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The Buckeyes are Young but Talented at Cornerback
By Patrick Murphy
Coach Coombs in working to have his young cornerbacks ready to play in 2015
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS – There are rumors around Ohio State’s campus that the Buckeye secondary wants to return the nickname “DBU,” or Defensive Back University to Columbus. The Scarlet and Gray have a long history of talented corners and after the performance of the secondary at the end of last season, this very well could be another good group.

While the majority of the talent is returning from last year’s defensive backs, there is no senior among in the room. Cornerback coach Kerry Coombs has worked hard with his young players to have them ready to go.

I love my unit. It’s a very, very hard-working group,” he said this week. “Now they’re young, but they’re eager. They take a butt chewing well. They come back the next day, they fight, they grind. They don’t know a lot, the young kids, but the veterans are doing a super job of pulling along and leading them. I love this unit. I really do.

Starting cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley should be just fine this fall. Sophomore Damon Webb, who is expected to be the starting nickel back, gained experience a year ago. It is the freshmen that need to grow up quickly, as there’s a good chance they will be called upon during the season.

I expect all of them to play,” Coombs said of his freshmen. “I don’t think you come to Ohio State to sit and to redshirt, and so we put a lot of pressure on those guys that they’ve got to find roles on special teams. They’ve got to find ways to help the team.

The Buckeyes have five cornerbacks with freshman eligibility, beginning with Marshon Lattimore. The Glenville High School product had season-ending hamstring surgery during Fall Camp a year ago and is looking to rebound and begin his OSU career.

He’s coming, he’s coming, and will be ready at some point early. At some point early he will be ready. He had a [hamstring] strain, just a strain, so it’s not a big issue. I think he can play in the first game, but don’t know.

“It’s frustrating when anybody’s not able to go 100 percent every day. But he’s got a good spirit about it and I think he’s going to be an impact guy before the year’s over.”

True freshmen fill out the rest of the depth chart and they are adjusting to the life of an Ohio State football player.

They’re playing a lot of football right now. More football than they’ve ever played in their life,” Coombs said. “They each have a unique skill set and we’re trying to mold them into what our corners are here, which is a little different than what they played in high school. I think they’re adapting and adjusting to that.”

Of the four true freshmen, all but Damon Arnette were four-star prospects coming out of high school. The most highly touted of those is Canton McKinley product Eric Glover-Williams, someone Coombs had to fight to get as a corner.

I think right from the beginning, even back in the fall I went and watched him play, and I saw some things in him that I really like,” he said of Glover-Williams. “He’s very competitive, so I wanted him in my room and I won. So he’s going to go and be there and compete.”

Denzel Ward was another four-star prospect out of Ohio, who will look to make an impact for the Buckeyes. Although he’s only been on campus since June, Coombs likes what he sees from the former Nordonia High School player.

“Denzel played both sides of the ball [in high school],” Coombs explained. “We recruited those guys for a specific purposes here, and he’s a DB. He’s doing really well. Really well. Really explosive. Got a lot to learn, but he likes to learn.”

While Arnette and Joshua Norwood may not have been rated as high as their fellow freshmen corners, what matters is what you do when you arrive at Ohio State.

This is true for all of the freshmen cornerbacks, who will compete to earn playing time behind Apple and Conley. With such a young position group, these pups will have to grow up fast to play their part in bringing back DBU.

I think all are in position to be in the two deep,” Coombs said. “Whether or not they play will be a direct reflection of how they handle the environment of a game and what transpires early in the season for them.”

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