May 14, 2011
Looking at the cornerbacks
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio State defense took a hard hit to graduation after last season and the cornerback position specifically was left with very little game experience with the departures of former starters Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence.
Chekwa - a recent draft pick of the Oakland Raiders - and Torrence had started at the cornerback position for the Buckeyes for multiple seasons before moving on.
Now Ohio State is left with trying to find replacements for two players who had become cornerstones of the Buckeyes' secondary.
Ohio State finished its spring practice sessions with a scrimmage in which 10 players from the secondary didn't participate because of injury, but with nearly a month of practice, position battles became a tad clearer heading into the fall.
With 29 practices to go before the season opener in early Sept., there's still plenty that can chance. BuckeyeGrove.com, however, brings you the up-to-date breakdown of Ohio State's cornerback position.
Get the full analysis below:
Key losses: Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa
Returning lettermen: Travis Howard, Dominic Clarke, Bradley Roby
Fall Newcomers: Derjuan Gambrell and Doran Grant
7 Travis Howard (6-0, 190, rJr.)
8 Dionte Allen (5-11, 182, rJr.)
25 Vincent Petrella (5-11, 179, Jr.)
5 Dominic Clarke (5-10, 190, rSo.)
25 Bradley Roby (5-11, 176, rFr.)
9 Adam Griffin (5-7, 178, rFr.)
1. How big of a hit was it to Ohio State's defense to lose both Chekwa and Torrence?
Whenever a team loses one multiple-year starter at any position on the field it is a blow. In this case, Ohio State loses two at the same position. There's no question that both Chekwa and Torrence had their faults, but the experience the two had built over the course of the past few seasons wont easily be replaced. Though Chekwa fell a little farther than expected in the recent NFL Draft, that's a professional caliber player the Buckeyes now have to find a way to replace. And Torrence, who could get a shot as an undrafted free agent, really came along after leaving baseball to focus on being Ohio State's cornerback. Ohio State always finds a way to "reload" - but don't take for graduated what this team is losing in the secondary in the absence of both Chewka and Torrence.
2. Who stepped up in the spring?
There was only one player who had practical game experience at cornerback heading into the spring, and that was Travis Howard. And from the first practice nearly a month ago, Howard asserted himself as the team's most reliable cornerback. Though the media's access to view practice was significantly decreased this year as Ohio State goes through some off-the-field trouble, every time we were invited to watch Howard stood out.
Because of his experience Howard came into the spring as the guy to beat for Ohio State's top shutdown cornerback. Though only so much can be accomplished in the matter of 15 spring practices, it looks like Howard all but solidified his spot on the depth chart. Not only did he make plays when on the field a year ago - think the interception return for a touchdown in the Penn State game - Howard had a great spring practice. That goes a long way in the coach's mind and his experience spoke for itself.
3. What should we expect from the other cornerback spot?
Who lines up as the starting cornerback alongside Howard in the fall is the biggest question. If the question had to be answered now, it would probably be Clarke, but there's a lot that can change in fall camp. Though Clarke took the majority of first-team snaps this spring, he was the target of a lot of attention from the secondary coaches. And by that, I mean yelling. Though that could mean the coaches are in love with his potential, it also shows that he has a lot to learn before he comes a trusted piece of Ohio State's secondary.
The biggest player standing in his way right now is Florida State transfer Dionte Allen. A former high school teammate of departed wide receiver Taurian Washington, Allen spent all of lest season redshirting with the buckeyes while sitting out a year per the NCAA's transfer rules. In doing so, Allen was named the scout team player of the week multiple times and brings a veteran mentality to the field. Standing out during the spring could help Allen find his way onto the field as a starter in his final year of college football. It will certainly be an interesting battle come the fall.
4. Are those three the only ones competing for playing time?
In a word - no. It would be a mistake to forget about Roby. Though he wasn't necessarily a highlight of Ohio State's 2010 recruiting class, he showed in fall camp last year that he could be someone to push the upper-classmen at cornerback. He didn't play on the defensive side of the ball until his senior year of high school, but Roby continued to make plays in spring practice. He had spent time with the first team in the spring and had multiple interceptions in Ohio State's scrimmage, which could be a sign of big-play ability. The coaching staff will certainly play out all of their options and Roby is certainly one to keep an eye on. He's still young, but he has already proven he can make plays.
On a final note, Donnie Evege won't be in the mix at cornerback in the fall because he suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice this spring. Buckeye fans have probably becoming used to hearing Evege's name during games, but it hasn't been because of extensive time spent on the field with the defense. Instead, Evege will now miss his second consecutive season because of injury.
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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