May 14, 2013

Spring grades: cornerbacks

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice now in the books, we find ourselves just three months away from the opening of Urban Meyer's second fall camp as the head coach at Ohio State. With that in mind, we're taking a look back at what we've seen and learned from each position group throughout this offseason, continuing with today's look at the Buckeyes' cornerbacks.

Spring grade: A-

A season ago, Ohio State started a pair of first-team All-Big Ten selections in its secondary thanks to the stellar play of Bradley Roby and Travis Howard. And even with Howard having graduated and trying to make it in the NFL, the expectation he has for his players won't change for Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.

Roby could've been selected in the first two rounds of last month's NFL Draft, but ultimately decided to return to school for his redshirt junior season. As a result, he didn't play much in the spring -- Coombs said he's proven everything that he has to prove at this point in his career -- but the emergence of Doran Grant, who battled with Howard for a starting position a season ago, leaves the OSU coaching staff feeling just as good about its starting cornerbacks.

Spring surprise: Tyvis Powell

An afterthought a season ago when he redshirted upon his arrival from Bedford, Ohio, Powell broke out this spring, taking a hold of the Buckeyes' 'star'/nickel back position. Occupied last season by Orhian Johnson, the 'star' position seems to be an ideal spot for the 6-foot-3, 201-pound Powell.

Powell will still have to fend off currently injured Devan Bogard and senior Corey Brown to ultimately win the starting spot in the fall, but for now, it seems as though it is his to lose. In search of this season's Reid Fragel- a player who emerges out of nowhere to be a valuable contributor- Meyer may have just found this year's version in Powell.

To be determined: Will a rotation shake out

While last season's corners performed admirably -- neither gave up a touchdown reception -- it came at a price. Neither Howard nor Roby came off of the field in significant situations, save for a couple of bumps and bruises that each took throughout the season.

Coombs is hopeful that he won't be as reliant on Roby and Grant this season, and feels as though this year's unit has more depth than its predecessor. Sophomore-to-be Armani Reeves is a year older and more experienced, and both Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows enrolled early and saw significant playing time throughout the fall. Whether or not those players allow Coombs to use a more regular rotation this season remains to be seen, but as of now, that's the plan.

Looking ahead: Gareon Conley

A third freshman cornerback will arrive this fall in the form of the Massillon, Ohio native Conley. Coombs is excited about the potential of the three-star prospect, who could realistically play either cornerback or wide receiver for the Buckeyes, but will likely remain on the defensive side of the ball.

"As a corner he's really long, really fast. Really fast.I'm excited about him. He's going to be raw and he's going to need to be coached but that's what we're here for," Coombs said. "He has great ball skills and can play either side of the ball. We're fortunate to have him on defense. I hope I keep  him at corner."


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