After Frustrating Year, Eli Apple Turns the Corner

By Kyle Rowland on April 7, 2014 at 9:15a

It wasn’t 105,000 fans in Ohio Stadium, but what Eli Apple did in front of an estimated 2,500 students at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Saturday afternoon qualified as a breakout performance.

The redshirt freshman cornerback snared two interceptions, chased down elusive speedster Dontre Wilson and delivered a bone-crushing hit to wide receiver Jeff Greene, who’s four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than the lanky Apple. All of it led to Apple having his black stripe removed at the conclusion of Ohio State’s third annual student appreciation day.

“It felt great,” he said. “I’ve been here for a while and to see everyone else get their black stripe off and for me not to, it has been tough. When I got the opportunity to come out today and make some plays and get my black stripe off, it just means the world to me.”

Apple was one of a handful of true freshmen to enroll last January, giving him an advantage in a push to establish depth in the secondary. He came to Ohio State as one of the top players in a class ranked as high as No. 1 in the country. But playing time never materialized and Apple was redshirted.

The spring of 2014 began with Apple attempting to earn a spot in the cornerback rotation. He was sidelined, though, by a still undiagnosed condition that left him fatigued. As team doctors monitor his ailment, Apple has finally grown comfortable on the field.  

The removal of his black stripe was the culmination of a challenging year. It might seem like a small gesture, but it marks his official welcoming as a Buckeye and acts as a rite of passage.

“I feel like my problem last year was me being consistent,” Apple said. “This whole spring, I feel like I am getting better every day. I have been working every day, focusing on my techniques and getting with Coach Coombs. I was anxious to show people what I’ve been doing.”

Teammate Nick Vannett, a tight end who’s collided with Apple this spring, said the hit on Greene removed all doubt when it came the status of Apple’s black stripe. Senior Doran Grant is the lone returning starter at cornerback, with Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley and Apple battling to be the second starter. After Saturday’s performance, Apple’s come into focus in the secondary.

Even if he doesn’t start, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said the Buckeyes will use a rotation at the position, echoing the sentiments of Larry Johnson along the defensive line. Reeves, Conley and Apple have all received first-team reps. For Apple, though, it’s especially satisfying after taking detours along the road to playing time.

“It just feels like a monkey’s off my back," he said, admitting there were moments of disappointment and hurt last season. “I look at some of the reports and sometimes it’s disheartening. My problem last year was just me being consistent. I’d have a good practice and then another practice I'd be bad. Throughout spring, I just wanted to get better every day.”

He was too anxious and restless before, eager to provide highlights for coaches. As the game slowed down, so too did Apple’s mind. Instinct took over and with it came the ability to defend at a high level.

“Eli apple has had a very good spring, so I’m really excited about that,” Coombs said.

The spring game is Apple’s next opportunity to impress, and he’ll get to do so in a game-like atmosphere at the Horseshoe. Regardless of future successes, a chip will remain on his shoulder. Apple said Coombs, Grant and Reeves have been constants in his pursuit for relevance. The trio has pushed Apple and advised him to remain resolute.    

“I have been [playing with a chip on my shoulder] since high school,” Apple said. “I didn’t do that last year because I was thinking too much. I have great leaders around me. Doran Grant and Armani have really been pushing me hard. Coach Coombs has been pushing me harder than anybody. Coach Meyer has really been challenging me.”

One year ago, Apple remembers embarrassing himself at student appreciation day. It foreshadowed the down season to come but provided motivation. Three hundred sixty-five days later marked redemption.

It’s possible Apple relished the festivities more than any other student, even those with stunned looks as they snapped photos with Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller.

“I just have to keep improving,” Apple said. “That’s the main thing for me right now.”


Comments Show All Comments

BucksFan2000's picture

Anyone with a name this glorious needs to be a star.

+6 HS
Waltbuck's picture

Great to hear.  Hope he pushes hard and can compete for starting time.

+3 HS
UrbanCulture's picture

I'm probably pulling for him harder than any other player.

+2 HS
johnjy78's picture

Totally agree! Ever since was one of the first commits in the 2013 class I've felt/hoped he would develop into a star for our guys. I believe he is the tallest corner on the roster as well at 6'1...we need bigger bodies back there in the secondary!


bucks_4_life's picture

Really happy for Eli. He was one of my favorite players in the 2013 class. I hope he keeps it up and earns quality playing time this year.

The juice is worth the squeeze

+3 HS
buckguyfan1's picture

You like Apples?  How do you like these Apples?

+11 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

I say that's "ONE BAD APPLE!"

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+3 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

Sounds like Eli is becoming the Apple of Coach Coombs eye.

+4 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Sounds like juice for you, Apple and myself.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

southbuc's picture

How do you like them apples?  (and I did get her numba).

KingsRite's picture

Apple Juice would be a good nickname.

“I have yet to be in a game where luck was involved. Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.” -Urban Meyer-

+2 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

IDK, brings up bad images of OJ. Although if he played like OJ...

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

-1 HS
BucksfanXC's picture

Although if he played like OJ...

What? You'd be okay letting him get away with murder?!

