[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
Fall 2001 | This is a combination of two stories. The first is from John Porentas, detailing Jim Tressel’s radical decision to move junior linebacker Cie Grant to cornerback during fall camp of the 2001 season. The second story is from JC Pennington, and came the week after a 20-17 home loss to Wisconsin, which saw Grant get beaten for a 42-yard touchdown reception by Nick Davis. It should be noted that the Ohio State defense held the Badger offense to just 329 yards that day. The Buckeye offense, meanwhile, managed just 259 total yards. — TG
Cie Grant Experiment is Underway
By John Porentas
The experiment to move Cie Grant to cornerback from linebacker began today, and according to Jim Tressel, things are going pretty well with that experiment thus far.
“It was interesting to see. We were in a staff meeting a few days ago and the guys said ‘Cie Grant does so many good things. How about if we look at him at corner?’ So I said ‘Sure, let’s try it.’ As I listened after this morning’s practice they felt good about what he was doing out there,” said Tressel.
Tressel likes what he sees in Grant as a football player.
“He loves to compete. He loves to play the game. We’re pleased with what we see out there and Cie will not only cover you a little bit, but he’ll bring the wood when you’re out there and he can put a hit on you. It’s like anything else. The test of time will tell, but we’ve been pleased so far,” he said.
The move of Grant to corner shores up that position and takes a player away from a position where, quite frankly, the Buckeyes could afford to lose a player.
“We thought we were pretty deep there (at linebacker),” said Tressel.
“When you have Matt and Joe Cooper and Marco Cooper and Freddie Pagac and Jason Bond, all guys that know the defense, we felt we had that luxury,” he explained.
Grant’s raw skills made him a talent that the OSU coaching staff is trying to get on the field in one way or another.
“We’re trying to get the best guys on the field, and that means that when Joe Cooper was on the field that meant that Cie Grant couldn’t be. It didn’t make much sense to us and so we wanted to try to see if we could find a way to get them both on the field,” concluded Tressel.
Cie Grant Learning His Position While Everyone Watches
Story and photos by J.C. Pennington
He’s the guy at the inaugural ball in a tuxedo and a pair of brown shoes. Maybe he’s the guy with the milk-mustache at the Mardi Gras. Or he could be the Michigan Ph.D. voted driver of the month at Dominos.
But it was Cie Grant, shiny new Ohio State cornerback, covering Wisconsin wide receiver Nick Davis on an OSU blitz. Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger fires a quick slant pass to Davis, knifing in front of Grant.
Grant, the safety turned linebacker turned cornerback, has two choices, go for the pass or go for the tackle on Davis. He went for the tackle…and missed. Davis goes for a 42-yard touchdown to pull the Badgers within three points.
On national TV, in front of 103,052 homecoming fans in Ohio Stadium, Cie Grant suddenly knows how the guy in the tuxedo and brown shoes feels. Everybody sees him and there is no place to hide.
“Basically, I just let him get away. I’m not the kind of guy to really miss tackles,” said the junior from New Philadelphia, OH. “That’s not a position to be messing around with because, hey, we are the last line of defense. They get past us and that’s how it happens,” he said.
Grant is clearly not messing around with the position but he is still very much learning the position. The Wisconsin game was his fifth game at corner. He is so new to the position that the current football media guide lists him as “one of the Buckeyes’ fastest linebackers.”
The football cliche is that cornerbacks need short memories in order to forget the big plays that go against them. As of Tuesday, Grant’s memory was still too long.
“If you are not going to make the play at least don’t dive and let him go. Make a tackle on it. Defend it the best you can,” he said, seemingly as much to himself as reporters. “It was tough.”
It was tough in more ways than one. It was the last homecoming game for the Ohio State seniors and Grant feels like he let them down.
“That’s tough for me to swallow because I came in here with a lot of these guys who are seniors,” he said. “I didn’t have the only bad play that hurt us, but I feel like I’m accountable for it. You know, they don’t get that touchdown and we win,” he said softly.
To be fair, Grant came into the game with painfully bruised ribs from the Northwestern game but he did not want to use that as an excuse.
“I could blame it on not being 100 percent out there with my whole injury thing but that’s no excuse. When I’m out there…if I wasn’t ready to be out there, I shouldn’t have been out there,” he said.
Grant came to OSU as a safety and spent 1998 as a redshirt, finally making it on the field in 1999 on special teams. In spring practice of 2000, he was moved to linebacker. He did not play in the first two games but appeared in the final ten games and made four tackles in the Iowa game.
[Photo Right: Cie Grant on a better day with a fumble run back in the Rose Bowl against UCLA.]
In the football equivalent of a last minute switch, Grant was moved to cornerback prior to the start of this season. He knows he has a lot to learn.
“I feel more at home each week, with the good and the bad,” Grant said. “I think I’m learning the position but it’s going to take games to learn.”
While he has accepted the fact that he has a lot to learn, he doesn’t care much for the treatment he got on radio call-in shows and Internet fan forums.
“What people have to understand is, what other linebackers do you know who are even going to put themselves out there to play a position like this,” he asked. “When people go talking negative about me, or whatever they want to say about me playing corner, I’m just saying ‘Well, you talk to other linebackers in the country and see how many of them are willing put their behinds out there at corner and put themselves out there on the island.’ I think just that alone speaks for what kind of person I am and what kind of athlete,” Grant said.
Think Andy Katzenmoyer at cornerback? Grant may have a point. Even so, the learning continues.
“I’m trying to do what I can to help the team and to be out on the field,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an aggressive kind of person. I want to come up and smack people. When I tackle, I want to tackle hard. It’s rare when you see me cut somebody on a tackle.”
The inexperience “took away from my aggressiveness but I feel like I’m trying to be disciplined enough and learn the position,” he said. “I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m just going to keep pushing forward and see from there. If it turns out that this isn’t for me, I gave it a shot. But I don’t think it’s going to be like that. I’m not going to give up on it like that.”
Grant immediately sounded like a once-burned cornerback with a plan and not a memory.
“I like situations like this. I like a challenge and it’s going to be a challenge. I’m sure a lot of people have seen the tape,” he said. “I know guys are going to pick on me. But, you can look at it two ways. You can look at it like these guys are going to pick on me and I’m going to get nervous and scared and let them go out here and embarrass me. Or, you can look at it like I know it’s coming my way and I can make plays and let people know that last week was just one of those days,” he said with a grin.