After months of waiting - and the hiring of a rock star at head coach - the Ohio State Spring Game is finally upon us. With kickoff slated for tomorrow at 1:30pm at the Horseshoe, preceded by the Ohio State v Navy lacrosse game, droves of Buckeyes fans are going to pour into the stadium for their first look at the Urban Meyer Era.
The excitement around the program has reached a fevered pitch after a tumultuous year in Columbus - so what are we looking forward to? The Buckeye Bloggers Network has decided to break it down for you, group-by-group. We've taken on the defensive backfield here at BHC, and what better to focus on at Cornerback U? Our blogging brethren have tackled the rest of the field, which you can find here > Offensive Line - Running Backs - Receivers and Tight Ends - Defensive Line - Linebackers
What will be most different this year than last?
First and foremost, a new coaching staff can have a dramatic impact on schemes, personnel and the overall look and feel of a positional group. The defensive backfield hasn't escaped such changes with Urban Meyer's hiring of Cincinnati's Kerry Coombs to take over defensive back duties. By all accounts he is as intense as they come, but the players love him already. So what does this mean for the Silver Bullets? No. More. Press. Coverage.
Being the new defensive backs coach at a program known by many as 'Cornerback U' has it's own inherent challenges. Add into that a change in philosophy - away from some of the things that made names like Nate Clements, Antoine Winfield, Chris Gamble, Ahmed Plummer, Shawn Springs, Malcolm Jenkins - and a few eyebrows will be raised. But the change in philosophy isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the entire goal of backing the corners off receivers at the line of scrimmage is to promote play making. More passes defended - more interceptions - greater vision.
We'll get our first look at the new philosophy on Saturday, and after seeing the drafted rosters yesterday there are few intriguing match-ups to keep an eye on at the Spring Game.
Chris Fields and Evan Spencer (Scarlet) will see plenty of Bradley Roby (Grey) tomorrow, but I want to see the freshman match-up of Michael Thomas (nephew of ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson) versus Tyvis Powell when Tyvis sees time at the corner. Both are getting used to the speed of the college game, both are hungry to earn some early respect - and both are BIG. Each comes in at 6'4" and about 200 pounds with Thomas holding a slight advantage speed-wise.
Urban Meyer has promised a high speed, pass-heavy Spring Game. Will Coombs, his crew and their new philosophy be ready? One thing is for sure: Buckeyes fans should pay close attention. It could be unlike anything we've seen in some time.
You should definitely be excited - but there are some concerns.
Even with four experienced starters (Roby and Howard at corner, Bryant and Barnett at the safety positions) the Buckeyes will need to step up their performance compared to recent years. By the end of the 2011 season the defensive backs were arguably the weakest group of the Silver Bullet defense. It wil definitely be interesting to see what kind boost we can get from Coach Coombs, but when push comes to shove it'll come down to the performance of the individuals on the field and how they work together as a team.
We know what we've got in Sophomore Bradley Roby and at this point we should be far more excited than concerned about that young man and his future. We should know what we've got in senior Travis Howard as well, but do we? Everyone expected him to be as close to a shutdown corner as we would have last year, but that was far from the case. I think under Coombs new 'vision-corners' scheme Howard may just thrive, but time will tell. Tomorrow he'll be matching up one-on-one with the likes of Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Verlon Reed and as pass-happy as Meyer says he'll be on Saturday we may quickly learn where Travis Howard is as far as progression.
Who will stand out from the crowd - and a rookie (or two) we're going to keep our eyes on.
Last year freshman Bradley Roby took a hold of the leading roll in the defensive back field, and the sophomore version of #25 should be even better. Are we watching the "next great DB" at Cornerback U? It certainly seems that way, and he still has at least two more seasons in Scarlet and Grey to refine his skills for Sundays.
During his freshman season, Roby tied for fourth (Shazier) in solo tackles with 37, behind only safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, and linebacker Etienne Sabino. He also led the Buckeyes in interceptions with 3 (tied with Orhian Johnson) and all by himself in passes defended, with nine. Yeah, he was a freshman. This year, with new DB Coach Kerry Coombs going away from press coverage and into a softer scheme that promotes play making, we could easily see Roby double his interceptions and become a play maker similar to some of Ohio State's former greats.
Senior Travis Howard will continue to be a leader, and could very well be suited up for an NFL team himself if he can live up to his potential this year, but expect Roby to be the spark - the play maker - in 2012.
So who are we keeping our eye on this year, starting on Saturday with the spring game? There are two easy answers for us here at BHC. First, ever since since seeing the video of Najee Murray nearly decapitating some high school kid last fall we've been itching to see what he can do at the college level. As with any incoming freshmen we must be patient - as their time may not come for another year or two - but I definitely want to see Najee in action this Saturday.
More importantly - and obviously on a personal level - we're ready to see #23 Tyvis Powell on Saturday afternoon. We learned over his twelve weeks of blogging with us on BHC late last year, as a senior in high school and already committed to Ohio State, just how hard he works and how passionate he is about wearing the Scarlet and Grey.
At 6'3" 190 pounds he's gone from a stand-out cornerback as a high school senior to the Free Safety depth chart at Ohio State. With technique that Taver Johnson raved about while recruiting Tyvis, he has the potential to be a beast of a Buckeye with the few more pounds that will certainly get added to his frame during his first couple of years in Columbus. He's got size, agility, the desire to learn and a love for the sport and his school like no other. If you know his history, Saturday will be a special day for him as he gets to play in front of tens of thousands within the Horseshoe for the first time, and we here at BHC can't wait to watch.
Defensive Backs - By Number
2 Christian Bryant | 5'10" 190 | Junior | Strong Safety
3 Corey Brown | 6'1" 189 | Redshirt Junior | Free Safety
4 C.J. Barnett | 6'0" 190 | Redshirt Junior | Free Safety
7 Travis Howard | 6'1" 190 | Redshirt Senior | Cornerback
8 Armani Reeves | 5'11" 185 | Freshman | Cornerback
9 Adam Griffin | 5'7" 180 | Redshirt Sophomore | Cornerback
11 Najee Murray | 5'11" 175 Freshman | Cornerback
12 Doran Grant | 5'11" 180 | Sophomore | Cornerback
16 Zach Domicone | 6'3" 211 | Redshirt Senior | Free Safety
19 Orhian Johnson | 6'2" 205 | Redshirt Senior | Strong Safety
21 Jamie Wood | 6'1" 200 | Redshirt Junior | Strong Safety
23 Tyvis Powell | 6'4" 185 | Freshman | Free Safety/Cornerback
25 Bradley Roby | 5'11" 185 | Redshirt Sophomore | Cornerback
28 Ron Tanner | 6'1" 190 | Redshirt Freshman | Strong Safety
De'van Bogard | 5'11" 172 | Freshman | Strong Safety
Be sure to check out the rest of the Buckeye Bloggers Network for complete Spring Game coverage. Here are the links to the other positional group previews:
- Offensive Line | The Buckeye Battlecry
- Running Backs | The Buckeye Blog
- Receivers and Tight Ends | Our Honor Defend
- Defensive Line | Men of the Scarlet and Grey
- Linebackers | The Silver Bullet
Follow DB University on Twitter > DB Coach Kerry Coombs - Bradley Roby - Travis Howard - Tyvis Powell - Corey 'Pittsburgh' Brown - Adam Griffin - Najee Murray - Jamie Wood - Devan Bogard - Armani Reeves