Doran Grant Steps Into Leadership Role

By Kyle Rowland on April 21, 2014 at 8:30a

Revert back 12 months ago and you would see Doran Grant readying for his first season as a starter. Flip forward to 2014 and Grant is a senior, the veteran in the Ohio State secondary and one of the defensive leaders.

My, how quickly things change.

With last season’s dismal finish in a far off place, the Buckeyes have turned the page. There are two new defensive coaches – Larry Johnson and Chris Ash – and an entirely new philosophy for cornerbacks and the secondary as a whole. In 15 practices, Ohio State has already cleared its psyche. There’s confidence and poise in areas that were dominated by self-doubt last season.

Grant is the most recognizable figure in the secondary aside from Ash. He’s the second-leading returning tackler and most active cornerback. Grant tallied 58 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

The spring of 2014 acted as a get familiar session with the new coverages. But Grant also asserted himself as the top player in the defensive backfield and a vocal leader. Oh, and he won a race, earning fastest Buckeye honors.

“I have high confidence in my room,” Grant said. “I love what we’re doing. As a group, we’re getting tighter and tighter. That’s what I’m enjoying the most, especially seeing the guys getting better.”

The youth is undeniable, according to Grant. It doesn’t have to be a negative, though. He admitted there were shaky performances in his first career starts. But the talent encompassing the secondary trumps any lingering inexperience. Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley and Eli Apple emerged as skilled corners opposite Grant, and Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows are gifted safeties.

“As a unit, everybody just bought into the coaches message of 4-6, A-B, just going hard,” Grant said. “Everybody did that, especially on the back end. We're going to take that into the summer.”

A more favorable style brings happy returns largely for less play calls. It wasn’t uncommon for players to become overwhelmed last season due to the amount of information that required processing in such short timeframes. The only reason Grant would be overworked in 2014 is because of added responsibilities.

Carrying the veteran tag comes with a certain obligation. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs saw Grant’s leadership skills firsthand throughout the spring. On any day, the meeting room quickly fills with Coombs’ booming voice. But it’s not the only sound. Tutoring the underclassmen became a theme for both Coombs and Grant.

Plenty will be new for Grant, too. He takes over the boundary corner position, which sets up a weekly showdown against the opposition’s top receiver. Grant will become more involved in stopping the run game and breaking down the offense.

“In our defense and our scheme, when you move over to that boundary corner, the responsibility changes,” Coombs said. “It increases, so you’ve got to take on a different demeanor in every thing that you do. Your style of play has to change, your responsibilities change, and that carries over into the weight room and film study and those types of things. To me, that’s where his focus has been in this offseason.”

When grading 2013, Coombs terms Grant “better than average.” And when comparing it to the present-day, Coombs believes the strides Grant’s made put him in the top percentile of Buckeye defenders.

“His improvement this year has been dramatic. I’m excited to see him play,” Coombs said. “He is a young man with incredible athletic ability. His combine-type numbers are going to match those of many of the great corners in the country today and those that have played here.”

When a projected first-round draft pick is missing off this year’s team, Coombs’ review of Grant paints a much sunnier picture than existed in the days after Bradley Roby’s decision. Grant acknowledged mistakes can be corrected by concentrating on fundamentals and other small techniques.

But the defensive barometer is pushing strongly to optimism. The mood is jovial, the players are talented and the coaches see waves of progression. As recently as four months ago, concerns were mounting.

“I feel like we have a lot of momentum heading into the summer and training camp,” Grant said. “It feels good, but we’ve got to finish it in the fall and take care of it. We were 24-0, then we lost two games, and I feel like we have something to prove. That’s what we did this spring. And that’s what we’re going to do this fall.”


Comments Show All Comments

Him1stftballl8er's picture

I'm really excited to see our secondary in action this fall. Fresh new faces and a scheme that seems like it could be the answer and missing element from the past couple of years. 

The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools. 

+1 HS
bergy22's picture

As my old coach used to say "Let the fur fly." Let these kids play fast and instinctual. Defense will look a lot faster and more aggressive just based off of eliminating some of the playbook. We will have superior athletes in most games we play and by the time we play teams with equal athletic ability, the young guys will have plenty of experience and hopefully brimming with confidence.

