When Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs takes a look around his position group room, he sees nearly all the same faces he did last fall.
The notable exception, of course, is All-Big Ten performer Bradley Roby, who chose to skip his last year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.
Of course, losing the best player from a group that overall took quite a few lumps last season as part of what was statistically one of the worst Ohio State secondaries ever might not bode well for future success, but Coombs sounds optimistic he has the building blocks for a strong unit in 2014.
For one thing, the faces on his players might be the only thing that is the same this time around as two players who redshirted last season join a pair of veterans in the race for playing time and the team works to embrace a new style of play as well.
While much was expected of Gareon Conley and Eli Apple last season as four-star 2013 recruits, neither might have been ready to play physically. For Conley, who was listed at 6-2, 170 pounds at the start of last season, it was a matter of strength, while Apple battled an unidentified health issue that staff says is being better managed.
"Gareon is right in the mix," Coombs said. "Eli Apple has had a very good spring. He's over some health issues that had gone undetected and so I'm really excited about that and I'm eager."
After starting all 14 games last season as a junior, Grant would seem to have a spot locked up this year, but he is not treating it that way.
"During the start of (last) season I was a little shaky and I started to pick it up toward the end," he said. "I just felt like I was average. I know what I've got to do this offseason to become All-Big Ten player, and that's what I'm going to do. Just work on the little things again, recognizing formations and triggering to the ball better and making more plays."
Reeves also knows he cannot take anything for granted based simply on his experience. Acknowledging he had some ups and downs last season when filling in for Roby at times early and late in the season, Reeves is optimistic he can round into the type of performer he was expected to be when he signed two years ago as a four-star recruit.
"It's a new year, fresh start," he said. "Can't worry about what happened last year or even my freshman year. Have to worry about what's going on right now and in the future. Working on my game and helping the young guys work on their game too because I'm only as good as they are and they're only as good as I am. That's what we've got to remember. It's not just about one individual, it's about the whole team."
With four-star recruit Damon Webb joining the cornerbacks this summer, Coombs hopes to have a deeper group this year than he did last when only three players received the bulk of the playing time -- Roby, Grant and Reeves.
"We're not (deeper) yet," Coombs said. "But we will be and we'll have to be, so the style of play will dictate those guys have to play."
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