The Starting Point

By Michael Citro on September 5, 2013 at 4:15p
Reeves found his starting point on Saturday.

When Bradley Roby started his first Ohio State game in 2011, the Buckeyes allowed just 55 passing yards.

Akron attempted only 19 passes that day and completed only seven, but it’s hard to say just how much Roby had to do with any of that. He made no tackles and finished with no pass breakups or interceptions. Five Ohio State sacks that day convinced the Zips that dropping back was an exercise in futility.

Roby’s coverage probably had some kind of effect on the game, but if his name weren’t on the starting lineup in the box score, you’d never even know he played in that 42-0 curb stomping. Dominic Clarke, his partner that day, finished with four tackles and broke up two passes.

Two years later, Armani Reeves stepped into the breach created by Roby when he put himself in a bad spot — a Bloomington, Ind. bar. Roby’s one-game suspension led to Reeves’ first career start in the 2013 home opener against Buffalo, a comfortable 40-20 win.

The sophomore from West Roxbury, Mass., coming off a 2012 knee injury, appeared in six games as a true freshman a year ago. He even saw a few plays at corner against Miami. The coaching staff deemed his play in camp worthy of a start in Roby’s absence.

Some would call his first career start a bust. His position coach, Kerry Coombs, called his performance “average.”

Head Coach Urban Meyer was a little more harsh.

"He got exposed there for a minute, but I expect him to continue to get better. He's a tough kid."

Rest assured, no one has been tougher on Reeves this week than himself — not a single Buckeye fan, coach or teammate.


Aside from some missed tackles and, at times, improper technique while defending a larger opponent, Reeves did basically what was asked of him, minus a personal foul penalty he drew for finishing a play a bit too aggressively on the sideline.

"I just have to not get nervous and not put my head down. I’ve done this since I was in fifth Grade." - Armani ReevesThe soft coverage he played was by design. With so many youngsters starting on a rebuilt defense, and without the luxury of starters Roby and C.J. Barnett, Ohio State opted to play it safe. The Buckeyes weren’t aggressive, choosing instead to sit back and prevent the big play. You wanted tighter coverage, but if Meyer and his staff had agreed, they'd have certainly changed things up.

For the most part, Ohio State's strategy worked. The Silver Bullets held the Buffalo offense to just 258 total yards and two touchdowns, despite being put in bad positions by the offense several times. The Bulls threw for a total of 185 yards. And yes, many of those yards came at the expense of first-time starter Reeves.

“It was a lot of throwing at me, a lot of everything,” Reeves said. “I would throw at me too.”

Reeves finished with three tackles on Saturday — all solos — and three pass breakups, one of which he nearly intercepted. His overall game was hurt by a few bad angles and some poor technique in the open field, which led to extra yards after the catch. It was reminiscent of Ohio State’s defense early last season.

Like last season’s mid-stream corrections, Reeves feels like his mistakes are not beyond fixing.

“I just have to work on my fundamentals,” he said. “I feel like I’m a great tackler. I just have to not get nervous and not put my head down. I’ve done this since I was in fifth grade.”

A gifted athlete, the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Reeves made his mark on special teams his freshman season. He was a fixture on the “Piranhas” kickoff cover team and saw 52 plays in the six games in which he appeared, recording two solo tackles and earning his varsity letter.

While criticism of his first start at cornerback is not unwarranted, it’s doubtful that many of us were spectacular our first day on the job, and we were probably asked to do a lot less.

As Reeves gains experience and confidence, he’ll be able to play closer to the line of scrimmage and press receivers when needed. It’s perhaps unfair to compare him to a player like Roby, but then again Reeves recorded three more tackles and broke up three more passes in his first game than Ohio State’s All-B1G cornerback did.

The pieces are all there for Ohio State's No. 26. Saturday’s game against Buffalo was just step one in putting them all together. You've got to start somewhere.


Comments Show All Comments

ohio gf's picture

Very good read....that game will do him wonders in the future...he will be fine, and will learn from the experience.

BuckGuy003's picture

Wasn't impressed by reeves, but when you put the perspective of it being his "day on the job" it makes it a little more acceptable. Guess were just spoiled!

Dirty419Boy's picture

Wasn't long ago folks were calling Doran Grant a bust- now he's a borderline lock down corner.  I believe Reeves will be a good one.

gumtape's picture

After two starts Doran grant is better than Travis Howard ever was.

High and tight boo boo

faux_maestro's picture

Who was calling Doran Grant a bust? Are you thinking of Curtis Grant?

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

Dirty419Boy's picture

No, I'm thinking back to last year when more than a few seem to forget DG was a playing as a freshman.

Zimmy09's picture

What people have to remember also is that not only is he a true sophomore but he missed the final 6 games of his freshman season due to a knee injury.  He struggled at times Saturday but he is essentially still a freshman when it comes to actual time on the field and practice.  He will be good for the Buckeyes for years to come.

RMichaelS's picture

Anybody, including Roby, will have trouble with a 6'3", long armed, experienced & accomplished  receiver;  it takes a lot of technique to stop a high reception & even more to break it up once it's in the receiver's hands.   Time will teach.

Gulfstreambuckeye's picture

They took what ohio state gave them. Short throws were basically a gimme due to the very soft coverage. Not the Cb's fault. Maybe they are saving that look for a good team? We can only hope.

Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust...but life goes on.

InHartWeTrust's picture

They are saving that look for when 2 of the 4 regular starters/veterans return, as has been stated plenty of times this week.
You don't play press with two new starters and a new starting safety...especially when it wasn't necessary due to the scoreboard, or opponent's offensive production.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

I think it says a lot about Armani that he stepped up and owned his mistakes (of course, with UFM as your coach, you almost have to do that).
Playing corner is probably one of the toughest positions on the football field, especially when you're starting your first game and are covering the other team's best receiver.
This experience can only help him, as well as adding depth to our defensive backfield down the road.

zbd's picture

Roby is the fastest on the team at 4.26. Doran Grant at 4.32, Ryan Shazier at 4.35.  If speed kills, there should definitely be some victims on Saturday. Bradley needs to also run away from bars that fast in Bloomington or elsewhere next time.

buckskin's picture

Replacing possibly the best corner in CFB on a national stage with practically the whole state of Ohio hanging on every play in anticipation?  Yeah, I could see nerves playing a factor.  Great to hear he wasn't sugar coating his play.  He will get better and be a key contributor for years to come.  

pjtobin's picture

I think everyone has room for improvement. After this year he will be a beast. I hope he keeps up the hard work. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

Blue Eyed Buckeye's picture

I can't wait to see the defense back in action!  This team is going to be a work in progress all season, but I can see it progressing to an exemplary state.

Boxley's picture

Great article, I wish that many more people would step back and really look at what was happening on the field. 9-10 new starters on D on the field for more than half of the game. CB is the toughest position on D, because if you screw up the other team scores, or gets big gains.
He was in a tough spot and you know Buffalo game planned against him as he was the new guy, all teams would. He still held his own under  fire and will be that much better the next time. Everyone has a first day on the job. They get better or move on. I think Armani will be just fine.
The fact that he makes no excuses for his performance shows great character and is very good in showing he "gets it". He will just work harder to correct his mistakes.
Let's all just wait until games 6-7 to start crapping on this team. We will know all we need to about how the season will close by the end of the Wisconsin game.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt