Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Rising stock: Doran Grant
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice in the books and Ohio State heading into its offseason conditioning program, BuckeyeNation is looking at the players who boosted their stock with the program the most during those 15 workouts. The offense went first last week, and it's now followed up by a handful of defenders who will be in line for heavy workloads this fall.
Doran Grant celebrates after his interception sealed the Buckeyes' win over UAB last season.
Who: The flashes of ability off the bench last season made it clear that Grant, a junior, would at a minimum be sliding into a starting position when spring practice opened. But Ohio State still needed to see something more from Grant to feel truly comfortable with him on the field consistently opposite Bradley Roby at the other cornerback. Truthfully, what the coaching staff really wanted to find out was if Grant was capable of being the top cornerback on the field if, for some reason, Roby wasn't available. And while Roby's nagging shoulder injury was a factor in a lighter workload during camp, the Buckeyes also pulled him out of some situations even when he could compete, just to see how Grant would respond to the pressure of playing at the boundary position in the secondary. After passing the test out there, Grant was able to tighten his grip at the field spot heading into the summer.
Spring progress: Few players on the Ohio State roster can stop a watch quicker in the 40-yard dash than Grant, and with comparable size to Roby, there aren't many physical concerns about his ability to match up in coverage, either. But extensive study of practice and game tapes by cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs suggested the issue holding Grant back from becoming a regular in the rotation last season was his slow read-and-react times in coverage. The Buckeyes have designed a number of drills that all their defensive backs can do to improve that, but nobody has taken to them quite like Grant -- and the results are showing up on the field.
Jockeying for position: There will be no shortage of challengers for Grant's spot when the Buckeyes report back to practice in August as one of the most talented signing classes of defensive backs in the country arrives. But the competition was already pretty intense for the Buckeyes in the spring, with Armani Reeves, Tyvis Powell and early enrollees Eli Apple and Cam Burrows all in a group pushing for a role in a deep secondary. Grant has a head start thanks to his game experience and some previous success in limited chances, but maintaining that edge will require more than just showing up.
He said it: "Our ideal situation is all of those guys play, all of them contribute. I think that’s healthy, and that way if a guy gets dinged or a guy gets tired, you don’t feel like you can’t do this, the sky is falling. My expectation is that there’s good, healthy competition among all of those guys and those young guys coming in are going to push them for playing time." -- Coombs, on adding more depth at cornerback
Closing number: Grant wasn't able to get his hands on the football as spring practice wrapped up with an exhibition in Cincinnati, but he did chip in four tackles while continuing to handle Roby's role. Roby was held out to rest an injured shoulder.