Tyvis Powell played 732 snaps from scrimmage as a redshirt freshman in 2013, none more important than the last one of the regular season as he stepped in front of a pass from Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to deny the Wolverines the two points they needed to upset a heavily favored Ohio State team and send the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game.
He credited his pregame prep for knowing the Wolverines would run that play if they needed a two-point conversion, but he had to trust his ability to break on the ball and make the play. Now a safety in a different pass coverage scheme, he figures to need to do that regularly if the Buckeyes are to get back to the "Silver Bullets" of old.
"They're definitely putting us in position to make a lot of plays this year," he said at the team's annual Picture Day on Sunday. "I just feel like we need to make 'em, that's all."
Powell, playing mostly the Star or nickel back position, started five games and finished the season with 48 tackles last season. He broke up two passes and had an interception while recording only one tackle for loss.
While the Star has been a playmaking position at Ohio State in past seasons, he admitted he felt limited there in 2013. There should be no such problems this year, though, as Powell has a new position in a new defensive scheme.
"Some games I felt like I was out of the picture because I was so far away from everything, but now that I'm at the strong (safety) I'm kind of in the middle of everything so it gives me a lot more room to make plays," he said.
Cornerbacks often get the big publicity as far as defensive backs go, but safeties have become more and more indispensable over the years as spread offenses have become the norm across college football and given defenses bigger areas to cover.
Schemes like the one new secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash brought with him to Columbus last winter were designed to be a remedy for the spread, and they rely on players such as Powell to do a variety of things. One play he could be attacking a run while another he might be utilizing the cover skills he learned as a cornerback during his early days at Ohio State. The safeties have a lot of opportunity but also a lot of responsibility.
"That's when you have to rely on your technique," Powell said of mastering the new scheme. "The stuff the coaches teach is very key, but I feel like right now every safety is handling it very well. They do a good job of switching things up to keep the offense guessing. It is a lot of stress on the safeties, but with the players that we have I feel like we're confident in it."
Ash said he was happy to find upon his arrival at Ohio State how many of his new safeties were former cornerbacks, and Powell looks forward to combining his old skills with his new knowledge to turn in a standout sophomore season.
"I feel like I'm seasoned," Powell said. "Last year it was my first year playing so I didn't know what to expect, but now that I know how the game goes and stuff like that, I know how to prepare myself for the games to be better in the games. I just go out there and focus on the little things I need to focus on to make my plays and be 100 percent for the game."