- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn't have to worry about cornerback Bradley Roby this week.
No player on the Buckeyes roster is more geared up for Saturday's game than Roby, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore from Suwanee, Ga. While most Buckeyes are highlighting games against Michigan State, Wisconsin and, of course, Michigan, Roby has targeted the Cal game for months.
The reason: he'll be tested in a big way by Cal's All-America wide receiver Keenan Allen. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Bears star is a leading candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, and he comes in at No. 16 on Mel Kiper's Big Board for the 2013 NFL draft (No. 2 receiver overall).
"This is definitely a game that has been marked on my calendar," Roby told ESPN.com. "I've been watching film on him for a while. He's a bigger receiver. He's about 6-3. He has good athleticism. It's something I'm looking forward to. I mean, it’s the best versus the best, so we're going to see who comes out on top."
Roby isn't short on speed or swagger, two qualities that benefit him as a cornerback. After redshirting in 2010, he claimed a starting job last season and led Ohio State in both interceptions (3) and passes defended (9). As the boundary corner, Roby is almost always matched up against the opponent's top receiver and last year went toe to toe with four NFL draft picks, including first-rounder A.J. Jenkins from Illinois.
Cal's Allen definitely gets his attention. His biggest challenge comes when there isn't one across the line of scrimmage.
"He gets bored," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "That's one of the things I got after him about in the spring and even in the summer. I've coached Joe Haden and some other great corners, and those guys never got bored. The ultimate competitors are guys that it doesn't matter who you're playing or what the coverage scheme is, you compete at all times. He's still fighting through that."
Roby admits it's not easy. He wants to push himself, and it helps to go against great players. Last fall, he made sure he went against Buckeyes wide receiver DeVier Posey in practice as much as possible. Posey, suspended for most of the season, was "one of the best receivers in the country," according to Roby. The NFL evaluators agreed as Posey, despite playing in just three games, went in the third round of April's draft -- the second Big Ten wideout selected (behind Jenkins) and the 10th overall.
Ohio State is lacking at the receiver position right now, and when asked this spring who he seeks out in practices, Roby acknowledged, "Nobody, really." He enjoys going against Corey Brown, but Brown mostly plays the slot position in Meyer's offense, so they aren't matched up.
"It's something I had trouble with for a while," he said. "It just comes down to, if I want to be the player I want to be, I have to be on my A-game at all times. I can't really get bored out there. I can't worry about what skill the receiver is. Even if he's not that good, I still have to dominate him and beat him like I'm supposed to. That's all it is.
"I've had to stay ready and stay on my A-game at all times, so when games like this come around, I'm still ready, and I'm already at the level I’ve been wanting to play at."
Roby's quest for straight As is paying off so far this season. He earned defensive player of the game honors for his effort in Ohio State's opener against Miami (Ohio), making plays on 25 of 30 opportunities, according to Meyer.
Roby leads the team with four pass breakups and has a fumble recovery. He has yet to record his first interception, while fellow corner Travis Howard already has three, a fact he hasn't hesitated to point out.
"He's talking trash, but it doesn't bother me at all," said Roby, who himself dabbles in trash talk, especially on Saturdays. "I'm happy for him. I hope he continues in that. This is just Game 3 coming up, so I feel like I've got something in store."
Roby certainly has the talent to affect games. He twice ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds this summer.
"Really blessed, really talented and fast," Meyer said. "I think he's our fastest player."
Roby doesn't dispute the label, while acknowledging Brown isn't far behind and could pace him in a slightly longer race, like 60 yards (It'd be close," Roby said).
Having top-end speed is nice, but Roby is more focused on consistency and mastering the cornerback spot. He spent much of the offseason working on his off-man coverage, which often separates the great athletes who play corner from those who can do it at the NFL level.
"I've gotten more comfortable doing it," he said.
Roby undoubtedly will be in his comfort zone Saturday against Allen.
"This ought to be no challenge as far as getting him motivated," Meyer said, "because [he's] facing potentially the best receiver he'll face all year."
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn't have to worry about cornerback Bradley Roby this week.No player on the Buckeyes roster is more geared up for Saturday's game than Roby, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore from Suwanee, Ga.