Thursday, April 15, 2010

BUCKEYES HAVE CORNERED THE MARKET WITH TORRENCE, CHEKWA

Photo of Devon Torrence by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior cornerback Devon Torrence has National Football League written all over him.

The second-year starter from Canton possesses all the attributes of a pure shutdown cornerback; great size (6-1, 200), strength, speed, quickness, instincts and unreal athleticism (He actually played two seasons of minor league baseball in the Houston Astros organization, for crying out loud.)

Terming a cornerback as "shutdown," though, is a ton of pressure to put on a player, but the ultra confident Torrence is ready for the challenge.

"I have very high expectations for myself, man," Torrence said Thursday, following practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "I've been working at the left corner, that's the side that a lot of the top receivers go to, where they put their primary guy. Hopefully, I'll shut down that side of football field.

"I'm expecting myself this year to breakup a lot more passes and hopefully have a lot more interceptions, and just be a leader for our defense this year."

The scary thing about it is, Torrence's partner-in-crime on the other side at cornerback, Chimdi Chekwa, is just as talented. In fact, everything that's been said about Torrence can be used as a description of Chekwa, as well.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior from Clermont, Florida, may just be the fastest player on the entire Buckeyes team. He is actually the anchor for the OSU men's 4x100 relay team, so you know the kid can chop.

OSU cornerbacks coach, Taver Johnson, said that Chekwa uses his wheels to his advantage, too.

"He's always right there to make those plays," Johnson said of Chekwa. "He's gets himself in position and I think now he can do some things because of his speed. There's a lot of things that he can get away with that some of the other guys can't because he's so fast."

Chekwa has been sidelined this spring due to a hamstring injury, but he's expected to be back at full strength this fall.

Torrence and Chekwa will carry a huge responsibility for the entire Ohio State secondary, as the Buckeyes break in two new starters at safety — senior Jermale Hines and sophomore Orhian Johnson — after the departure of longtime veterans, Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell.

"If those guys (Torrence and Chekwa) are good, you can do a lot more things on the inside," OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes said. "Having those two guys with a lot of experience, takes the pressure off the guys in the middle."

Torrence said that the corners know that there is a lot of responsibility for themselves on the edges, but they're not too worried about it.

"Yeah of course, we know that we have a huge responsibility," Torrence said. "But we expect (the safeties) to step up. They know that. So, we're not too concerned about it. Yeah, they're young, but they know in order for them to be out there on Saturdays, they have to make plays."

SPEAKING OF THE SAFETIES ... Although Hines was used mostly as a nickelback (the "star" position) at the end of last season, he does have some experience on the back end, starting eight games as a junior at free safety.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior from Cleveland showed great skill at the position last season, finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 57, as well as recording two interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

"I don't look at it as a big adjustment," Hines said Thursday, about being the absolute No. 1 starter at free safety this season. "I played several snaps at safety last year, so I'm pretty accustomed to it. Played it in practice everyday last year. So, it's really not that big of an adjustment."

The only adjustment will be his newly found leadership role.

Haynes doesn't think that will be a problem with Hines.

"I think Jermale is very respected by our players," Haynes said. "He's got a lot of experience and he's made big plays. I think that's what a lot of times gains leadership with guys."

Where the real inexperience comes in at the safety position for the Buckeyes will be on the strong side, as sophomore Orhian Johnson takes over for three-year starter Kurt Coleman.

Johnson saw action in 11 games last season, but not a lot of playing time, recording just 10 tackles on the year.

However, Johnson has been impressive this spring using his rangy size (6-3, 205) and good quickness to make plays on the back end. He definitely has the skills that could make him a very valuable asset for the Buckeyes secondary.

"He's doing a good job," Haynes said of Johnson. "He's doing a good job communicating. He's doing a good job flying around, trying to be that quarterback out there (in the secondary). So far he's done a good job. But we'll see on Saturday how good he's done."

Saturday, as Haynes is referring to, is the team's jersey scrimmage.

WHO'S THE STAR? ... Right now, there is a huge battle going on at the "star" position, between junior Nate Oliver, redshirt freshman Jamie Wood and senior Tyler Moeller (once he is cleared medically).

Oliver and Wood have played the majority of snaps this spring at the position.

"We're just trying to move some guys around," Haynes said. "We've never really had a starter there (at the star), we've usually had a backup or a third guy work those spots. So this spring, we really just wanted to find some guys who could do it.

"We don't want to just throw a guy in there in the fall, and say he can be a star."

PLAY(S) OF THE DAY ... Actually there were two standout plays during live scrimmage drills on Thursday. The first was a 20-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry up the middle. The other was an interception in the end zone by Jamie Wood, on a Terrelle Pryor pass intended for Dane Sanzenbacher.

HALL SHAKEN UP ... During scrimmage drills on Thursday, sophomore tailback Jordan Hall went down with a left shoulder injury. He sported ice on the injured shoulder for much of the practice, before returning with a no contact yellow jersey. The injury doesn't seem serious.

CARTER AT PRACTICE ... No, not sophomore wideout Duron Carter, but his future hall of fame father, Cris.

Cris Carter observed practice Thursday and even broke out his coaching hat, giving Chekwa a few pointers on how to cover the great receivers.