Cornerback Dustin Fox (6-0, 195, Jr.) has taken on a leadership role in the secondary. He was in charge of leading the defense during the summer 7-on-7 sessions and says he enjoys being one of the guys that his teammates can look up to.
"Yeah, I like the opportunity to be a leader," Fox said. "I was in high school when I got older and finally now, I'm getting older – I'm a junior this year – and I have the responsibility and the opportunity to step up and be a leader for this defense and I'm excited about it."
Fox is a heavy contributor on special teams and says one of the things he enjoys about playing at Ohio State is the importance placed on special teams. The coaches are stressing it all the time.
"Yeah, it's big," he said. "We were just talking about this today and I don't think there's another team in the country that goes through a full live scrimmage with just their special teams like we did yesterday. So, I think that gives us a little bit of an edge, puts us ahead of the game, because we've already had those live situations where we've had the opportunity to go out and go live. Other teams might not have live field goal blocking, or go after a punt live, so it's good for us.
"We begin every practice with special teams and everyone around here knows how important it is for us to excel in that area. The coaches do a good job of drilling it into our heads, but the players understand why."
Some opponents might consider Fox the "other corner" in the Buckeyes' secondary. They might choose to keep the ball away from Chris Gamble and challenge Fox. However, the Canton native laughs at such a thought. You don't get named to the All-Big Ten team as a corner without knowing how to play the position.
"I don't consider myself the other corner," Fox said. "I consider myself a big part of the defense, just like any other player would on this defense. I consider myself a good player and I try and go out there and make plays just like Chris does and just like Will (Allen) and the other guys in the secondary are going to."
But chances are good that Fox will see more passes thrown to his side, as opposed to Gamble's.
"Yeah, that is probably true," Fox said. "But anytime you have an opportunity to be challenged, you look at it as an opportunity to step up and make something happen. That's the way I look at it. If they want to target me, that is fine. I am confident in my abilities and I'm confident in this defense as a whole."
Washington is known for its passing attack with quarterback Cody Pickett and receiver Reggie Williams. Now that the Bucks have begun game-planning for the Huskies, have they picked up on any tendencies?
"I don't know if we can talk about any tendencies yet because we haven't watched that much film," Fox said. "We just started to (Wednesday) morning. So, obviously they have great players and they make plays happen. Reggie Williams has great hands and Pickett gets him the ball. That's his go-to guy obviously and we've got to try and take that away. But our philosophy is to stop the run first."
The Buckeyes have a somewhat young secondary, but they are ready for the challenge that Washington will bring.
"Oh yeah, I think we're ready," Fox said. "We have guys that have played a lot. Will Allen is obviously a tremendous competitor and played a lot for us last year and will step in there at strong safety. And then our free safety, we're still trying to find a young guy that's going to come up and play. But, we have talented guys – which is the big thing – and smart guys who know the defense and know what to do. We have a lot of talented young guys."
Even though he would like to see it resolved, Fox isn't annoyed by the "Days of our Clarett" saga.
"No, I don't think it's too grinding," he said. "I don't really put too much focus on what's going on with Maurice. I just try and worry about what we can do and the things that we can control."
The players are trying to look at Clarett as an injured player that could be back at anytime.
"Well, we have to because he's still part of the program at this point," Fox said. "He's just not going to play from what I've heard and you just have to take it as one of the guys is down and you have to have people step up and take on that role and I think we'll do that."