Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Admittedly, Bradley Roby said he grows bored with lesser opponents.
The Ohio State redshirt sophomore cornerback confessed that his interest dwindles against someone he feels is athletically inferior to him.
While it might have been a problem in the past, it seems Roby shouldn’t have any problem getting up for his competition Saturday, when the Buckeyes host California.
It’s why he might have a fire in his belly previewing his personal battle with the Golden Bears’ preseason All-American junior wide receiver Keenan Allen.
“When you think you’re one of the best in the country just going against somebody else who’s the best in the country, it’s just a show time,” he said.
And it certainly might live up to that.
Allen, who has been named to watch lists like the Biletnikoff Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year, is arguably one of the nation’s best receivers, and one of its most gifted athletes.
Through two games, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver, has collected 136 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions.
The season before, Allen hauled in 98 catches for 1343 yards and six touchdowns. Sophomore Devin Smith, the Buckeyes’ most productive receiver in 2011, had 14 receptions for 294 yards – 84 grabs fewer than Allen.
Suffice it to say, Roby should have his hands full.
And while the Suwanee, Ga., native is a relatively new face to college football, that doesn’t mean he necessarily plays that way.
In 2011, Roby’s first year starting at cornerback for the Buckeyes, the then-redshirt freshman had 47 tackles and three interceptions – a figure that tied for the most of any OSU player.
For Roby, the chance of dueling with one of the game’s best is something he relishes.
“It’s just prime time,” he said. “I wish it was a night game so everybody would be watching, but it’s at noon so, I mean, I’m just going to make the most of it as much as I can.”
But at just 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Roby will have to find a way to neutralize Allen’s size and the receiver’s physical prowess.
Depending on who you ask, Roby is arguably one of the fastest, if not the fastest, player on the Buckeyes team after reportedly running a 40-yard-dash in 4.3 seconds twice over the summer.
The most essential part of his game, though, is Roby’s seemingly unwavering, unapologetic confidence.
And why not?
By all measures, it would seem that the Buckeyes’ coaching staff approve of his play on and off the field.
During the Big Ten coaches’ weekly teleconference Tuesday, first year coach Urban Meyer said he “loves” Roby.
“He’s a high-character guy,” Meyer said. “He’s really blessed, really talented, really fast.”
But Meyer is well aware of Roby’s tendency to play to the level of his competition.
“He gets bored,” Meyer said. “I’ve coached some great corners, and those guys never got bored. The ultimate competitors, they compete at all times.”
But that’s not to say that Roby isn’t a great corner.
OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said Roby treats his job on the Buckeyes’ defense as a professional player would.
“He’s a real football player, and spends a lot of time at his craft, and spends a lot of time watching film and studying himself, which I think is important, and you were talking about individual improvement, that’s one of the ways to do it,” Coombs said.
On Saturdays, though, Coombs said Roby’s ability to make plays on the ball is something that’s struck him since coming to Columbus in early March.
“I think he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at knocking the ball out of the receiver’s hands after the guy has caught it or nearly caught it, he’s got great sense for that,” he said. “Obviously he’s a skill player, and he’s playing really well. I don’t know where all that comes from. But he plays the ball really well.”
It might, Coombs said, come from Roby’s days of playing wide receiver in high school at Peachtree Ridge.
Though talk of the cornerback playing both ways has hushed considerably since OSU’s fall camp, Roby won’t rule out the idea.
“I still can, it’s still a possibility,” he said, “but right now we’re not worried about that.”
Arguably, Roby’s assuredness in his capability as a wide receiver speaks volumes to how he often walks a line between being confident and cocky.
In other instances, though, letting his play speak for itself isn’t enough.
Roby likes to let people know about it and said that facet of his game won’t change against a player of Allen’s caliber.
It’s just part of a big time matchup, he said.
“Anytime you can get one of the two best players at their positions on the field at the same time, it’s always gonna be a good show and he talks a lot of trash, I talk a lot of trash,” he said. “So, I mean, it’s going to be a battle out there so just keep an eye out for that.”
Roby said it’s all about the field vocals.
“That’s what you need,” Roby said.
Maybe it’s what the Buckeyes need on Saturday at noon.
Dan Hope contributed to this story