Friday, April 16, 2010

BUCKEYES' MOST IMPROVED PLAYER THIS SPRING? JUNIOR DONNIE EVEGE

Photo of Donnie Evege by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — If there is an award for most improved Ohio State football player this spring, junior defensive back Donnie Evege would win in a bigger landslide than Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential election.

Not only has the Huber Heights (Oh.) product caught this writer's eye this spring with his ball skills at cornerback — while filling in for injured starter Chimdi Chekwa — but Evege is also receiving the same attention from his teammates in the locker room.

A week ago, starting middle linebacker Brian Rolle said, "Donnie Evege, he's a guy who's been opening some eyes. He's had a couple interceptions thus far in the spring. I'm like man ... somebody better step their game up because Donnie's going to be a guy to be reckoned with this fall."

More of the same was uttered Thursday by a couple more defensive leaders.

"If I had to say someone has stood out, I'd say Donnie Evege," OSU senior free safety Jermale Hines said Thursday, following practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "The guy's a player. He's explosive, he's been able to run since he's gotten here. Before this spring he just hadn't put it all together.

"But you can see that he's really been in his notebooks studying. (Watching) extra film in here, extra long hours, it's paying off."

Evege, who played mostly on special teams last season — and excelled by recording 14 tackles — is beginning to hone his skills as a cornerback for the Buckeyes. He's always had the speed and athleticism to play the position, but now he's learning how to play the ball and the receiver much more efficiently. And in turn, his confidence is beginning to soar.

Ohio State senior cornerback, Devon Torrence, has taken notice of his much improved teammate.

"Oh man, Donnie, that's my dude," Torrence said Thursday. "He's just getting a lot of good breaks on the ball this year. I think he's finally getting confident in his self and his game.

"People really don't understand cornerback, there's really an art to the position. To just really understand all of the details, you know, it kind of takes a long time to do that. Those ones that get on the field are the ones that pick it up early.

"He has finally started to pick it up and he's understanding the position a lot better."

Saturday's jersey scrimmage, where there will be more than 100 live plays, will be a huge litmus test for Evege and his progression as a cornerback.

If he passes that test, it's going to be very difficult to keep the spring's most improved player off the field this fall.