Cornerbacks Hope Tweak Leads To Turnovers

The Ohio State football team's offense has been the subject of a lot of talk leading up to the 2012 season, but the secondary has also undergone a tweak. Read on to find out what that is and how the Buckeyes hope it will lead to success Saturday afternoon against Miami (Ohio).

The Redhawks from Miami University will bring a pass-heavy spread offense to Ohio Stadium Saturday afternoon. Led by senior quarterback Zac Dysert, Miami's attack will challenge Ohio State's secondary early and often.

That is music to senior cornerback Travis Howard's ears.

"We've got to make sure we're on our toes," Howard said. "We've got to be locked in and tuned in every play because the quarterback has a great arm. If you give him enough time back there, he's going to make things happen."

Howard is excited to face the Redhawks' challenge because it will be the first time the secondary will take the field since tweaking its approach. With the arrival of new head coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff, Ohio State's cornerbacks have equipped an approach that will see starters Howard and sophomore Bradley Roby play off receivers more than in previous years.

The reason why is simple: It allows the cornerbacks more chances to make reads on quarterbacks and – hopefully for Ohio State – create more turnovers. Takeaways were not a strength for the Buckeyes last season, as the team picked off only 13 passes last season. That figure was fourth best in the Big Ten, which isn't bad, but it also isn't what Ohio State was hoping for, either.

"You only have 13 interceptions last year? That's not good at all," Roby said. "That's what we've been working on this year, getting more interceptions, more turnovers."

The defense will generally look the same as it has in recent years, but the cornerbacks hope the small change in their approach will create big changes.

"It's the same guys and the same defensive coordinator, but at the same time we're playing a lot more off (the line of scrimmage)," Howard said. "That gives us more opportunities to make plays on the ball. (The coaches) said we have a lot of guys who can go out there and compete and make a lot of plays on the ball, so playing a lot of man-to-man really wouldn't be a great idea.

"So we're (playing) off so we can read the quarterback. Then we are able to go out there and make great plays and great read."

Howard admitted that cornerbacks generally like to play press coverage, which gives the defender a chance to go mano-a-mano against a receiver with the hopes of shutting the offensive player down. But Howard added that new cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told his charges that playing off the receiver will work out for the best.

"One thing I've learned from Coach Coombs is that if you can play off it will elevate your game," Howard said. "We were so tuned into playing press a lot last year that we weren't able to play off and get reads on the quarterback. So we're kind of switching it up. We'll still play press, but not as much as we did last year."

When the Buckeyes and Redhawks kick off at noon on Saturday, most eyes will be on the Ohio State offense. There are plenty of questions still to be answered for Braxton Miller and OSU's new spread attack, but it will be worth watching how the secondary fares against Dysert, who led the nation's No. 14 passing attack last season.

"It will be a great challenge," Howard said.

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