Secondary has Depth, but Roby Remains Key Ingredient

By Kyle Rowland on April 3, 2013 at 10:00a
Defense, special teams - it doesn't matter to Bradley Roby. He'll score.

The expectations surrounding the Ohio State football team rest mostly on the juggernaut offense. Few comments are sent the defense’s way when hopes of an undefeated season are discussed. But there is one part of that other side of the ball that provides a senior nucleus.

The Buckeyes’ secondary features three seniors – CJ Barnett, Christian Bryant and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown. It’s one of the non-senior starters that is drawing all the headlines, though.

Bradley Roby enters his fourth season at Ohio State as a Jim Thorpe Award candidate and future first-round NFL draft pick. It’s also his final year in scarlet and gray.

Following the season, there was much debate about whether the then-redshirt sophomore would leave the Buckeyes after a perfect season and with so much potential still untapped. Roby finally came to the conclusion that another year of college would be wise.

“The NFL can wait,” he said. “I feel like after another year, I’ll be even more ready.

“I came here with a plan. I told a guy a long time ago that I was going to be one of the best corners to ever play here, and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished that yet.”

Hear that? After another year. Roby isn’t mincing words when it comes to his future. It’s now or never in regard to winning a national championship, which is the cornerback’s goal.

“This is going to be my last year,” Roby said. “Everybody knows that. I feel like I am a senior. Hopefully they’ll let me do the senior traditions and things like that.”

The ultimate Ohio State tradition is paying forward. And that’s what Roby and his cohorts are taking part in this spring. With inexperienced depth behind them, providing stability and leadership is vital.

The defensive line and linebackers are young. Both positions were areas of strength a year ago but represent the revolving door that is college sports.

“Every player has goals in my room,” said cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. ”The No. 1 goal for (Roby) is to be a verbal force in the team room. That is what he’s doing. In the meeting room, he’s teaching those young guys.

“I think they’re playing at a reasonably high level for spring football. The young guys are getting a lot of reps. We’ve got good leadership from Bradley Roby, and we’re competing every day. I really like the work ethic. They’re very diligent and very serious about their business.”

It’s not just Roby – Barnett, Bryant and Brown are also part of the veteran presence. 

“That’s going to be our backbone this year — me, Christian, C.J., Corey Brown,” Roby said. “I just want to be a better leader and everything else is going to fall into place. Everything will happen how it’s supposed to. If I'm a better leader, the younger guys are going to be better. If the younger guys are going to be better, we’re going to be better.”

This spring, Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, in particular, are two of the youngsters Roby has taken under his wing. It’s something he’s cognizant of because when he redshirted as a freshman, entrenched players sought him out to show him how you succeed at this level. 

Mr. ConfidentChristian Bryant is Ohio State's emotional leader on defense.

Still, the goal remains obvious.

“I’m chasing a national championship,” Bryant said. “That’s what I’m chasing.”

Unheralded and rarely used, Brown has emerged as Ohio State’s top extra defensive back. Meyer has a way of getting the most out of fourth- and fifth-year players. It’s been a trait of his during his head-coaching career. Many of those players have been defenders, even though Meyer’s specialty is offense.

Brown has been a special teamer and backup throughout his career. Last season, he finally saw more stable playing time on defense. He finished the year with 17 tackles, using that production as a springboard to 2013. His work ethic shone through during the winter and he’s continued to flash that mentality and potential in the spring.

“I’m hoping he’s our Reid Fragel,” Meyer said. “I’m hoping Pittsburgh steps up. He has to. He hasn’t done a whole lot around here. He’s a nice kid with some talent. He didn’t look very good. Now he’s got some confidence. We like the way he’s practicing right now. It’s time.”

Last year, Fragel was the major reclamation project. The converted tight end became the Buckeyes’ most dependable offensive lineman. Meyer is looking for the same transformation this season – a veteran who makes the most of his final season.

“I want to do everything I can possibly do,” Brown said. “Everything.”

Roby was pegged as a star before he even stepped foot on the field. In high school, a two-way player out of Georgia, he first committed to Vanderbilt to be a wide receiver before changing his mind and playing defense at Ohio State.

Maybe it would have panned out for him on the other side of the ball. But it’s hard to argue the results seen at cornerback. Roby finished last season with 63 tackles, two interceptions and a nation-best 19 passes broken up. That’s why the breakout year earned him status a first- or second-round draft pick had he entered the draft.

The importance of Roby’s return cannot be overstated. Ohio State already lost seven starters on defense. Another loss of a veteran would have made competing for a title that much harder. Instead, it’s business as usual.

“I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat,” Roby said.

