Buckeyes Will Test the Boundary with Doran Grant
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Everybody has experienced boundary issues at one time or another in their lives, and with the loss of Bradley Roby to the NFL, the Buckeyes are in the midst of one of their own at the moment.
For the last three seasons it was Roby manning the boundary cornerback position. Lining up on the short side of the field puts a boundary cornerback closer to the action in the running game, and it adds to their duties and reads. It's a physical spot to play and isn't typically suited for those cornerbacks who don't like to mix it up.
Roby handled his responsibilities well enough to earn All-Big Ten and All-American honors, as well as become a first-round NFL Draft pick.
With Roby gone, the job now moves to senior Doran Grant, who started at the field corner a year ago. Grant had a very good season, but this new position is a legitimate step up in obligation and importance.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"In our defense, in our scheme, when you move over to that boundary corner, the responsibility changes and it increases," cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs explained.
"You're taking on a different demeanor in everything that you do. So you're style of play has to change. Your responsibilities change. That carries over into the weight room and everything else. Film study and those types of things. That's where his focus has been in the offseason, preparing himself to play that position."
As a senior, that is precisely the type of demeanor that the Buckeyes needed from him anyway. With the new position, however, that puts even more on Grant's shoulders. His team needs him to man one of the most difficult positions on the football field, and be a leader while he's doing it.
"Yeah, you can feel it," Grant admitted.
"There are a lot of young guys in the room. That's on me, I have to pick up my leadership and pick up my level of play so that we can be successful this season. Everybody’s looking at you, you’ve got to do everything right on and off the field. You've got to come to work every day, passion and energy, in meetings everything. You gotta lead."
To this point, Grant has done everything that his coaches have asked from him. He is coming off of a season where he was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer, and they will be asking him to build upon those accolades this coming season.
The natural progression for Grant on the field has been the easy part. Having been on the field for three seasons now, his teammates will naturally look towards him as a leader. Sometimes, however, leading by example isn't enough.
Grant is the veteran of the secondary and his voice carries as much weight as his actions. Because of that, his coaches wanted him to become more of a vocal leader.
"It’s something I’ve had to work on," he said.
"That was probably the biggest change for me in the offseason. You gotta sit down and talk to yourself. It’s a mental thing, actually. Have conversations with people that care about you, like my coaches, and take it on."
There are some observers who would tell you that Grant was the best cornerback on the team a season ago, though Grant himself said he was only "average" last year.
Average won't cut it this year on the boundary, but then Grant is probably the only one who would consider his play last year as such.
"I think he was better than average last year," Coombs said in response to Grant's self-grading.
"I think his improvement this year has been dramatic. I'm excited to see him play. He is a young man with incredible athletic ability. His combine-type numbers are gonna match those of many of the great corners in the country today and those that have played here. And yet at the same time there have been little glitches that have prevented him from achieving the success that those numbers would indicate, and really that's my job.
"So we've spent a lot of time this offseason exploring all of the techniques and different things that are going to hopefully help him improve. I think he's got a real focus and dedication to that. I'm really excited to watch him. He's taken the leadership in the room, and that's been important too."
Emerging as a leader was something that the Buckeyes absolutely needed from Grant given the youth in the secondary, but it was his play that needed to take a similar step forward.
According to Coombs, Grant is right on track to take over as the team's boundary cornerback, and nothing he showed during the spring would dispute his readiness.
With the Buckeyes going to more press-man coverage this season, Grant is going to have an awful lot on his plate. While it may seem that the natural football progression of things has put Grant at the boundary position, Coombs was adamant this spring that he is there because he is ready for the responsibility.
Grant's confidence, and his coaches' confidence in him, are at an all-time high, and true confidence only comes from preparation. From the looks of it, Grant is ready for this next challenge, and his coaches are confident that he will succeed.
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