+2 HS
Horvath22's picture

Looking forward to the action this fall; I think more than last year.

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

It's also a confidence thing - if we can get through the first few games without a lot of defensive mistakes, that will give us the motivation for the B1G schedule.

+1 HS
Tim's picture

I'm excited to see more pass break-ups and interceptions.  There may be more long pass plays given up, but it's not like last year's softer scheme eliminated those completely anyway.

+3 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I'd much rather see us give up something over the top (which is a harder play to complete, often requiring precision timing and an accurate throw) vs. a quick throw underneath that, because of poor pursuit angles or tackling, turns into a 40 yd gain or TD. That is the most frustrating thing to watch, and I'm optimistic that this aggressive scheme will limit those types of plays.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+6 HS
nikolajz1's picture

Agreed. Most QB's we will face don't have too good of arms down field which is why it never made sense that we were protecting so heavily against this. It's not like we'll be facing Manning/Demeriyus Thomas in the Big 10. Most QB's can throw quick screen passes and slants that burned us last year. 

+1 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

Exactly what I wanted to say... The dreaded words 'tunnel screen' are indelibly etched on my psyche. I winced even typing that

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+2 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

At the end of the day, the players have to enjoy/have pride in the scheme they're playing. The only way to assure that you don't shut down the opposition is to believe that you're incapable of doing so. There was an over-arching lack of faith in scheme last year with the back 7, that gave us zero chance of succeeding. 

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.

buckeye4life050233's picture

that was a big thing last year in the 2 losses were us losing by taking 1000 papercuts from the opposing offense to our defense.  the bend don't break style is a great style when you have aggressive good schemes to get off the field on 3rd downs and don't allow sustained drives.  thing was we were playing bend don't break and then one guy or a couple guys would make one mistake and the opposition capitalized on it like 95% of the time.  I do like what I saw from the spring game.  Especially from McMillan in coverage.  He looked like he knew what he was doing when dropping into zones and played the ball especially well, granted it was a spring game

+1 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

One thing that could help the young secondary is that the Buckeyes don't face any remote threat at the QB position until Hackenberg and PSU in the 7th game of the season.  Navy doesn't throw, VT, UC, Maryland are all breaking in new QBs, and Rutgers returns a guy who led the 68th rated passing attack in the country last year.

DC-town's picture

I love the talk and enthusiasm about the fast and instinctual defense-  we as fans need to keep this in mind the first few times we get burned deep playing aggressive...especially with some youth, because its going to happen

'Piss excellence' -RB

Actorjonnyb's picture

My question is, why a couple years ago,  did we get away from the OSU defense with it's silver bullets to implement this confusing defense in the first place? Who made that call?

I keep hearing this statement about buying in to 4-6 seconds of effort every year as if the previous year maybe they didn't. But the previous year they said the same thing. Each year since Meyer arrived, they bought into that.

I am as excited as any to see the improvement this year. Let's hope it solves this problem so we can win the BIG and maybe more : )


+1 HS
CC's picture

It seemed to coincide with Heacock leaving.

Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

I almost know for a fact we will improve our passing D this year, but I am a little worried about how much we are going to sacrifice against the run.Shazier,Roby,Barnett,and Bryant were all a huge part of why we didn't give up and big runs most of the season. I have faith in the staff to make the proper adjustments and we will find out early what kind of tackling team this is going to be against the #1 rushing offense in Navy.Luckily we get them the first week with extra time to prepare because playing them in the middle of the season could have been a nightmare.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

BeijingBucks's picture

Y'all are worried about our rushing defense!? With our d line and perfectly suited downhill LBs?  I'm not having any of that.  Rush D is the one thing that never broke on our defense even through the Fickel year.  Don't just become negative nellies looking for something to complain about. Now if navy came out throwing tunnel screens... I'm all for the panic approach. Option though our D should have good lateral movement and be pushing their o line around at will. I seriously feel the speed we have coming off the edge really hampers the development of those complicated rush attacks. Contain contain swarm. Rinse, repeat. 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Osurrt's picture

Excited to see the young guys step up with Grant.....they seem to be buying what the coaches are selling. Now let's take it to September.

Toilrt Paper's picture

He only has to do one thing to make me happy. Stop face guarding and when the receiver looks for the ball YOU look for the ball. He was incapable of doing that last year.