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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Given the success that the Ohio State kickoff coverage unit had in containing Nebraska kick returner Ameer Abdullah last Saturday, Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs decided that the group deserved a nickname.
Like sharks in the water, the Buckeyes kickoff team was most effective when it smelled blood in the water, only there was nothing shark-like about the statures of the 11 players that compiled the unit. But that didn't stop Coombs from turning to another creature in the sea for the group's new alias.
"They can't be sharks yet, they're this tall," Coombs explained, holding his hand midway up his chest. "So they have to be piranhas. We like to say that when kids go after a guy with the ball, it's like sharks to the ball. But with this group you can't. They're like piranhas, just because they're midgets."
The 'piranhas' size, however, hasn't prevented them from being effective. Covering 10 kickoffs in the Buckeyes' nine-touchdown effort against the Huskers, the kickoff unit managed to pin Abdullah inside Nebraska's own 25-yard line on six separate occasions- twice forcing him inside the Huskers' 15-yard line.
OSU's kickoff unit- which is composed of freshmen defenders Jamal Marcus, David Perkins, [/db]Devan Bogard[/db], Najee Murray, Armani Reeves, and Camren Williams, as well as career special teams players in Drew Basil, Zach Domicone, and Taylor Rice- has earned considerable praise from first-year Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer, who has referred to the players as "my guys" on multiple occasions. Coombs also spoke to the enthusiasm of the group, which may not go noticed by the average fan.
"They're an awful lot of fun to coach. I think there's seven true freshmen on that team, right now," Coombs said. "They're running down the field with a great passion to get to the ball, it's one of Coach Meyer's favorite units, and he's taken great pride in coaching those kids."
At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Domicone makes for one of the Buckeyes' bigger piranhas, which is perhaps fitting considering that the fifth-year senior is now viewed as one of the leaders of the group.
"I was a little offended, because I'm one of the biggest guys on the unit," Domicone joked. "It's cool though. When there's blood in the water, we definitely go and get it. We say there's a race to the ball, and the first one down there wins."
For a player like Domicone, who may not have been as highly touted coming out of high school as some of the current players playing on the OSU defense, being a part of the piranhas has given him the opportunity to contribute to the Buckeyes on a consistent basis, even if it's not in the way that he initially imagined he would.
"Obviously, every play is important, but we know we're basically sprinting down 60 yards and trying to hit whoever's in our way," Domicone said. "Since our plays are limited, we try to make the most of them."
For the piranhas who were highly touted coming out of high school, like Bogard, Reeves, and Murray, being a part of the Buckeyes' kickoff team has given them the opportunities to contribute as soon as possible in their young careers, while they wait behind veterans firmly entrenched in the OSU depth chart.
"My role is to produce and help my team," Bogard said. "I'm playing my role, but I want to just help keep producing and just keep playing."
So with continued success, will the piranhas have a chance to graduate into sharks? Probably not. But according to Coombs, that might not be such a bad thing.
"I don't know if they're going to get a lot bigger, but I wouldn't want to jump into a pool of piranhas myself," Coombs said. "One big shark or 11 piranhas? I think I'd try to take my chances getting rid of a shark."
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