We are now on day four of our 10-part series breaking down the best Ohio State players to play their position in the first five years under Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer. Cornerbacks have been one of the strongest position groups during the Meyer era, as four corners have been taken in the first round of the NFL draft since Meyer came to Columbus prior to the 2012 season. With that, James Grega, Tim Moody and I came up with our top five cornerbacks to play under the Ohio State head coach.
No. 5 – Doran Grant
A four-year letterman, Grant played in all of Ohio State’s 54 games from 2011-14, starting 30 of them. The Akron, Ohio, native had 20 career pass break-ups and nine career interceptions as a Buckeye, five of which he recorded during Ohio State’s 2014 national championship season. Grant also was a reliable tackler for Ohio State, as he accumulated 146 stops across four years for the Scarlet and Gray. Grant, a team captain as a senior in 2014, was a first-team all-Big Ten selection before being taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round (121st overall) of the 2015 NFL draft.
No. 4 – Marshon Lattimore
Though Lattimore played in only 20 games at Ohio State, he did more than enough to crack this list. Lattimore participated in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but had a breakout season last year when he started all 13 contests. The Cleveland Glenville product was second on the squad in 2016 with four interceptions, two coming vs. Tulsa in which one was returned for a touchdown. He also tallied nine PBUs, tying Denzel Ward for the team lead, while making 41 tackles. His efforts last fall led to him being named first-team all-Big Ten by the league’s coaches. Lattimore was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round (11th overall) in this year’s NFL draft.
T-No. 2 – Eli Apple, Gareon Conley
It was too close to call in our voting, so Apple and Conley are tied for the second spot.
Similar to Lattimore, Apple only played two seasons at Ohio State. After redshirting his first year at OSU in 2013, Apple played in all 15 contests, starting 14 of them, in 2014 before starting all 13 games a year later. While making 53 tackles and a team-high 10 PBUs as a redshirt freshman, he also notched three interceptions. The last theft occurred when he picked off Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in the national championship game. He followed up the 2014 campaign with 33 tackles, eight PBUs and another interception in 2015. Apple went to the New York Giants in the first round (10th overall) in the 2016 NFL draft.
Conley played in 42 games for the Buckeyes and started 27 games at cornerback. A team captain as a junior in 2016, Conley equaled Lattimore with four interceptions as both trailed Malik Hooker’s team-leading six picks last fall. Conley collected 15 PBUs and a half dozen thefts for his career. The Massillon, Ohio, native ended his time in a Buckeye uniform with 91 total tackles before being taken by the Oakland Raiders in the first round (24th overall) in this year’s NFL draft.
No. 1 – Bradley Roby
Roby occupies the No. 1 spot on this list. A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Roby started in all 37 games he played in over his three-year career with the Buckeyes. He totaled 179 tackles, 36 PBUs and eight interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Pick-sixes weren’t the only way Roby scored, though. As a sophomore in 2012, he recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone vs. Miami and recovered a blocked punt in the end zone vs. Indiana. That same year, Roby led the nation in passes defended with 19 (17 PBUs, which tied Ahmed Plummer’s mark set in 1998 for the OSU single season record, and two interceptions). Roby capped off his Ohio State career in 2013 with 69 tackles, 13 PBUs and three picks. He was chosen by the Denver Broncos in the first round (31st overall) of the 2014 NFL draft.
James Grega: While he played just two years under Meyer, Bradley Roby earned my top vote here for a couple of reasons. For starters, he is probably the best pure athlete to play the position under Meyer and we all saw what happened when he didn't play against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He meant more to that defense than a lot of people realize. Eli Apple was amazing in run support in addition to man coverage so he got my No. 2 vote. After him, there is a solid drop off in my opinion. Lattimore could have been a lot higher had he played more than one season.
Ryan McGlade: This was probably one of the most, if not the most, difficult position groups to break down in my opinion. As mentioned above, there have been a number of talented cornerbacks to play under Urban Meyer at Ohio State. I think the deciding factor for me to place Bradley Roby at No. 1 in my personal rankings was because I think he consistently made an impact throughout all three seasons he was a Buckeye.
Tim Moody: For me, Gareon Conley gets the nod for consistently stellar play over two full seasons. Roby was a close second, but he was a bit inconsistent at times. Apple and Lattimore were both great, of course, and will have better NFL careers, but I have Conley and Roby as the better college players. After that, Doran Grant was really the only other player worth considering.