Youboty Sharpens His Game At Corner

Cornerback Ashton Youboty went from backup, to rising star last season. Now entering his junior season, Youboty is suddenly one of the leaders of the secondary. We caught up with Youboty for his thoughts on spring ball, the 2005 season, and number of other issues.

Cornerback Ashton Youboty had his breakout season in 2004.

He led Ohio State with four interceptions and 14 pass breakups, and was fifth on the team in tackles with 61 (47 solo).

The 6-1, 195-pound Youboty is using the spring as a time to fine tune his game. He doesn't have many weaknesses, but there is always room for improvement.

"I'm really focused on working on my footwork this spring and getting that down even more," Youboty said. "Just really trying to work on my technique."

As a junior, Youboty suddenly finds himself as one of the leaders of the secondary.

"I've been kind of forced into that situation," he said. "But I've accepted my role. It's fun. I know what I'm doing out there and I'm trying to help out everyone else find out what to do."

Occasionally, Youboty has to remind himself that he's not the young guy anymore. He is the savvy veteran and needs to be a vocal leader.

"Yeah, I'm used to having (Dustin) Fox do all of that," he said. "Fox and (Chris) Gamble. I've been an underclassman the whole time, now all of a sudden I'm the older guy. They listen to me, so I give them tips when (defensive backs coach Paul) Haynes is busy with other players. I just try and help them out."

It's taking him a while to get used to it, but Youboty enjoys the leadership role.

"Oh, it's fun," he said. "Just being out there and actually knowing that I have the ability to help someone else out. So, it's fun being out there."

Youboty says OSU's young defensive backs are learning on the go this spring.

"Slow, but they're getting there," he said. "We're trying to simplify it for them."

There are a lot of candidates for the vacant boundary cornerback job.

"There is, there is," Youboty said. "They're all doing their best and trying hard, so I have no idea right now (who is going to be the starter)."

Youboty was asked which of the young defensive backs have stood out in practice.

"Standing out? Sirjo (Welch), he's done a good job," he said. "Brandon Underwood isn't really practicing, but he looked good before we got into pads."

Youboty has enjoyed working with Haynes so far. The first year coach is replacing Mel Tucker, who was very popular with his players.

"He knows our system now and he's bringing in a lot of new stuff to us about one-on-ones, how we can improve," Youboty said of Haynes. "He's adding some stuff that we already knew."

Youboty does not think there will be any major changes in OSU's defense this season.

"I mean, you'll still have A.J. (Hawk) making all his killer tackles," he said. "Nate (Salley) with more experience. We have more experience, so overall, I think besides the other cornerback, everyone should know what they're doing."

But, unlike past seasons, Youboty does not expect that the defense will have to carry the load for OSU this year.

"Nah, I think the offense is real powerful," he said. "I can't wait for the (jersey) scrimmage trying to stop them. I know once we stop them, playing other teams like Texas, we should be fine."

Youboty is too smart to predict which quarterback will eventually win the starting job.

"All three of them are good," he said. "Even Todd Boeckman, I'm surprised. I hope he gets a chance to prove that he can start, because going against him all last year, he did a really good job. With the scout team, he did a good job of getting us looks.

"He doesn't have the best offensive line – you know, scout team offensive line – but just working the pocket and scrambling. You wouldn't think he could scramble, but he's pretty good at it and he's throwing accurately while he's scrambling."

And Youboty says that the Buckeyes have outstanding wide receivers – and he's not just talking about the starters.

"We've got receivers that you guys don't even know about yet," he said. "Albert Dukes, he's back. We don't have enough corners to play all of them.

"They all have different skills. Some people will try to burn you, some people will try to shake you. So, it's fun having all those different looks."

Youboty was asked which category Dukes falls into.

"He's a burner. … He is pretty much the guy I went against last year. He was the scout receiver and he showed a lot."

If Youboty was playing against OSU's offense in a real game, he says there is one formation he would not want to face.

"Four-wide – Santonio (Holmes), Tony Gonzalez, Roy (Hall), Albert Dukes – then put Ted (Ginn) in the backfield," Youboty said.

Youboty was asked point blank if he was a "lockdown" cornerback.

"You tell me, you're the media," he said with a smile. "I'm trying to be."

If his play the second half of last season is any indication, he most assuredly is.

"Yeah, I think I'm getting to where I want to be," Youboty said. "I still have a little bit of work to do here and there, but overall, I'm getting to where I want to be."

And Youboty is not shy when it comes to talking about becoming the next NFL corner to come out of OSU. He wants to be mentioned alongside first-round draft picks like Shawn Springs, Nate Clements, Gamble and others.

"I mean, that's why I came here," Youboty said. "I want to leave as the top corner at Ohio State. So, when you talk about cornerbacks now, they talk about ‘Toine – Antoine Winfield – (Ahmed) Plummer. I'm trying to be dominant as they were."

Head coach Jim Tressel recently praised the defensive backs for their hard-hitting nature. Youboty says it's tough keeping up with headhunters like junior strong safety Donte Whitner.

"There's kind of a domino effect," Youboty said. "Donte goes out there and just tries to kill everybody. You've got to stay up to his standards. Sometimes the coaches have to stop us. We try not to hurt our teammates, but it's football."

Youboty thinks that Welch is a viable candidate to start at cornerback. E.J. Underwood could return to the team this fall, safety Tyler Everett could move to corner, and there are other options. But Welch can hold the fort down if he needs to.

"You'll be surprised," Youboty said. "Sirjo Welch, he can run with Ted. Once you get your technique down, he'll be able to cover Ted perfectly. It's all about technique. Everybody knows what to do, it's just being consistent with it."

Welch has already made vast improvements mentally.

"His freshman year, he'll probably be in the wrong place, but he'll still make the plays," Youboty said. "So, it's kind of funny watching him, he's just running around. But now, he knows what to do. He's in the right place for the most part and he's making the plays when he has to."

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