Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs doesn't want Doran Grant listening to the conventional wisdom.
"He shouldn't be satisfied with being the third guy," Coombs said of the true sophomore. "We do have two great ones. Well guess what, Doran? Don't be satisfied with being the third guy."
It sounds like Grant is doing his best to take that message to heart, and there's little doubt he has the skill to step up. He was a highly recruited four-star prospect coming out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary high school, Scout's No. 5 corner in the country in his class who committed to Ohio State in January of 2011.
It took about a week for Grant to jump into the two-deep when he arrived at Ohio State last year, but his progress stopped there with Howard and Roby entrenched in the lineup and Dominic Clarke also ahead of him on the depth chart.
Grant still played special teams and made six tackles while seeing the field in each of OSU's 13 games, but it wasn't until bowl practice that things seemed to finally fall into place. Forced up to the No. 1 unit with Howard battling a knee injury, Grant got his feet wet with the starters and boosted his confidence as well.
"I had some good quality reps," he said. "I made a few mistakes, but I also got a little better. I carried that into spring ball and I feel like my spring has been pretty good. I just have to finish strong."
Experience has also helped Grant. He didn't enter Ohio State early, meaning his first action a season ago came in fall camp. Despite his quick rise up the depth chart past such players as Florida State transfer Dionte Allen, redshirt freshman Adam Griffin and classmate DerJuan Gambrell, Grant wasn't able to break that deeply into the rotation at the cornerback spot while adjusting to the college game.
Now his time in the program nearing a year, Grant feels like he's more ready to play the game at the level it needs to be played both mentally and physically.
"I feel like I got a lot better," Grant said. "I feel like the speed of the game slowed down to me. I know more formations now, more possible route combinations and everything on the college level. I feel like I'm moving faster than I was last fall."
His fellow position mates are noticing the progress Grant has made while noting there are places for him to improve.
"Doran will be ready," Roby said. "He's a good football player. He's very technique sound. He's very coachable. He just has to get that attitude that comes along with playing corner. You have to have that confidence.
"He has that confidence, but he just has to get a little bit more physical. He's a real strong guy so I make sure to stay in his ear to use the strength that he has."
Of course, Roby isn't about to step aside for Grant to take over his spot, but the fact that Grant is at the point where he's ready to go is a net positive for an Ohio State team lacking depth at the cornerback spot.
The offseason dismissals of Gambrell and Clarke for disciplinary matters leaves only Howard, Roby, Grant, Griffin and true freshman early enrollee Tyvis Powell as the Buckeyes scholarship cornerbacks during the fall.
With that in mind, developing depth was one of the key tasks for Coombs upon his arrival from Cincinnati during the offseason. That's especially true given the fact Ohio State is expected to run a high-tempo offense that could result in the defense having to play more snaps than in past seasons.
"We're going to be a high-tempo offense, which means the defense is going to get a few more snaps probably," Coombs said. "You can't be a high-tempo offense with a defense out there for 75 plays and do it with two corners. We're going to have guys that are going to go in there and play ball and have fresh legs. We have absolutely 100 percent trust in Doran."
Grant hopes to be one of the top two players when Sept. 1 comes. If not, he'll be ready to go when his number is called.
"The best man is going to play, so whoever (Coombs) feels is the best in the room, they're going to start out," he said. "If I go into the season as the No. 3, I'm just going to come in when I'm needed."