley Roby (5-11 193, rJr.)
Armani Reeves (5-10 197, So.)
Najee Murray (5-9 185, So.)
Gareon Conley (6-2 180, Fr.)
Doran Grant (5-11 191, Jr.)
Eli Apple (6-1 188, Fr.) OR
Cam Burrows (6-0 206, Fr.)
Secondary Could Be Primary For Buckeyes in 2013
My Spring Standouts: Defense
Nickel and Dimed: OSU Defense Aiming to be More Versatile
Doran Grant Ready to Become the Player OSU Needs Him to Be
Coombs Pushing Young But Talented Cornerback Group
Unfinished Business Brought Roby Back to OSU
Spring Thoughts on the Defense at the Midway Point
Spring Practice Insider: Defense Shows New Look
Spring Position Battles to Watch: Cornerback
Spring Practice Insider: Roby Steals the Show
Spring Forecast: Cornerback
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.