Every position on the Ohio State team comes with expectations, but of late, maybe no position can match the cornerbacks when it comes to what people expect of them.
With the long line of NFL production — which has seen an uptick of late — not only do outsiders expect big things, but so do the players themselves.
Those expectations, however, rarely come to fruition right away, and the learning curve is difficult.
Ohio State has two talented freshman cornerbacks on the roster this season. Both Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks got a head start by enrolling early and participating in winter workouts and spring football. Those things will help them down the line, but their newness did not go unnoticed this spring.
“We kind of lose sight of that but, they decided to come,” OSU cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said. “When you decide to come here, the expectation is put on you right away and I think they’re getting a sense of that.”
Ohio State asks their cornerbacks to play press man, which is a sink-or-swim situation for any player, and especially freshmen.
“We all go through it,” sophomore cornerback Marcus Williamson said this spring. “You go from high school and the game speed changes as you get here, but I really think they have adjusted well. Definitely playing really well. Tyreke is a big personality. I think Sevyn is really talented and those guys have a bright future.”
The cornerbacks at Ohio State are a very cohesive unit, and while they are all competing for snaps, they are also making sure that no corner gets left behind. The veterans are constantly teaching and preparing the freshmen for life on a Buckeye island.
“You just have to explain to them college receivers are a lot more physical, so, you know, you have to be prepared for that, a lot faster,” Williamson said. “You come in, you are the young guy. We have a lot of fifth-year seniors, receivers, so you just have to be prepared for that and take it step by step, but they have been doing really well.”
For a freshman, having to defend fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin is never going to be easy, but it is always going to be something to learn from.
Eventually, those lessons will play out on the field in live game action, but not until they are ready.
While that day has not yet come, so far everyone has liked what they have seen.
“Oh, those are my young bulls,” said sophomore corner Jeff Okudah. “Tyreke and Sevyn, Tyreke you can tell those Florida guys. They come in with a lot of juice, a lot of swag. I kind of see what they’re going through right now, going from being a high school senior to coming out here, playing with a bunch of old guys.
“You have your highs and lows. We just try to make sure they don’t ever get too high or too low, and just be there for them in their low moments or even their good moments.”
Their position coach has watched them closer than anybody, so he has seen them at their best and at their worst. Whatever their worst is, it will improve. What Taver Johnson liked right out of the gate is their understanding of what this position means at Ohio State and their desire to live up to every last one of those expectations.
“They decided to come, they understood and started to embrace how we work and how we do things and they are really, really smart and then also personable guys that I definitely enjoy being around,” he said following spring ball.
“I thought they did a good job. They were sponges, they just tried to take it all in. They went into survival mode a few times, just because it is so hard with what we do, but they are really, really eager to be really, really great. They understand those expectations and everything that we have to get done in our room. To have them here early was a big, big plus.”