Ohio State's Cornerbacks Limiting Big Plays in Passing Game at an Impressive Rate

By Tim Shoemaker on September 29, 2016 at 8:35 am
Marshon Lattimore lines up in press coverage.

The list of impressive stats for Ohio State's defense so far this season is rather long.

There's the team's nine interceptions, a number that ranks fourth nationally. Then there are the four defensive touchdowns, which is No. 1 in the country. And how about the 12.3 points per game the Buckeyes' defense is allowing? That mark is good for ninth in the nation.

But another number that's quite impressive is how many big plays Ohio State has limited its opponents to through the first three games of the season. According to CFB Film Room, the Buckeyes' cornerbacks have allowed just three receptions on 21 targets all season of 10-plus yards. That's a success rate of 14.2 percent for opposing offenses. 

The number is rather impressive, but Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said it's one his unit strives for.

“Last year we played 13 games and I think we gave up 16 passes of more than 10 yards at the cornerback position so it’s kind of a standard that we’re trying to set," Coombs said Wednesday. "We spend an inordinate amount of time defending the deep ball and the deep shot."

So far, that extra time has paid off.

The Buckeyes rotate a trio of corners in Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward with a fourth, Damon Arnette, as the team's primary nickel. Together, they've combined for four of the nine interceptions and have seven pass breakups. 

"It's a really nice setup right now," head coach Urban Meyer said. 

"I just know it's working," Lattimore added. "That's all I know."

Coombs said Ohio State is susceptible to big plays through the air because of the style its cornerbacks play. Conley, Lattimore and Ward are in one-on-one press coverage on the outside on just about every play.

It falls on them to deny opposing wide receivers. One mistake could lead to a big gain or, even worse, a touchdown. 

For the most part, that hasn't happened yet. 

"I think we have to work very, very hard to defend that because we’re in press coverage so often and we’re vulnerable to those throws," Coombs said. "People are going to throw them on us so we’ve got to go play them."

It's been so far so good for the Buckeyes' cornerbacks. 

And if the big plays continue to be limited at this current rate, it will be just another eye-popping stat for Ohio State's defense when the season finally comes to an end. 

"I think I can talk for all those corners, we like going out there and playing fresh," Ward said. "When we play fresh I feel like we're more comfortable playing."

"It's all recruiting," Meyer added. "I don't think we've ever had three at the quality that we have right now."

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