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

scrotieMcboogerballs's picture

Only if he helps us to get a national championship...

"Who do you think you are?!?!...I am!!"  -Pete Weber, bowling legend and dominator of the English language

+2 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

The ultimate utilitarian dilemma. Yes, under that scenario, someone would have to die, but the Buckeye national championship would maximize happiness for, and reduce the suffering of, Buckeye fans - which are the only group that matters in our utilitarian calculation. The murdered person would not be sacrificed in vain . . .

+1 HS
We'reStretchingandYou'reaKicker's picture


go squadron do good, defeat the opponents soundly, in the skirmish

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

Really, number one in the country? I did not know that. 

I season my simple food with hunger

southbay's picture

I hope that fatigue thing goes away.  I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV, but it could be as simple as a manifestation of heavy emotional stress and anxiety.  More days like Saturday could cure that.  Go Eli.

+1 HS
MassiveAttack's picture

Anybody have a link to what is being referred to in the following quote?

One year ago, Apple remembers embarrassing himself at student appreciation day.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

Kyle Rowland's picture

Just played poorly. Secondary as a whole was bad that entire day, which now looking back should have been a warning for things to come. 

OSUStu's picture

Great to hear.  I have been rooting hard for this young man to succeed.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

Jugdish's picture

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

+9 HS
BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

I love his size and his aggression!! We have been missing that of late in the secondary!! Bell, burrows, Conley, Apple!! I'm believing that our secondary is gonna go from weakest link to a definent strength!


Glad to hear that even though they're competing against each other for a starting spot that Reeves is helping him find his game. The Buckeyes will be better for this.

+1 HS
buckeyepastor's picture

Glad he got the black stripe off.  Curious how many others still have theirs.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+1 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

I believe he was the last one from the class of 2014.

It's great that he had the extra satisfaction of earning it due to a breakout performance in front of everyone.

DC-town's picture

Agree with Bereabuck- good to see the older guys pushing Apple- sounds like he has his head Inge right place also if you Listen to the audio from appreciation day.

i really liked him answering the question of "are you looking forward to the spring game?" With "I'm looking forward to getting better at Wednesday's practice".  Best of luck Eli, buckeye nation is pulling for ya.

make some plays (and some mistakes) at 100 miles an hour and we'll be pulling for you

'Piss excellence' -RB

+1 HS
gobucks96's picture

Best thing I've read today.. Congrats Eli!

+1 HS
Unky Buck's picture

Definitely some great news. Anxious to see it all come together on game day now. 

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

+1 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I wouldn't mind a couple of 6'0''/6'1'' corners with Tyvis at 6'3'' and Bell running around like a centerfielder. That defensive backfield could be a college version of the Seahawks with that size and skill.

nope, wouldn't mind that one bit!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

+3 HS
scrotieMcboogerballs's picture

I thought the black stripe was only for true freshman...So is this the 2nd year he has had a black stripe?

"Who do you think you are?!?!...I am!!"  -Pete Weber, bowling legend and dominator of the English language

DC-town's picture

Another example of a highly touted kid taking a season (or sometimes two) to make the transition- is as fans shouldn't be shocked to see this

'Piss excellence' -RB

+2 HS
stevebelliseeya's picture

In a world full of egotistical teenagers, this shows what kind of a kid Apple is. To be a highly rated recruit and be an afterthought for the first year of college...and then to continue to work hard with the right attitude speaks volumes for this young mans character. 

It must have been somewhat humiliating for him to still have his black stripe on and him embracing the challenge and rising above it makes me trust our coaching staffs recruiting decisions even more. 

Congratulations Eli and best of luck in your OSU career; we are all watching. 

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

At the worst, our secondary should be a fast and hard hitting group. Of course we need the blanket like coverage, but with the front 4 and back 4, our defense should definitely leave teams with bumps and bruises after games....the return of Vonn Bell only adds to that. If the LB's are average but hit hard, we really should have a scary defense that is feared. Hopefully teams are not just afraid to run, but afraid to throw short passes as well as safeties, LB's and even CB's make them pay the price for making a play.

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



+2 HS
Horvath22's picture

Congratulations, Eli.

+1 HS
allbucksallthetime's picture

I was very excited about Eli Apple being a Buckeye and look forward to great play from him going forward.  I'm sure having that black stripe removed will be a significant boost for his confidence  It's not how you start, but rather how you finish, that matters most.  

It was also very exciting to read that veterans Doran Grant and Armani Reeves have been so instrumental in Eli working through the difficult times.  For all the the crap Armani Reeves has taken for his play, it sure sounds like he is a great teammate.  Go Bucks!

bleedscarlet's picture

Good to see the stripes gone. As for Reeves pushing him, hopefully he pushes himself not to give up on plays and let TEs outrun him. If he's going to be a leader, he has to walk the walk first.... otherwise Apple may be the one giving the advice to him next season.

Slingin' swag since 1970


stevebelliseeya's picture

Lol, what are the odds that 3 posters in a row have the same avatar? Me thinks something fishy is afoot...

Or is that a placeholder for those who haven't selected a picture yet?

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool