Aug. 16, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State Buckeyes practiced for about two hours Wednesday on the lush grass fields of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, practice No. 17 of the fall leading to the 2017 season-opener Aug. 31 vs. Indiana at IU’s Memorial Stadium.
The post-practice focus was on the cornerbacks unit under the direction of sixth-year cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who was named assistant coordinator, defense, earlier this year. Coombs and his unit have been on a roll of late:
• Coombs was named Rivals’ 2017 national recruiter of the year;
• He’s had an NFL Draft-first with three cornerbacks (Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Eli Apple) taken in the first round of the last two NFL Drafts; and
• He’s had four cornerbacks, including Bradley Roby, selected in the first round of the draft in the last four years.
Today Coombs talked about his 2017 unit, though. The losses of Lattimore and Conley means Coombs doesn’t have a returning starter, but true junior Denzel Ward played starter stats last year while a part of the three-man rotation: 468 plays on defense in 2017.
Third year sophomore Damon Arnette has experience: he played 181 snaps on defense last year as a freshman. No other cornerback has playing time for the Buckeyes but there is young talent with four cornerbacks enrolling early and going through the 2017 spring drills: sophomore Kendall Sheffield and freshmen Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson.
Coombs’ updates to the press included the following thoughts:
On practicing without two-a-days …
“It’s a completely different schedule. It’s the NFL schedule. The routine is positive. Our kids know what to expect every day. It’s morning meetings, it’s morning practice, rest time, meetings, walk through. I think our evening walkthroughs have been phenomenal. I think they’re a difference maker for us. I think we are getting more out of camp than when we had two-a-days.”
His top three CBs are …
“Denzel (Ward), Damon Arnette, and Kendall Sheffield right now. Jeff Okudah is making a huge push and has been playing really well the last three days. Shaun Wade’s last two days have been his best two as a Buckeye. Marcus Williamson started off ahead of both of those guys but he got a little bit of a ding, so he’s missed three practices. Amir (Riep) because he came in June is a little bit behind, but that’s just the nature of things. More than anything, the young guys have to learn the culture of the unit and the culture of the program. I think when they really get that, and it becomes part of who they are, it’ll be a really cool thing for them.”
Damon Arnette …
“Damon’s always had really good physical skills. … He’s got charisma, he’s got juice and he will remind you of Bradley Roby when he’s on the field with the swagger and the way he plays, and I love that about him. Everyday I’ve got to pull him back. He’ll still make some of those mistakes that come from a momentary lack of focus. But I’m telling you right now, he’s a football player.”
The mindset of the CBs …
“Our kids believe they’re going to play. So, their level of urgency about everything they do is raised. Because they know they’re not coming to sit the bench. They’re coming to play. When I recruit them and tell them they are going to play, it’s the truth. They have to come ready to play. I believe that the kid who runs out there at full speed, competent and confident in his ability, is going to be better than a guy who’s had to play 65 or 70 plays.”
On youthful defensive backfield
“I feel like the younger guys are a lot better than I was (as a freshman or sophomore). The competition is good … overall that means we’re going to be a better secondary. It pushes me to become a better leader.”
On his junior season
“I’m older and more experienced. I was the younger dude last year looking up to Marshon (Lattimore) and Gareon (Conley). Knowing that guys are looking up to me drives me and makes me want to become a better player for them.”
Denzel Ward comments
On going against Indiana & Oklahoma WRs:
We’re new starters, so they’re definitely going to challenge us we just have to step up for it.
On his role change:
I’m taking more of a leadership role this year. I’m trying to help out the young guys and do what I can to help the team out.
On going up against Buckeye WRs in practice:
They’ve been really good on the deep ball and getting the ball out quick, a lot of tempo. They’ve definitely been keeping us on our toes. They’re all a challenge, this is Ohio State. Austin Mack; he’s having a really good camp. Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Terry (McLaurin); they’ve all been playing really well.