Confidence has never been a problem for Ohio State redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby.
He believes in himself, his abilities and what he and his teammates are capable of accomplishing in 2013.
After being burned for big plays in a pair of games already this season, the star cornerback’s coaches and teammates were forced into an unfamiliar position this week: defending their top pass defender.
Roby, a preseason second team All-American, is known as a lockdown corner who has the responsibility of defending the opponent’s best wide receiver to put the Buckeyes in position to win. Having the luxury of someone with Roby’s talent allows OSU to send more guys to pressure the quarterback, because the Buckeyes know Roby can defend any player in the country.
Through Roby’s first four games (he was suspended for the Buckeyes’ opener with Buffalo for his involvement in an incident over the summer at a Bloomington, Ind., bar) he has two interceptions, six pass break-ups and 21 tackles.
However, against the high-powered passing attack of the California Golden Bears Sept. 14, Roby was burnt for a 61-yard touchdown by Cal freshman quarterback Jeff Goff in the first quarter, and then again in the third on a 14-yard strike.
OSU’s best corner also struggled this past weekend against star Wisconsin redshirt-senior receiver Jared Abbrederis, who hauled in 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown with Roby covering him roughly the whole game.
Roby was backed for his performance against the Badger receiver by teammate and fellow defensive back, redshirt-senior C.J. Barnett after the game was over.
“We got the best corner in the nation in Bradley Roby and (Abbrederis) was able to make catches on him, so he has to be pretty good,” Barnett said. “But Roby did a great job in battling.
At times in the Wisconsin game, the Buckeye defense put nine players in the box to stop the Badger rushing attack, which led the nation in yards per game on the ground prior to Saturday night.
“We gotta do some things to give (Roby) a chance, man,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said after the game. “We gotta do a better job of not putting him in those (one-on-one) situations all the time. Every now and then it’s one thing, but to let (Wisconsin redshirt-sophomore quarterback Joel Stave) sit back there and have time to just heave the ball up on a guy that’s a really good football player, it’s probably not fair to (Roby).”
OSU coach Urban Meyer acknowledged that the Suwanee, Ga., product didn’t play his best game in the 31-24 victory, but agreed with Fickell in saying that having to defend that way is tough.
“He didn’t play up to Roby standards. You know, we kind of put him on an island the entire game,” Meyer said Monday. “We held (Wisconsin) to 100 yards rushing, a team that was averaging over 300. Our defense, I didn’t think we could do that … but we won the game and we couldn’t stop the run game unless you have a guy that you believe can hold off out there.”
It’s no secret Roby’s teammates and coaches have faith in what he is able to do on the field, particularly special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
“I would agree with coach Meyer, I don’t think that game was up to his standards, and I’m sure he would tell you the same thing. At the same time, he made a lot of plays,” Coombs said Monday. “We’re going to hang our hat on that kid, he’ll come back this week and play great.”
Roby and his teammates will have their hands full again this weekend in Evanston, Ill., as the Wildcats are currently fourth in the B1G in passing yards per game with 233.8.
Northwestern’s spread offense differs from Wisconsin’s grind it out, power rushing attack OSU faced last weekend and with the loss of senior safety Christian Bryant with a broken ankle, keeping the big plays to a minimum could be a challenge. Roby’s confidence, though, has not wavered despite giving up big plays against both Cal and Wisconsin.
“I mean, I wouldn’t call them struggles,” Roby said following OSU’s 76-0 victory over Florida A&M Sept. 21. “They (Cal) were a good team, they made plays. I was just trying to do too much. It’s part of the beginning of the season. Stuff like that happens at the beginning of the season. It’s all about what you do towards the end of the season that matters.”
Roby was not made available to the media after the win over Wisconsin or this week.
If OSU is going to extend the nation’s longest winning streak deep into 2013, having Roby playing to his potential is likely to play a huge part.
Kickoff against the Wildcats is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Ryan Field.