Later this month, Denzel Ward will be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. When that happens, he will become the fifth Ohio State cornerback selected in the first round in the last five years.
Some would call this a habit, but habit doesn’t give anyone enough credit for what has been created.
Starting with Bradley Roby in the 2014 draft, Kerry Coombs groomed a line of corners that has been unmatched in football history. And now, new cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson and his room of players have a legacy to live up to.
Even though it may look like it at times, this isn’t just an automated factory that cranks out first-round picks. There’s work upon work that takes place. First, however, comes the wakeup call.
“It’s no more high school,” said freshman Sevyn Banks. “It’s no more being the best player on your team. Everybody is a one. You’ve got to learn the technique. You’ve got to do something really good, and you’ve got to stand out because everybody’s athletic. Everybody can jump. Everybody can run. You just have to learn and do what you do best.”
Banks and fellow freshman Tyreke Johnson enrolled early and have received a crash course in what it takes to play the position at Ohio State. With sophomore Jeffrey Okudah out this spring with a shoulder injury, the freshmen have each moved up a spot and have been able to add valuable reps.
Even though everyone struggles and none of this is easy, Johnson is confident that he and Banks have what it takes to keep the lineage strong.
“I’m feeling better than what I thought because they like the long corners,” he said. “That’s what they’re going to now. They’re recruiting up the long corners. I feel together we’re going to accomplish big things. Me and Sevyn Banks are the future of this program.”
The ability to be part of the future of the Ohio State cornerback room was one of the reasons Johnson ended up a Buckeye.
“Ohio State cornerback legacy production is nothing but greatness and elite,” he said. “So here I wanted to be a part of something and I came here to be held to a standard and be developed.”
The standard has become a recruiting draw. As Urban Meyer says, what they are doing is no longer theory, it is testimony. In 2016, the Buckeyes had three first-round cornerbacks playing in the same rotation. And OSU’s 2017 starters Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield are also working to make that the case again when their names are finally called.
In fact, it has become the standard at Ohio State. When Ward is selected in the first round this year, that will mean that every draft-eligible starting cornerback that Urban Meyer has recruited and signed at OSU will have been a first-round draft pick.
That’s not lost on anybody in the cornerbacks room at Ohio State.
“Yeah, anybody that wants to go first round, that’s what you’re here for,” Banks said. “That’s what you’re going to do. They’re going to teach you what you need to do so you can be a first rounder. If you want to be a doctor, they’re going to get you in school and get you in class. If you want your degree, they’re going to push you to go to class. Anything you want to be, they’re going to get it for you.”