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Thursday, October 4, 2012
Hands-on defender

By Austin Ward
BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Touching the football hasn't been an issue.

Bradley Roby has covered it up in the end zone for a touchdown after a fumbled snap. He has thrown his body in the way to block a punt, and nobody in the conference has broken up more passes per game than the Ohio State cornerback.

Bradley Roby
Bradley Roby hasn't had an interception this season, but he has made opposing wide receivers uncomfortable.
But for all those chances he has had to get a piece of the pigskin, heading into another big defensive test Saturday against Nebraska, Roby's still missing the one thing he craves most. Now that his teammates in the secondary are starting to chatter about it, after Roby already let a couple of chances just slip out of his hands this season, the sophomore is clearly ready to tighten his grip and end his seasonlong interception drought.

"I've got to get one this game," Roby said. "I've got to get a pick this game. I already have a couple routes that I'm looking forward to intercept that they run a lot. Hopefully they throw them, and hopefully I'm in the right position. I've got to get one this game.

"Everybody gives me a hard time because I'm supposed to be all this and that, so it's tough. I don't really worry about it. It's going to come to me when I need it, and when our team needs it. I just want to stay in position as much as possible."

Roby has done that with impressive regularity for a defensive back during the four games he has played when healthy. He has continually taken advantage of his chances to make a play when opponents throw on him or the Buckeyes turn him loose near the line of scrimmage and on special teams.

He's fourth on the team in tackles and has chipped in a sack as a blitzer off the edge. He pounced on an errant snap to a punter for a touchdown, and he flashed his athleticism last week at Michigan State by flying in to block a punt to change field position. And with eight passes broken up in the secondary, Roby has stuffed the stats sheet in a variety of ways that few defenders can match -- even if there's one column left blank.

He easily could have a couple tallies, and Roby still takes exception to a ruling that he was out of bounds after nabbing what he thought was his first interception of 2012 in the season opener against Miami (Ohio). The other would-be pick haunted him for at least a week, as he muffed what could have been an easy touchdown against California. But as much as he'd like to make up for those plays and break through with a pick, he has to balance that with fundamentally sound play, as Ohio State has no complaints about what he has been providing.

"The good thing about our profession and these kids playing, it's evaluation friendly," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "He's playing well, and if he wasn't playing well, I'd say he hasn't. He's playing very well, and he's grading extraordinarily high for a corner.

"I mean, like, real high."

That number was 94 percent in the win over the Spartans, though an exact grade was hardly necessary after Roby spent a week on the sideline nursing a sore shoulder.

He still isn't completely healed, but after deflecting two passes, leading the Buckeyes with nine tackles and blocking that punt last week, he's hiding any physical limitations. Given the stakes against another top-25 opponent and that interception void he's so anxious to fill, there really wasn't much chance he'd miss another game this week anyway.

"I just want to do anything I can to support my teammates and make as many plays as I can in any kind of way for my teammates," Roby said. "If that means I have to step up in the run and tackle the quarterback or the running back as much as possible, then that's what I'm going to do.

"I want to win."

When the Buckeyes do that, Roby's fingerprints are usually on it one way or another.