Cornerback University Lives

On July 13, 2012 by Grant Edgell


Let’s get one thing out of the way before we roll too far down these tracks: Sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby will excel on Sundays soon. I know it; you know it; Roby knows it; Urban Meyer knows it; every current Michigan wide receiver knows it; and NFL scouts know it.

There. Done. The tradition continues – and it’s not about to die.

Ohio State has a long history of turning high school cornerbacks into NFL stars. The list carries on line-after-line, but somewhere within contains names such as Ahmed Plummer, Nate Clements, Shawn Springs, Chris Gamble, Antoine Winfield and Malcolm Jenkins. That six man list alone comes with 742 professional games worth of experience, 134 career interceptions and 3,401 tackles of NFL running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and whoever else decided to run into their territory over their fifty-four NFL seasons played.

While wearing the Scarlet and Gray of The Ohio State University, those same six former Buckeyes also accounted for four All-American nods and two Jim Thorpe Awards.

Go ahead, Ahmad. Throw in your 1999 Academic All-American selection to sit next to your National Scholar-Athlete Award of the same year and it shines things up even brighter.

The amount of tradition at Ohio State is unmatched by nearly every other institution in America, from the fight song to TBDITL that plays it. But if you think the history – and the future – of ultra-successful cornerbacks coming out of Columbus isn’t one of those traditions then you simply haven’t been paying attention for a few decades.

If you haven’t noticed, Urban didn’t come to Columbus to ‘do the best I can.’ He came to win Big Ten titles, National Championships, beat Michigan every single time he plays them and field the best talent America has to offer. A few will say they wish he would recruit a few more from within the Ohio borders to keep that in-state tradition alive. Ok, ok. Very few. But his willingness to hunt down the best players from around the country, and then land in their living room, is what got him yet another name that may one day land on the list above.

On Thursday, class of 2013 Ohio State commit Eli Woodard was given his fifth star in his ESPN ranking that moved him up to the third best cornerback recruit in the country and seventh best player overall according to the worldwide leader. He’s from Voorhees, New Jersey – not exactly a historic, east coast pipeline for the program. Wait, strike that. 2008 All-American corner and current New Orleans Saint Malcolm Jenkins is from East Orange, NJ. So – maybe it is.

Woodard recently attended the invite-only Nike camp in Beaverton, Oregon, simply known as The Opening, and stood out among 150 of the nations best high school talent. His performance in the Great Northwest ultimately landed him that fifth star and now has the Buckeye faithful, and Urban Meyer, wondering if he might be ‘the next great one’ at Ohio State. The potential is certainly there, but there’s a lot to be done between The Opening and All-American..

Eli had fourteen offers when he committed back in February, including those from conference rivals Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Purdue, as well as Alabama, Notre Dame and a handful of others. But Eli isn’t the only, or even the first ESPN150 cornerback, to land on Urban’s list of 2013 commitments.

Cam Burrows, the 6’0″ 200-pound corner out of Ohio’s Trotwood-Madison High School committed to Meyer and the Buckeyes back on January 19th. He’s a four-star according to ESPN, Scout and 247Sports, landing as the 19th best player on the ESPN150, while the Rivals recruiting service has him listed as a five-star. He, too, attended The Opening in Oregon last weekend and earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at the end of the pool play section of the 7-on-7 competition.

With his big, tall frame Burrows may ultimately be better suited at the safety position once he arrives in Columbus, but if his size can translate into a Division-1 cornerback for a school known for them, look out. The sky is the limit for both Woodard and Burrows, but the Buckeyes are officially loaded with overall talent at the corner position heading into the Urban Meyer Era.

The current roster has returning corners Travis Howard, Roby and rising talent Doran Grant as well as 2012 commits and current freshmen Tyvis Powell and Armani Reeves. While thin in numbers now, the arrival of Burrows and Woodard next year has the future of the position looking exactly like the past – stellar.

Meyer’s track record will tell you that he’s an offensive genius after having success everywhere he’s gone as a collegiate head coach. He’s an innovator that focuses on getting the ball into the hands of his best play makers in space. He knows match-ups and understands where his advantages lie and maximizes all of them. But his record after ten years of being a head coach will also tell that he knows coaching talent when he sees it.

The long list of former Meyer staffers who have since taken head coaching jobs includes names such as Dan Mullin (Mississippi State), Charlie Strong (Louisville), Tim Beckman (Illinois), Doc Holliday (Marshall) Steve Addazio (Temple), Dan McCarney (North Texas), Kyle Whittingham (Utah) and Gary Anderson (Utah State). So who did Meyer select to lead those who look to carry the Cornerback U. tradition? With rave reviews from players and media alike, Kerry Coombs from the University of Cincinnati.

Coach Coombs brings with him an intensity like no other to the Scarlet and Gray. His basic plan of attack is to tear each one of his guys straight to the ground before building them back up better than they started. He’s certainly doesn’t go easy on the young freshman Tyvis Powell to ease him into the college game, but all of his intensity isn’t aimed solely at the new kids on the block. He’ll get into vet Travis Howard and stand-out Bradley Roby just as quick – just as intensely – with the exact same purpose. Two experienced young men looking to make it to the next level certainly appreciate his dedication to the craft.

Coombs expects constant improvement if not near-perfection. He’s the ideal personality for a young position group, with only the senior Howard being beyond his sophomore year, who have plenty to learn. He commands respect from his team, will punish them when they don’t live up to the expectation, and is just as intense in congratulating them when they succeed. For the fans it’ll be entertaining to watch on Saturdays. For his players he’s an important piece of the puzzle that may get them to the next level.

You don’t become known as Cornerback University without feeding a consistent amount of star-power to the NFL. Ohio State has done just that, most recently with the All-American Jenkins heading to New Orleans to represent THE Ohio State University. The pieces are starting to fall into place for Urban Meyer to continue that trend into the future.

Bradley Roby is headed for a Sunday date with destiny. With a strong senior season Travis Howard still has the potential to join him. Combine hard-working kids in Powell and Reeves with a harder working coach in Coombs – and then bring in a couple of stars in 2013, and you have the formula for continued success at the position into the future. The question isn’t when the next Buckeye cornerback will make it to the League. The question is simply – who?




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