Reeves Ready To Be New Nickel

One year after starting in Bradley Roby's stead in Ohio State's opening game vs. Buffalo, Armani Reeves is in a different position going into the Navy game. Now Ohio State's nickel back, the junior feels ready to shine in his new role.

Ohio State junior Armani Reeves, the understudy to 2014 NFL first-round draftee Bradley Roby for much of last season at cornerback, is now at the top of the depth chart as the nickel back heading into Saturday’s game vs. Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

That’s the good news for the West Roxbury, Mass., native. Playing that position can mean plenty of snaps in the current pass-happy spread offense landscape of college football.

The problem is that Navy is an anomaly. Using a triple-option attack goes against the grain of the pass-first philosophy, Reeves and his defensive teammates will see a style they won’t encounter the rest of the season.

Navy netted 325.4 yards rushing per game last season (second in the NCAA FBS) while averaging just 11.2 passes, meaning Ohio State’s aggressive secondary coverage philosophy implemented by new defensive co-coordinator Chris Ash may not fully be on display against the Midshipmen.

“It’s kind of ironic,” Reeves said. “You work so hard the offseason, going to spring ball and into the season doing press man, you’re expecting a spread team, then all of a sudden you get this triple option. It’s unique offense with the wishbone. It takes a little more effort, little more film.”

Reeves said the Buckeyes will be alert when Navy does go to the air.

“They have a lot of guys who like to cut and like to get to the edges,” he said. “It’s repetition, seeing it over and over again. Once you get that down, it’s knowing your assignments, executing them and not trying to get (greedy) and make plays. Just make the plays you’re supposed to do and which you’re alignment allows you to do.”

Senior Doran Grant, the most experienced player in the secondary, said Ohio State has to be leery of an opponent who has had an entire preseason to prepare for the No. 5 Buckeyes and may spring a few tricks.

“We’re going to be ready for anything,” he said.

Ohio State knows it can’t be lulled to sleep by Navy’s ground game. In the last meeting on Sept. 5, 2009, OSU had a 29-14 lead with seven minutes to play before the Midshipmen rallied, starting with an 85-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Dobbs to Marcus Curry to stun the Ohio Stadium crowd.

Navy pulled to within 29-27 with 2:23 left but its try for the two-point conversion backfired when Brian Rolle intercepted Dobbs and returned it for two points.

The Midshipmen now have a talented rushing quarterback in junior Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen under coach Ken Niumatalolo ranked first in the NCAA last season in fewest penalties (2.6) and fewest penalty yards per game (21.6). “You have to be disciplined,” OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “You have to be accountable to stop this offense. This will be a big test how disciplined we are, how fundamentally sound we are and what kind of execution we have.”

While Grant locked down one corner, redshirt freshmen Gareon Conley and Eli Apple are vying to be the other starting cornerback.

“I’m very confident in them,” Grant said. “They’re both athletic guys who have tremendous talent. They’re very coachable. They’re growing up.”

He’s also been impressed with Reeves, who made three starts when Roby was suspended or injured last season.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth and understanding of the game and improvement,” Grant said of Reeves. “He’s understanding the film more, understanding his role. If it’s press coverage, if it’s off coverage, he understands it more.”

While Reeves was recruited as a four-star cornerback, he isn’t showing if he’s disappointed by the move to nickel and pointed out he is backing up Grant as well.

“I want to play,” Reeves said. “It doesn’t matter where they put me - D-end, D-tackle. Anywhere they put me to play I’ll do it for the team. It’s not anything I’m worried about. I’m still doing corner. I’m just the starting nickel.”

Besides, as long as head coach Urban Meyer is happy with him at nickel, he’s pleased.

“Coach Meyer likes that I’m a great blitzer,” Reeve said. “I understand the defense and how the offense is going to attack pretty well. I’m a fast guy that’s physical. When you have someone who’s inside that can cover like a corner but also hit like a linebacker you get to do a lot more different things. That’s what Coach Meyer likes in me.”

Grant expects Reeves to play a lot against Navy.

“He’s going to do what he’s going to do,” he said. “He’s going to play his corner. If they happen to flex out and we run that nickel, he’s going to run nickel.”

Buckeye Sports Top Stories