With a history of first-round draft picks and the reputation of being “Defensive Back U,” Ohio State’s cornerbacks are held to a very high standard.
This season, they have given up some big plays, have received a sizable number of penalties, and have been criticized for not making plays.
As a unit, they are not happy with their play at this point in the season, but they still have the confidence that they can improve and truly become something special.
“The sky is the limit for us,” said senior cornerback Damon Arnette.
The mentality now is simply for them to take the next step. The cornerbacks have generally been in good position, and it’s not a case of them getting beaten over and over again. They just are not making the plays that are available to be made.
According to cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, his players just aren’t as comfortable as they need to be yet.
“It’s really like two more steps where we’re completely there, and now the play can be made because we are comfortable,” he said. “We get there but we’re still uncomfortable, so now there’s a tension and there’s a situation where I’m not sure, as opposed to ‘I’m here, I can become the guy, now I’ll have the confidence to go get it.’”
For Arnette, the next steps can be accomplished through the little things after they initially get their hands on and battle the receiver. He said they need to get their heads around and take the ball out of the air.
“There’s just certain things in practice that we have been practicing on, like just making the play on the ball,” Arnette said. “Dudes not just outright beating us like that, it’s just the ability to go in the air and make a play on the ball. It’s been something we have been emphasizing in practice the past two weeks.”
One problem that has occurred when the Buckeyes get a bit more physical and try to make big plays is that they are often called for pass interference.
Ohio State cornerbacks have recorded a frustrating number of penalties this season. But for the players, that is a part of the aggressive play style that Ohio State has implemented. They are encouraged to be aggressive, and there are certain things that come with being aggressive. That includes penalties, but they must find the proper balance.
“We’ve had our share of balls when we’ve been in position and we’ve gotten some DPI’s and there were some other situations where we weren’t [in position],” Johnson said. “So, I think we’re all understanding that we’ve got to get a lot better and we’re working at it. I’m confident in them for sure. It’s not a lack of effort, we just have to have an understanding and get it done.”
Neither Johnson or Arnette feel this team has played to their potential this season, but they are confident in the ability of this group because they have seen hints of these types of big plays in practice. The problem is their consistency in translating those plays to the field on game days.
“I feel like we’re all getting better every day,” Arnette said. “Taking it day by day and taking it one day at a time, I feel like the sky is the limit for us. I see it. Being out here with these dudes, I see it every day. It’s flashes of greatness, flashes of greatness. Now it’s just transferring it to Saturdays. the main thing is just looking back for the ball and taking the ball out of the air because I think that’s the final step to our greatness.”
Regardless of how the unit is performing at this point in the season, Johnson is pleased with the group of guys that he has to work with.
“I would take these guys over anyone because I know what we’re capable of,” he said. “I know they’re going to get better, as hard as they work in everything they do, I have the utmost confidence. These guys can get it done.”