Navy Notebook: Corners, Wideouts And More

A few question marks about the 2009 Ohio State football team got some early answers Wednesday night. Find out how the rotation is shaking out at cornerback, who should start at wide receiver for the Buckeyes against Navy and a few other tidbits in this notebook.

Andre Amos might get the first nod, but the battle between him and Devon Torrence figures to stretch into the season.

Ohio State cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said the oft-injured fifth-year senior will start at cornerback opposite incumbent Chimdi Chekwa on Sept. 5 against Navy, but that does not mean the player he has been battling with since last season ended will be left out of the rotation.

Torrence, a junior who gave up playing professional baseball this summer in order to concentrate on football, has been rotating on an almost even basis with Amos throughout the spring and fall camp. Now that will continue for some time, although Johnson said he is not sure when a final determination will be made about playing time for each player.

It could be as frequently as a series-to-series rotation similar to the one employed for Chekwa and Donald Washington last season.

"We haven't decided totally as a defensive staff yet, but there's been some talk (of that)," the coach said.

Johnson said that for one player to firmly grab the spot he will have to simply go out and make plays. The trick is to go out on the field and do so within the framework of the defense without trying to do too much.

"As long as those guys are comfortable and they're not uptight about making a play so they can stay in the game … that's the last thing you want a young man thinking about when he's out there playing," he said. "I want them to go out and play."

Last season, Chekwa saw the second-most minutes at cornerback and finished with 30 tackles and one interception. He is viewed as a solid starter in place of the graduated Malcolm Jenkins.

Chekwa saw 235 minutes of playing time last year in 13 games, while Washington played in 11 games and saw 142 minutes of action.

The situation is one of strength for the Buckeyes again this year, Johnson said.

"I think we have three guys for two spots," he said. "Whoever goes out there first, what does that mean? Those guys are going to play."

Six Is Plenty: With a number of talented players under his direction, wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said he has six players he has confidence in trotting out on the field.

Leading the pack are DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher and Taurian Washington. If OSU opens with three wide receivers against Navy, that trio will be on the field, he said.

After that, the pecking order contains true freshman Duron Carter, Ray Small and Lamaar Thomas.

"To start the game off we would play Dane in the slot, at Z would be Taurian and at the X would be DeVier," Hazell said. "If we go four Duron would go to the field side and Dane would go to the weak-side slot and Taurian would go inside on the field side."

Washington has stepped into that spot by having a consistent camp, Hazell said.

"He's really had a phenomenal three weeks of camp and I'm really pleased with him," he said. "He needed to do that for us and for himself. When you throw him the ball in traffic, he's going to make the play. That's the big difference."

Howard On The Mend: One player who was battling Torrence and Amos for that spot has been sidelined by what appears to be an ankle injury. Redshirt freshman Travis Howard has impressed the coaching staff after putting together a strong spring, but now his status going forward is in doubt.

Johnson said the plan is for Howard to be back and ready to go by the time USC rolls into town for week two.

"That's what we're definitely hoping for – if not (this) Saturday," Johnson said.

Returners Setting Up: The Buckeyes have lacked explosion in the return game for the past two years, with the kickoff return unit ranking 108th in the nation a season ago. The key to turning that around this year will be enjoying some early success, Hazell said.

"We've done some different things on the kickoff return team this year," he said. "We need to get some confidence with that unit. Hopefully we can have that happen on Saturday. We've got players. We've got players that can contribute and give us some big plays on special teams."

For now, the top two return men are Thomas and running back Dan Herron. The punt return game is led by Small, who led the Big Ten in the category a season ago. He is being backed up there by Posey and Sanzenbacher.

Brown, Clarke Preparing: Head coach Jim Tressel said freshmen cornerbacks Corey Brown and Dominic Clarke are viewed as possible redshirt candidates this season, although Brown is more on the bubble than Clarke.

Johnson said he has been impressed with the athleticism displayed by both players but that there are differences between them.

"You have two different types of guys with Dominic being a little bit shorter than Corey," Johnson said. "However, he has a lot of strength and he is very fast whereas Corey is a long guy, a taller guy that hasn't played the position a lot. I think once he really learns his body and gets stronger and things like that, that he's going to be a pretty good corner."

Brown is listed at 6-1, 185 pounds, while Clarke checks in at 5-11, 180 pounds. Brown entered OSU as a cornerback/wide receiver after playing both spots in college, while Clarke has solely been pegged as a cornerback.

If either of them play this season, odds are it will be on special teams, Johnson said.

"Special teams comes up first, and if we need those guys to step up that's where they'll probably be ready first," he said. "If we need them, we have to be sure we can call on them."

Other InjuriesIn other injury-related news, Hazell said Thomas is 100-percent healthy after missing time during fall camp with an undisclosed injury. Small also missed some time with an injury to his Achilles tendon but if fine now, the coach said.

Sophomore cornerback Donnie Evege is also on the depth chart after suffering a knee injury last season that was briefly thought to be potentially career-ending, Johnson said.

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