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For most of his first eight months in Columbus, Urban Meyer has spent his time looking for playmakers on the Ohio State offense. According to at least one Buckeye, he may have been wasting his time searching on the wrong side of the ball.
During a 6-7 season in 2011, Bradley Roby provided one of the few bright spots for an Ohio State team that endured its first losing season since 1988. A product of Peachtree Ridge high school in Suwanee, Ga., Roby emerged as the Buckeyes' No. 1 corner a year ago, and heads into 2012 as one of the premiere defensive backs in the Big Ten.
But while the redshirt sophomore has made his mark on the defensive side of the ball, Roby is eager to offer more to Meyer and his staff.
"I always tell the coaches that I can play receiver," Roby said. "So one these days, they're going to put me on the other side."
Whether the Ohio State coaching staff takes Roby up on his offer remains to be seen, but playing wide receiver wouldn't be foreign to the 5-foot-11, 191-pound corner. A three-star prospect coming out of high school, he was originally committed to play wideout for Vanderbilt, before former OSU assistants Paul Haynes and Taver Johnson convinced him that he'd have more success playing defensive back at the college level.
"I always kind of liked defense, but I didn't know that I had the ability," Roby said. "I just feel like it's natural now. I was pretty much born to play cornerback."
If his first season playing the position was any indication, Haynes and Johnson were right. Roby recorded 47 tackles, three interceptions, six pass breakups, and defended nine passes during a redshirt freshman season that saw him emerge as the Buckeyes' undisputed top corner.
Despite his success a season ago, Roby has his full attention turned towards 2012.
"I feel like I did what I was supposed to do. I came in and I had a decent year," Roby said. "I'm just really trying to build on that. I'm not really thinking about last year, I'm thinking about this year and what I'm going to do this year."
But that doesn't mean that he didn't learn anything in 2011, especially with a 2011 season that saw a loss to Purdue and a closer-than-expected win against a 1-11 Indiana team.
"Don't underestimate anybody. Because, I mean, I had some good games and sometimes I messed up a little bit or like at Indiana or Purdue, because I really underestimated them," Roby said. "That's something that I learned, that you have to treat every opponent the same."
With a full offseason under Meyer and OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti under his system, Roby appears poised for a big sophomore season. He's added five pounds to his frame from a season ago, but he's also managed to get even faster, running a 4.31 40-yard dash twice this offseason.
Whether Roby uses his new size and speed on both sides of the ball or just defense won't be known until September at the earliest, but it's clear that Meyer and his staff are already aware of what he can bring to the table, as he enters fall camp listed as the team's No. 1 kick returner. Clearly excited by his new role on the team, Roby is hopeful that he'll also take over the Buckeyes' punt returning duties.
"I've been back there. I'm not first-string, but I've been back there," Roby said. "Hopefully I can get first-string in that too and make a whole bunch of plays."
Roby's size, speed, and special teams roles aren't the only changes he's made this offseason. The Buckeyes' top corner opted to trade in his No. 25 jersey in favor of the No. 1 uniform that he earned from the OSU coaching staff.
"I just want to be the best, so why not wear No. 1?," Roby asked. "And it's at Ohio State."
While certainly thankful that Meyer allowed him to wear No. 1, Roby said that he has bigger things on his plate for 2012.
"It means a lot because of course he's Urban Meyer. He has the name behind it and the history behind it, so he's been around a lot of players and for him to compare me to those players and say that I could possibly be on that same level as them means a lot to me," Roby said. "But I don't play for that, I don't play to impress anybody. I play because I want to be the best."
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