Thanks To Injuries, Young DBs Turning Corner

Ohio State had the misfortune of having its two starting cornerbacks injured as camp neared a close, but those two said that just allowed some of the younger Buckeyes to stand out. Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence raved about their understudies, including sudden first-teamers Travis Howard and Corey Brown, after Saturday's jersey scrimmage.

Chimdi Chekwa plans to be on the Ohio Stadium field come Sept. 2 in the opener against Marshall.

But on Aug. 21, all he could do was stand on the Horseshoe's sideline and watch the jersey scrimmage. He was joined there by fellow starting cornerback Devon Torrence as the two battled minor hamstring injuries that wouldn't have kept them out of a real game but made the practice an unnecessary risk.

A lot of things could have been running through Chekwa's head as he watched sophomore Travis Howard and redshirt freshman Corey Brown work with the first unit in his stead, but there was one major emotion: pride.

"Today I was talking on the sideline like I was a proud father," he said of watching his young charges grow up before his eyes. "I've tried to teach them everything I know. I really get to know the guys and teach them, and I think they did a real good job of transferring that to the field."

Clearly, the young Bucks were doing something right. The Ohio State offense reclaimed the jerseys thanks to a taut victory, but only one touchdown was scored in a total of nearly 140 plays.

That score did come against the No. 1 unit when Terrelle Pryor found Taurian Washington in a hole in the zone, but it still wasn't a bad day's work for the top youngsters. That's especially true considering Pryor completed only 10 of 23 passes according to BSB's unofficial stats.

The defense also got strong performances from such reserves as redshirt freshman Dominic Clarke, who made a crucial diving breakup of what looked like a sure touchdown pass, junior Donnie Evege and even true freshman Bradley Roby.

"I think our corners did a very good job," Torrence said. "Dominic Clarke, Donnie Evege, I think they did it, and who really impressed me today was Bradley Roby. I think he did a great job."

Seeing an emergence out of the youngsters would be a boon to the depth of the Buckeye defense. There's little question that the experienced Torrence, who took the starting job in the third game of last year, and Chekwa, who has started since 2007, will take the field first against the Thundering Herd if healthy, but head coach Jim Tressel is happy to see players behind them emerging.

"We sure want (Chekwa and Torrence) healthy, there's no question … but on the plus side it's been good for Travis and Dominic – I thought Dominic made a nice breakup today," head coach Jim Tressel said. " ‘Pittsburgh' Brown to me is getting better every day. So reps give you a chance to see who you are."

In his third year in the program, Howard is the most experienced of the younger group. The Miami native, who made two tackles last year, was in the two-deep a season ago as a reserve and has moved up to the No. 3 corner spot.

"He knows everything that's going on," Torrence said. "He's definitely ready. He understands the defensive package and understands what's going on out there, so he's definitely ready."

Torrence said he'd also have no qualms putting Brown, a top-10 corner in the class of 2009, on the field, an assessment with which Chekwa agreed.

"I think Corey is a guy who is very humble," Chekwa said. "He doesn't say too much. He takes things in. He's very coachable and I think he transfers that to the field."

Even though the youngsters are coming after his job in some ways, Chekwa was happy to see his understudies develop.

"I think a lot of them are game ready, and if they're not it'll be my fault, I think," he said. "I think as a leader, when you leave, your cornerback group should still be good. It shouldn't have lost anything. I think that's what Malcolm (Jenkins) and Donald (Washington) did when they left, and I think I should do the same."

The Buckeyes don't often rotate at the cornerback position, but the depth developed throughout this camp should help the Buckeyes in the future and is nice to have at the present.

"We want Devon and Chim, but if you can have a third and fourth and even fifth corner, that's huge," Tressel said.

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