Yes, Stephen Collier and Jeff Greene have been happy when it’s happened in practice this week. But the men who are mimicking Alabama stars Blake Sims and Amari Cooper this week won’t want to see it when the Sugar Bowl kicks off Thursday evening, so they’ve been doing their best to make that not happen by being the best Sims and Cooper they can be.
“We definitely connected a few times,” Collier told BuckeyeSports.com, “but as the week progresses, the defense has been locking down more and more. It’s good to see them improving.”
This has been familiar territory for Collier and Greene, who have helped out the scout team throughout the year. The role of the scout team is to give Ohio State’s starters the best look possible before each game so they can be fully prepared for the movements and tendencies of each opponent.
The stakes get bigger when the lights get brighter, and so being No. 6 and No. 9 this week has upped the attention on Collier and Greene, who were popular interview subjects at Ohio State’s Media Day on Tuesday morning.
As a redshirting freshman on a roster that’s not exactly overflowing with healthy quarterback depth, Collier has been playing opponents all season long, while Greene has been pulled in to represent some of the bigger targets – literally – that OSU has seen this year.
Notably, the 6-5 Greene has been asked to portray Michigan State’s Tony Lippett and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton this season. His work as Lippett must have been good as OSU senior Doran Grant was able to limit the Big Ten’s Wide Receiver of the Year to an ineffective five catches for 64 yards in the Buckeyes win in East Lansing.
“That’s basically what we try to go for,” said Greene, a Georgia Tech transfer who has one catch in games this season. “I try to be similar at everything that he does in the games, and they set up good defenses against certain routes and play calls so it worked out for the best for us. I just keep doing what I do, and the defensive backs, it pays off for them in the games.”
It won't be an easy chore. Sims set the all-time passing record for Alabama this season, throwing for 3,250 yards while completing 64.8 percent of his passes this year, while Cooper is perhaps the most dangerous player in the game after setting an SEC record with 115 catches, winning the Biletnikoff Award and going to New York City as a Heisman finalist.
As a result, the work requires tireless prep, as the goal is to look as much like the player they’re emulating in every way. That means putting together and picking up similar footwork, tendencies and more.
“You definitely have to watch film on the guys, see what they’re good at, see what their weaknesses are and also know what your defense is not so great at or what weaknesses need to be worked on for them,” Collier said. “Just try to exploit the things that your opponent would do as well so it takes a great deal of preparation.”
The two have tried to have fun with the roles, which they share with many of the walk-ons and reserves on the squad at each position. Teammates have been jokingly calling Greene “Amari” all week, but the junior has been happy to do what he can to get the Buckeyes ready for the upcoming showdown.
“It’s just doing whatever they ask me to do,” Greene said. “Hopefully it gets the defensive guys better. I just go out there and watch film on that player that week and I give it my best shot. Hopefully when it comes game time they have the good look of seeing it in practice before they see it in games.”