- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tyvis Powell doesn't have to look hard for an example of a guy who has thrived under similar circumstances.
Last season, in fact, his big brother on the team had already walked the path of redshirting as a freshman defensive back and then made his way into the starting lineup in his first game on the active Ohio State roster.
Certainly there are some differences in the skill sets of Powell, a tall nickelback, and Bradley Roby, a physical freak who ranks among the best cornerbacks in the nation. But the last player to sit out a year and then become an instant starter like Powell on Saturday against Buffalo was Roby in 2011. That kind of company can bode well for a player who debuted with five tackles and has room to grow.
There were a few people surprised to see you out there starting on the first day of spring practice. Were you expecting to be thrown into the lineup coming off a redshirt year?
Tyvis Powell: Honestly I wasn’t, I’m not going to lie to you. But in January, coach [Urban] Meyer handed out self-evaluation forms to everybody, and after reading some of the questions that were on it, basically what are you doing to help the team and rating yourself, when I rated myself honestly, I felt like I wasn’t really doing anything to help the team. I felt like I was just here, and I didn’t want to be like that. When I recap my life later on, I don’t want to say I was just here. I want to do something to basically make a statement, make a name for myself. What I did was take the winter offseason and just basically work hard, get extra reps, make sure I constantly drilled and got with the older people who were still here, asked them questions about the game. They all helped me out, and then when it came to spring, the strength coaches were telling them, ‘Yeah, Tyvis is coming along.’ I went to meet with [defensive coordinator Luke] Fickell, and he said they wanted to see me at the Star position [in nickel]. So I just went out there Day 1 and tried it, and I’m still here.
You get the evaluation in January, but obviously you’d been feeling some of this stuff while sitting out the year. Was it a frustrating experience to be on the shelf? How did you handle it?
TP: I’m not going to lie to you, at first it was difficult for me to really handle it. Coming out of high school, I was known as a top player. Then to get here and you’re not really doing anything to contribute to the team, it really broke my heart, honestly. Back in the day, I used to write these blogs for the fans and tell them how I wanted to work hard for them, and I kind of felt like I was letting the fans down. When they told me I was redshirting, at first I was depressed about it. Now when I look back on it, I don’t think I was ready to play last year. [Former Ohio State safety] Orhian [Johnson] asked me, ‘Do you really think you’re ready to play?’ I thought about it, and it was like, no, I don’t think I am. Then I talked to Roby, he was my big brother, and he told me every day, you’ve only got one chance to live this life, you should make the best out of every opportunity you get. What I would do is, I was on scout team, so I approached it like, ‘OK, this is my chance.’ I was going against the starters every day, Devin Smith and Philly Brown, and I’m trying to work on my technique and those guys really helped me out. They would point out that I should watch their hips or tell me to pay attention to certain things, help me out to make me a better player. And then, obviously, [cornerbacks coach Kerry] Coombs was staying on me every day. By the end of the year, I started making plays on scout team and the offensive coaches were referencing me to Coach Coombs and telling him I was out there making plays.
Coombs has made it well known how hard he was on you last year. What is your relationship with him like, and was there any adjustment period with that aggressive style?
TP: Not really, because I would say my high school coach, Sean Williams [at Bedford High School in Ohio] used to talk to me just like that. He was on me, anything I did wrong he’d let me know. He’d tell me, ‘Tyvis, this is how they’re going to talk to you on the next level.’ He basically prepared me for it, so when Coach Coombs did it, I kind of liked it. I need that energy. I’d rather him get on me and try to correct me like that than not say anything at all, that would be like giving up on me. That energy, I appreciate it now, I think it made me better. I got it, the way he talked to me, he brought this inner me out of me, got me mad and [I] started making plays better.
After all that happened in the last year, you get on the field on Saturday as a starter in the win over Buffalo. Take me through the emotions out there.
TP: Oh man, first I had to get up and thank God about it. Basically, for the first time playing in the Shoe and knowing you’re going to play, I couldn’t sleep that night. I was in the hotel tossing and turning. I only caught a little bit of sleep, but when it was game time, I was hype, ready to go. Once the ball is kicked off, and you’re with your friends, it’s just fun. At first it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s fast, it’s unbelievable out here.’ But as the game went on, I kind of realized to myself it was the same game I’ve been playing since I was 9 years old -- just a little bit faster. I was able to adjust and be able to make some plays.
Were you happy with the debut and how you played?
TP: I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied. I’m never satisfied. [I'm] very hard on myself and trying to figure out what things I can do better. So, for my first game in the Shoe, I would say I did decent. I made a couple errors, and they weren’t big, but I’d rather eliminate all errors and play a perfect game. But stuff happens, and I’ve got to get better every week.
11hAndrea Adelson and Austin Ward