Tyvis Powell Saved Ohio State Against Michigan Last Season; Can He Help Save the Pass Defense, Too?

By Patrick Maks on August 13, 2014 at 8:15a
Tyvis Powell, American hero.

In case you were wondering, no, Tyvis Powell didn’t make the photos of his game-winning interception against Michigan last season into a poster for his own amusement. But it’s not a bad idea to consider for next year.

“It’s definitely time to go out there and get a poster of me making some more plays,” he said with a wide smile before giggling and bashfully bowing his head.

But Powell, a rangy and talented sophomore safety, doesn’t need many reminders of how he saved the Buckeyes from an embarrassing loss to their arch rival. People do it for him already.

“I got a bunch of tweets about it every day,” he said. “And I get reminded about it every day.”

For Ohio State, it’s a moment that ideally turns into a regular occurrence. Because Powell, an up-and-coming face on a defense looking for impact players, will play a critical role in whether the team’s well-documented defensive overhaul actually works this fall. 

After finishing 112th in pass defense and being a major pressure point behind the how and why coach Urban Meyer's previously invincible squad unraveled in 2013, the Buckeyes are hell-bent on fixing a defense that fell woefully short of expectations. You already know that. 

"When you come to Ohio State, we wanna be considered the best," Powell said after the team's Spring Game in April. "As far as last year goes, we were not the best defense."

Not even close. So Meyer, after vowing to be more involved with the unit than ever before, brought in co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash to help fix a problem that seems so much deeper than just faulty schematics and coverages. 

"Everything is a process, nothing happens overnight," Ash said a few weeks after being hired in January. "Just because I showed up, it doesn’t mean the Ohio State defense is going to be miraculously better overnight."

He's right. There's no magical potion or trick to cure a secondary that returns just one full-time starter in senior cornerback Doran Grant. Powell's the next most-experienced after starting five games last season – mostly as the team's nickel. In that span, though, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder showed bursts of potential that suggests why the Buckeyes need Powell to be someone they can count on this year. 

"He's really stood out and he looks like he's got a chance to be a real guy," Ash said in March. Translation: Powell could be a big-time stud. 

"I'm excited about him. The obvious is that he's long, he's tall, he can run. He's got great ball skills, he's a very smart player. He's got a really good football IQ," Ash said. "Up to this point, Tyvis competes, he's smart, and he's got a little bit of everything."

Powell, like most members of the defense, insists Ohio State is now faster, more aggressive and better-equipped to execute Meyer's small-group cohesion "power of the unit" theory thanks to Ash and a new playbook that's supposed to simplify everything and, in turn, fix last year's damning deficiencies. 

"Everybody’s definitely moving more fast and quicker. You know exactly where people are supposed to be on out on the defense so it just basically builds that trust and that confidence that you know your players are going to be where they’re supposed to be," he said. 

"I’m able to move around and see stuff way quicker than even in the springtime just from studying the film and stuff like that. I even tried to get the other safeties to learn the stuff that I figured out and it just definitely allowed me to go out there and move faster and be where I’m supposed to be real fast."

Remember, that's the sort of stuff that made Powell's heroic interception against the Wolverines possible in the first place. He knew the exact play that was coming thanks to cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs and thanks to watching film. 

“That was our season on the line," he said after the 42-41 win in Ann Arbor. "We had 12-0, the Gold Pants, the chances for a national championship. It kind of hit me, like, ‘I saved the season.’" He did.

So now, can he help save Ohio State's pass defense?

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