Apple, Burrows Survive, Thrive In Spring

Both Eli Apple and Cam Burrows should have been in high school this spring, but instead, they chose to come to Ohio State early and get yelled at by Kerry Coombs for 15 practice sessions. The fiery position coach says those players passed his tests with flying colors, though.

When Kerry Coombs goes out recruiting, he looks for what he calls "the two best cornerbacks in the country" to add to each year's class.

Judging by their performances this spring, Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows are on their way to proving that to be the case.

The two early enrollees got plenty of time on the field this spring and showed a lot of promise. With Bradley Roby out for a good part of the second half of spring with a shoulder injury, both Apple and Burrows rose into the two-deep and received plenty of reps, doing a lot to impress their vocal position coach.

"They got a lot of playing time because they are really good players," Coombs said. "If you come here if you are a midyear enrollee, that's what our expectation is. I met with them through their high school seasons to make sure they understood that this is what the expectation will be. They still had no idea, but I thought they performed extremely well.

"It's hard to be a high school senior and to be away from home all of a sudden and to be thrown into our environment, but I thought they handled it extremely well. I'm very excited about their future. I think they're going to be really good players. I think they have a long way to go, but I think they know that, and that's nothing but good for the Buckeyes."

Apple and Burrows actually entered Ohio State as Scout's Nos. 11 and 12 rated corners, respectively – one spot ahead of Gareon Conley, the other corner in OSU's class, who is expected for fall – but each showed in spring why they are four-star prospects who might be even better than their rankings.

Apple (6-1, 188) is a long, lean athlete from Voorhees (N.J.) Eastern who had 17 pass breakups and two interceptions his senior year of prep football. He impressed during the spring game by filling up the stat sheet, perhaps most impressively with a strip sack on quarterback Cardale Jones early in the third quarter that led to Scarlet's third touchdown. Apple also recovered the fumble he caused, finishing the day with three tackles, a sack and a pass breakup in the end zone.

Burrows, meanwhile, is a bigger, thicker athlete, standing 6-0, 202 pounds. After helping lead Trotwood (Ohio) Madison to three straight state title game appearances – finishing with 14 pass breakups his senior year – he came to OSU and also showed a physical nature to his game, finishing the spring game with one tackle.

"I think they're two separate kids," Coombs said. "Cam is very, very serious. He's a student, diligent, quiet, maybe just a tad less explosive but 208 pounds that can run and hit you. Eli is going to be, I think, a little more of a streamlined athlete, but also long. He showed flashes of absolute brilliance and at the same time is going to mature. It's going to take a little bit more time it seems to me, although the conversations I've had with him over the last couple of days indicate to me that he is passionate about getting that done. You can throw him out there and play man-to-man and he's going to be pretty good."

Both players, especially Apple, also got what is becoming Coombs' patented in-your-face treatment during the spring. The coach has quickly developed a reputation for being rather excitable during practice, and true freshmen often find themselves bearing the brunt of Coombs' high-energy outbursts.

Ohio State's high-tempo, intense practice sessions are a shock to the system to anyone taking part for the first time, but there's a little extra intensity when that baptism is taking place at the corner spot.

"They were not prepared, and we wouldn't expect them to be," Coombs said. "They should be getting ready to go to the prom. They've never practiced like this. Can you imagine if you're a high school senior and you are the best player on your team – I coached high school ball and we played really hard in high school, but guess what, it's not like this. It's like a shockwave that keeps coming and coming, and they're handling it.

"And I'm not giving them any slack because in the fall, guess what? There's going to be no slack. We have every expectation that they're going to play in the fall. That's why they're here. You have to go. Here's the fire, jump in and go play."

As Coombs alluded to, there's often a method to his theatrics. A year ago, he was all over true freshman early enrollee Tyvis Powell in the spring, and Powell survived the baptism by fire so well that he was the No. 1 star on the defense this April.

While Powell was settling into his new starting role, he likely had to laugh as he watched Apple and Burrows get his old treatment from Coombs, but the position coach said the newest Buckeyes survived with flying colors.

"It's by design," Coombs said. "I thought their progress was fantastic. They didn't quit, which is a good thing. You ask Tyvis Powell, he'll tell you the same thing. Part of the process if you come in here as a high school senior, I'm going to callous you up as much as I possibly can."

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