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October 31, 2013

Familiar form

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bradley Roby has big potential, big dreams and a bigger ego.

But Ohio State's preseason All-American cornerback is madly fixated on the smallest of matters lately.

"To be good at corner, you have to concentrate on the little things. It's all about the details. You have to keep a certain mindset throughout the whole game and if you get off that mindset it can go bad just like this," he said, snapping his fingers.

Few know that what it's like to toe that line -- the one between making a play and being on the receiving end of one -- more than Roby.

"At corner, you gotta just wait for the plays to come to you," he said.

"You can't go to the plays because when you try to do that too much that's when you get beat on double moves. That's when you get beat with a deep pass when you're in cover three. You got to just wait for it to come to you, you gotta just do what you're supposed to do every play and eventually they'll come to you. If you're a good player, you'll make the plays."

And Roby, of course, is a good player. He might be a great one. The redshirt junior nearly jumped to the NFL last season before returning to Columbus for what's likely one last hurrah with the Buckeyes.

As a key cog in an Ohio State team that's won 20-straight games under the guidance of coach Urban Meyer, Roby was arguably regarded as one the nation's top cornerbacks on one of the nation's best teams.

Such expectations, though, might be the reason for a series of unexpected struggles throughout the 2013 season.

First was a one-game suspension for a bar brawl in Bloomington, Ind., in July. Next was shaky outing against California. After that, Roby played downright bad in back-to-back primetime games against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Lastly came a controversial ejection for targeting against Iowa.

Most notably to best explain his woes, though, people will likely point to how Badgers senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis simply toyed around with him for 207 yards and one touchdown.

"Any time a cornerback gets beat, everybody's going to see it. It was obvious and it was something I had to deal with," he said.

"I always like to learn from my mistakes so when I make a big mistake, I really sit back and I'm like, 'Dang, how did that happen? Why did that happen?' And I don't make the same mistake again."

It seemed to humble Roby, whose words usually drip with confidence when dealing with media folk.

"I really just had to focus and get back to how I approached the game last year. I think the first half of this season, I was worried about too much other things than what my job was and I forgot doing my job is what got me here in the first place," he said. "I just got back to that, getting back to the basics, getting back to the small things and the small things are going to get you far." And for Roby, "far" is likely playing football professionally -- an opportunity he passed on to be a part of an undefeated Buckeyes squad gunning for its first national championship in more than a decade.

NFL aspirations, though, still swirled fervently in his head. Roby said they -- and the pressure to live up to lofty standards -- crippled his play.

"That's something that's always in the back of your head. I think after the Wisconsin game, it changed something in my head to where I'm not playing to impress anybody. I'm playing to do my job and to make plays for my teammates," he said.

"Once you change your mindset from trying to please scouts, fans, other people, once you change that to just making plays for my teammates, doing my job, that's when it all changes, that's when it all shifts and that's when I got back to how I normally play."

After more-than-serviceably defending stud junior wide receiver Allen Robinson in a 63-14 thrashing of Penn State Saturday, it appears Roby is inching closer to returning to a more familiar form on the field.

In interviews, though, he hasn't skipped a beat.

"When I play disciplined and when I play with my technique and my eyes are in the right place," Roby started, "I feel like I'm the best."



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