With the 2014 Ohio State football season quickly approaching, The Lantern is kicking off a 10-week series that will highlight the 10 most important OSU football players heading into the season.
The countdown consists of a weekly column and will be based on a list of players compiled by the sports staff at The Lantern Media Group.
Each of the staff members put together their own individual list of the 10 most important players going into the 2014 season and upon the completion of each, a final list was made combining the cumulative rankings in a point-based system.
No. 10 Most Important Buckeye: Tyvis Powell, redshirt-sophomore defensive back
It’s rare that a redshirt-freshman, with so much time in the scarlet and gray ahead of him, might have already made his signature play as a Buckeye.
For redshirt-sophomore defensive back Tyvis Powell, however, that could very well be the case.
With just 32 ticks on the clock and the Buckeyes up by a single point in Ann Arbor, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner caught the shotgun snap at the eight yard-line, looking to give the Wolverines the late lead.
After three quick steps Gardner turned to his right and delivered a pass, as the cities of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Columbus held their collective breaths.
As the ball wobbled through the air, No. 23 in white jumped in front of the pass and cradled it into his chest before falling to the ground, securing a win against “That Team Up North,” and a second-consecutive perfect regular season for the Buckeyes.
Powell instantly earned a certain sense of fame in Columbus following his game-saving play, but if the Buckeyes are to succeed in 2014, he may need to make a couple more plays similar to the one that put him on the map.
Coming off of a season in which the Buckeyes ranked 112 out of the 125 teams in NCAA Division I football, the OSU pass defense is in dire need of a complete overhaul and the emergence of Powell at the safety position could certainly help that process.
With Christian Bryant, Bradley Roby and C.J. Barnett heading to the NFL, experience may be hard to come by for the OSU defensive backs, and leadership is going to play an important role if the pass defense is to make any kind of turnaround in 2014.
Powell is going to need to become one of those leaders.
Last season, Powell made a name for himself as a hybrid-type player, combining his 6-foot, 3-inch frame with his dominant athleticism to play the role of a linebacker and safety simultaneously. In that hybrid, “nickel” role, he made 48 tackles in 14 appearances for the Buckeyes, but had just one interception outside of his heroic effort in Ann Arbor.
While his redshirt freshman campaign proved that he has the tools to become a perennial playmaker, this season, Powell is going to be handed the task of expanding upon those numbers while adjusting to a new position.
The loss of Bryant and safety Corey “Pitt” Brown paves the way for Powell to become a starting safety – a position in which he’s yet to see a significant amount of playing time.
Again, it seems as if the physical tools are all there for Powell, but how will he adjust to the mental aspects of a new position? He’ll need to learn new coverage’s, new terminology and perhaps even new technique as he embarks on this new path.
Will that lack of experience cause problems for Powell? Will it allow him to expand upon his first season in the secondary?
These are the questions that have yet to be answered, but while experience may be a the main question mark for Powell, it’s an even bigger question mark for the guys behind him.
In other words, it’s up to Powell to pick up where he left off at a new position or we may again see a struggle from the Buckeye defensive backs.
Powell has shown he can make the big play in the biggest of moments. He’s shown flashes of brilliance as an athlete and playmaker. He could be exactly what newly coined co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash needs to help the Buckeye secondary return to it’s “Silver Bullets” ways, but it all remains to be seen until he takes the field on Aug. 30 against Navy.
If he steps in the right direction on that day, well, OSU could return to it’s place as one of the premier pass-coverage units in the country.
And that’s exactly why Tyvis Powell starts off this countdown of the most important Buckeyes heading into 2014.