Football

ScoopNotes: Are the Corners Back for the Buckeyes?

One of the bigger questions for the Buckeyes coming into this camp season was how healthy fourth-year junior cornerback Cameron Brown would be compared to his former self.

Brown has been one of the faster players on the team since he arrived in 2018, but an Achilles injury last year cast a significant shadow on the cornerback’s 2021 possibilities.

Well, if Friday’s practice was any indication, those possibilities are going to be quite significant. Reporters were on hand for the first four periods of practice and in one of those periods there was some 7-on-7 type drills pitting defenders against receivers. Brown had a pair of nice breakups during that session.

“That wasn’t bad,” defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said of the disruptive stretch by Brown.

Head coach Ryan Day said earlier in the week that Brown was full-go, but was still going to have a pitch count. He definitely looked full-go on Friday, and then said as much after practice. Brown is currently feeling no after effects from his injury and believes he’s fast enough to do anything the position needs.

Based on what he showed Friday, it would be hard to argue.

The More The Merrier

One of the staples of a Kerry Coombs cornerback room is the utilization of a rotation of three “starters.” It was something that he hoped to accomplish early in his OSU career under Urban Meyer, but it didn’t take hold until 2016 with Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, and Denzel Ward.

In 2017 it was Ward, Damon Arnette, and Kendall Sheffield. In 2018 it was Arnette, Sheffield, and a sophomore Jeff Okudah. When Coombs left after the 2018 season and Jeff Hafley arrived as defensive coordinator, the rotation went away, even though the Buckeyes had three cornerbacks on the field every play with Arnette and Okudah out wide and Shaun Wade in the slot.

Coombs returned last season but the rotation didn’t. Not because he didn’t want to, but because of injury and lack of practice and development due to COVID.

This year, however, spring ball was great for development, Cameron Brown is healthy, Sevyn Banks is back starting, redshirt freshmen Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos have had productive summers, and super senior Demario McCall has impressed everybody since his move to defense in the spring.

Coombs very much wants to bring a rotation back, and it doesn’t have to stop at just a rotation of three.

“Three, four, five. If they can play, they’re gonna play,” Coombs said on Friday. “We’re gonna play fast, fresh players. And that’s not just at corner. Fast, fresh player. You’re gonna play. That would be the objective.”

That’s A Lotta Wattage

One of the fun things to do at an Ohio State practice is to watch the cornerbacks stand around and without looking at the jersey numbers, pick redshirt freshman Ryan Watts out of a crowd.

It’s easy, but the reason it’s fun is because there are times when he just looks so different than his cornerback teammates. He is, after all, a 6-foot-3 cornerback. Actually, he said on Friday “I’m like 6-3 and a half, 6-3.”

There are times you could mistake him for a linebacker. The Ohio State camp roster lists him at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. The concern for bigger cornerbacks has always been their ability to remain quick enough to turn and run with receivers who are smaller and perhaps quicker and faster.

Watts is adamant that he is quick enough to handle it and has only gotten faster at Ohio State. According to Watts, he is one of the three fastest corners on the team in terms of miles per hour as of the last measurement.

He couldn’t remember what his 40-yard dash was when he got to Ohio State, but “it was a fast 40.”

Kerry Coombs doesn’t seem to have any concerns about the first 6-foot-3 corner he’s ever coached.

“You know, we’ve coached a lot of long kids, we love long players here,” Coombs said. “We love tall players, but they’ve got to be able to change direction and got to play in space. And Ryan really does work really hard on it.

“He can’t be short. And we don’t want him to be. So he’s going to play tall. And we worked really hard on what that looks like and what that feels like. And I’m excited for his preseason”

Run DMC, Catch DMC, PBU DMC

Demario McCall is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma decked out in Scarlet and Gray.

This is McCall’s sixth season at Ohio State — with the first five of those seasons spent at running back or slot receiver. This spring, however, he moved to cornerback and picked it up quite well.

Well enough that both he and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs say that he’s going to play this year.

One of the things that both Coombs and secondary coach Matt Barnes love about McCall is that he doesn’t have any bad habits from years of playing the position. He’s new to it — though McCall did play corner in high school and believes that has helped him — but he takes the coaching and applies it every single time. In fact, the coaches have used McCall as an example more than once when showing proper technique to the rest of the position group.

Speaking with reporters on Friday, McCall was asked about his time at Ohio State and also why he decided to stick it out and not transfer for a better shot at playing time somewhere else.

“The thing that made me stay was the brotherhood that’s here. It’s hard to leave,” he said. “It’s hard to leave the love and the brotherhood and the guys in the locker room.”

If your opinion of Demario McCall is shaped based on what he has done over his first five years at Ohio State, that’s fine. But I suggest you watch the video below of his media session on Friday for a much better idea of who he actually is.