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A season ago, Doran Grant was just another defensive back on the Ohio State roster, only seeing playing time when the Buckeyes' special teams unit was called upon- a far cry from the expectations that were leveled on the former four-star recruit when he committed to spend his college career in Columbus.
What a difference an offseason can make.
Entering his sophomore season, the St. Vincent-St. Mary high school product now finds himself in the thick of Ohio State's cornerback rotation, and was even listed as a co-starter at the position entering fall camp. By the end of fall camp, Grant was still taking snaps with the Buckeyes' starters, and figures to be an integral part of the Ohio State defense, regardless of if it's him or co-starter Travis Howard starting opposite Bradley Roby on Sept. 1.
"I don't see any of it as a battle. I hope you guys can appreciate the fact that if you're going to play at the highest level, you're going to have to have more than two corners," OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. "Corners can't play 75 snaps a game. You really need four. They've got to be able to be out there and be fresh and be rested and ready to go. So to me, we have three ones."
Grant admitted that at times during his freshman season, he felt lost, but he's now made a natural progression that allows him to be mentioned in the same breath as Roby, the Buckeyes' No. 1 corner, and Howard, a fifth-year senior.
"I just feel like I actually know what I'm doing. Last year, I had an idea about coverages and everything, but I didn't know how difficult it would be, like the transition from high school," Grant said. "I learned what I'm doing now and I'm more comfortable. I just gotta keep getting better."
Despite his four-star status coming out of high school and being one of the more highly touted defensive players in Ohio State's 2011 recruiting class, Grant said that he wasn't frustrated by his lack of consistent playing time a year ago.
"I know I had to get better and it wasn't about the stars coming in," Grant said. "It was just about me developing as a college football player."
After recording just six tackles in Ohio State's first 12 games of 2011, Grant said that light went off for him as the Buckeyes prepared for their Gator Bowl battle with Florida. No longer concerned with learning the playbook, the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder said he was finally able to play at a speed that he was accustomed to.
"You have an idea at like the end of your freshman year so you kind of get that start and just keep building after that," Grant said. "You play a little faster. You're not thinking as much. You can react better."
Although statistically the Buckeyes were one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten, they still have a long way to go from the 6-7 record that they accumulated a year ago. Finally playing at full speed, Grant feels as though he can play a major role in getting the Ohio State playing at the level its accustomed to.
"At times, if you look at the stats, it really didn't add up," Grant said. "We know how we did last year, we know we gotta come back strong this season."