He’s still lobbying to play offense. That became a mini storyline last year. Roby was constantly after his coaches wanting to play receiver. The company line then was he should master one position before taking on another. Well, it’s pretty hard to use that excuse now.

He might not play wide receiver at all, but if spring practice is any indication, Roby will be returning kicks and punts. That will allow his playmaking skills to be present on the field for two-thirds of the game.

“I made my decision (to stay) and I’m happy with it,” Roby said. “I’m glad I took that step, because it’s just going to make me better. It’s just going to enhance me in all ways.” 


Comments Show All Comments

Hovenaut's picture

Ohio State has sure been blessed with some outstanding cornerbacks over the years. Really impressed with the strides Roby made last year, eager to see him take his rightful place alongside the greats.

gwalther's picture

The play at the end of the Wisconsin game, in which he saved a touchdown that would've put Wisconsin ahead by defending two players at the same time was one of the best I've ever seen by a corner. So sick.

Class of 2008

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Totally agree. He did almost the same thing against Penn State. Our secondary is going to be redonkuless. 

The South will NOT rise again!

Larryp713's picture

With that said, how do you think, on paper, this secondary stacks up against the 2003 backfield? Is there any other recent backfields with this kind of leadership and depth (including the studs coming in)? This might be the Buckeye's best ever (acknowledging they still need to play the 2013 season, etc...)



Hovenaut's picture

No disrespect to Simon, Big Hank, Goebel or Williams, but Roby and Co are playing behind a serious pass rush to boot.

I expect turnovers, many turnovers.

osubuck57's picture

Our secondary may have a special year,with all these upper-classmen!! May take the heat off the front seven for a few games while they find their way.Glad Roby decided to stay.Can't coach leadership!!


nickma71's picture

Good choice. After all, how do you want to be remembered by the non Ohio State base? Like Maurice Clarett or Antoine Winfield?

buckz4evr's picture

Roby is a perfect example of why it is so important to not only recruit the top prospects, but also kids with character.  I am so happy to have him don the scarlet and gray.

sharks's picture

Cannot wait to see him get back at it.  I swear, my heart nearly stopped on the couple of occasions last year where opposing QBs threw perfect passes against him, only to have him flash in at the absolute last second and tip the ball away from the WR.
True shutdown CB.

A man got to have a code...

Larryp713's picture

I played cornerback in high school and have always loved the brashness and cockiness of the truly great DBs. Roby definitely belongs in the list of elite corners to ever don the S&G.
The Nebraska game, in my opinion, is what upgraded him from highly talented to elite, belonging in the same class as Springs and Winfield.
I was thinking about this yesterday... He is in his fourth year in the program, and clearly has a future at the next level. What would be wrong with calling him a senior this year, if he has stated his intention, and let him enjoy the fruits of that designation? I think he has earned it.
Go Bucks!!!



4thandinches's picture

Hopefully they will be a lock-down secondary this year so our inexperienced line and linebackers have a little breathing room. 
I'm glad to see he wants to come back for the purpose of winning a NC. I like that attitude.  

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

ih8rolltyde's picture

I remember a certain Mike Doss making a similar claim.........

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

Hovenaut's picture

And that turned out pretty good for Mike D.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i also think he deserves to be treated like a senior. i think he's a top ten pick.

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

Jugdish's picture

I agree. The players red shirt for the good of the team. Fourth year players with this kind of talent deserve respect. I am not trying to open a can of worms of red shirt vs. medical red shirt vs. gray shirt.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

Menexenus's picture

No way Roby gets senior privileges just because he plans to leave early.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

RBuck's picture

If he's a senior academically, I don't have a problem with that.

Long live the southend.

yrro's picture

Agreed. Senior standing should be based on academic progress, not on eligibility remaining.

RBuck's picture

Perhaps Urban could put Roby in as a WR for a play in one of the blow-out games? I'm thinking were going to have more than a few of those this season.

Long live the southend.

Dougger's picture

The ability of Roby to break up passes on plays when receivers got past him is remarkable. I think he's gonna lock em down wire to wire.
And here's to hoping Christian Bryant has very very few (or none) personal foul penalties this year. I think his head is in the right place!
oh man I'm jacked up

I like football

Menexenus's picture

Sure, if he's a senior, he should get senior privileges.  If he's not, he shouldn't.  If you want senior privileges, stay until you're a senior.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

BME_Buckeye's picture

I'm glad to see Roby return to finish his degree and improve his game. I think one of the main reasons he wanted to stay was to add his name to legends who have intercepted Penn State in a game. 
Also, let him enjoy the fruits of his labor and be a senior, he earned it! 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.