Monday, February 7, 2011

EXIT TORRENCE, CHEKWA ... ENTER DORAN GRANT, PEEWEE GAMBRELL



Doran Grant
COLUMBUS — Ohio State may be losing two outstanding senior cornerbacks in Devon Torrence and Chimdi Chekwa, but what they picked up on national signing day may ease the pain a little.

The Buckeyes signed two standout cornerbacks from the class of 2011 last Wednesday in Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary all-American Doran Grant and Toledo Rogers star athlete DerJuan "Peewee" Gambrell — a couple of players who not only bring a boat load of speed and ability to the defensive backfield, but according to OSU cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, are also prototype Buckeyes in every sense of the word.

Peewee Gambrell
"The one thing we really like about both of these guys, Doran and Peewee, is they really fit into our system," Johnson said. "They really fit into our family. Most players who are here for camp just visit, but you could tell they really jelled with the players we have.

"Every time we have a visit we ask our guys 'hey, can this guy fit in?' They had no hesitation whatsoever. All of our guys hands down said 'without a doubt, these guys ... we want them.' That's something we put a lot of stock into."

Grant, who played in the Under Armour All-American game last month, is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. He has a skill set for a cornerback that coaches dream about.

"(Doran's) very athletic, very fast, does a great job of being a leader, a team guy," Johnson said. "He played in the all-American game this past January and did a great job down there. We're really excited to have Doran coming to our family here."

Grant also possesses a work ethic that is second to none.

"The one thing about this young man that really, really stood out to me the most, I went to a track meet back in the spring and just watched him from afar, and the focus, the mental preparation he had getting ready for the hurdles was unbelievable," Johnson said of Grant. "I also had a chance to watch a playoff game this past year live, in-person, and he had tremendous ball skills. He's not afraid to stick his nose up in there and make some tackles and get dirty, which here at Ohio State, our d-backs are known for. That's what we hang our hat on."

Gambrell may have the nickname "Peewee," but he's actually pretty tall for the cornerback position.

"He's probably about 6-2, so a taller guy as opposed to Doran, who's about 5-10 1/2, 5-11," Johnson said of Gambrell. "Peewee's about 6-2 and reminds me a lot of (former Ohio State and current Kansas City Chiefs cornerback) Donald Washington."

Gambrell is one of those type players that can do anything the coaching staff asks of him. No weaknesses, whatsoever.

"He has really good speed, does a great job with the ball in his hands, doesn't mind getting dirty and making tackles," Johnson said of Gambrell. "He'll be athletic enough to blitz off the edge and do some different things. Also, when the ball is in the air, he can go get it and make a play with his legs."

Gambrell is incredibly dangerous with the ball in his hands.

"Peewee was injured for the first half of the season his senior year and as soon as he came back, the first time he touched the ball he took it about 80 yards for a touchdown."

Peewee's ability to make plays with the ball in his hands had Buckeyes offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and new wide receivers coach Stan Drayton salivating over the possibilities of Gambrell playing on the offensive side of the ball.

Of course, OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes squashed that possibility very quickly.

"Peewee Gambrell is a DB, not a receiver," Haynes smiled at Bollman and Drayton. "These guys start looking at that highlight, Coach Bollman and Coach Drayton got a little confused. He is a DB!"

Johnson stated that both Grant and Gambrell have great opportunities — with the graduation of Torrence and Chekwa — to come in and play immediately.

"I think these guys are coming in at a great time," Johnson said. "They understand that you lose two seniors at those (cornerback) spots, they'll have a tremendous opportunity to come and learn the system.

"They're athletic enough for sure to play. Will they play? That remains to be seen. We always tell the guys, all of the freshman that come in, don't plan on redshirting.

"Come in with the idea that you're going to play. Be ready to play."

After watching film and hearing about the two new Buckeye stars, being "ready to play," shouldn't be a problem.