March 29, 2011

Pre-Spring Player Outlook: Cornerback

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The Ohio State football team hasn't been in a state of this much uncertainty since the Jim Tressel era began a decade ago.

Not only will the Buckeyes miss their head coach and four of its most key offensive players for the first five games of next season, Tressel's status with the team is currently under review by the NCAA for recently discovered rules violations.

Spring football is less than two weeks away, and while the Buckeyes may seem in a state of flux, the three-week period of practices is key to identifying players that could be ready to make a difference next season.

We begin thinking about personnel on the football team as those practices draw closer by analyzing what we know and what we may expect out of the players in spring football. Next up are the cornerbacks.

  • Travis Howard - The Buckeyes are going to be in need of a ton of help at cornerback this season after losing both of their starters in Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. Last season the first guy onto the field off the bench was Howard and he proved to be more than an adequate replacement. When Chekwa came out of Ohio State's win the Sugar Bowl early, Howard made consistent plays for the Buckeyes on what couldn't have been a bigger stage.

    What we will learn: Both cornerback positions are going to be up for grabs. While Howard seems like the obvious choice to slip into one of them, he will have to earn his job. Of course, making plays in the spring goes a long way in determining that. Howard will likely start repping with the first team as the Buckeyes boundary corner this spring. Will he make enough plays to assert himself as the team's No. 1 cornerback? We'll see.

  • Dionte Allen - This will be perhaps the most interesting player to keep tabs on this spring. A transfer from Florida State, Allen sat out all of last year's per the NCAA's transfer rules. Originally recruited by Ohio State out of high school, Allen didn't play much for the Seminoles during his time in Tallahassee. However, given his experience and a year of practicing with the Buckeyes under his belt, he could be a viable option for the other starting cornerback spot.

    What we will learn: We will learn just how good he is. Despite being highly-touted out of high school, Allen was never a difference maker for Florida State. However, in limited comments by the coaching staff about him last season, Allen seemed to be making plays for the Buckeyes in practice. This spring will be the media's first time taking a look at him. Whether or not he is the guy to step in and start for the Buckeyes could be determined early in spring football.

  • Dominic Clarke - The media got a good look at Clarke last spring and to be perfectly honest, it didn't look pretty. There were times where cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson was all over the young defensive back, but that could be a good thing when it comes to potential. Since then, Clarke became an option for the Buckeyes and was clearly the No. 4 option at cornerback for Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.

    What we will learn: There is going to be a ton of competition for the top cornerback spots and that competition starts this spring. Right now Clarke seems like an option to eventually take over a starting spot, particularly because he was in the top four before Chekwa and Torrence left. That being said, Allen and Howard are going to give the youngster a run for his money. How much Clarke has grown over the last year should be evident, especially if he plans on cracking Ohio State's rotation.

  • Bradley Roby - Roby wasn't necessarily a highlight of Ohio State's 2010 recruiting class, but he showed in fall camp last year that he could be someone to push the upper-classmen at cornerback. He didn't play on the defensive side of the ball until his senior year of high school, but Roby could figure into the rotation in his redshirt freshman season.

    What we will learn: Now that playing time is an option for Roby, the under-the-radar defensive back will do his best to push the older players. Right now he seems to be on the outside looking in when it comes to being a potential starter, but the glimpses he showed in fall camp last year were what you'd hope to see out of a young player. He wasn't highly acclaimed, but he could be a gem with more time to develop.

  • Donnie Evege - Buckeye fans have probably becoming used to hearing Evege's name during games, but it hasn't been because of extensive time spent on the field with the defense. Instead, Evege has become perhaps the best special units player Ohio State has. However, Evege recorded only three tackles in three games before suffering a season-ending injury to his elbow.

    What we will learn: Despite being a senior this season, Evege seems to be stuck in his role as a special teams player. He has excelled in the past in that role and Ohio State's coaching staff is going to depend on him in that area again. Last spring Evege made a lot of plays from the cornerback position, but it is an uphill battle for him this year to get into the competition. We will see early in spring if he has a chance to move up the depth chart and into the rotation.

    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at


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