Roles uncertain for Roby, Smith

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby thought long and hard last winter about whether he wanted to jump into the NFL draft or come back for his fourth season with the Buckeyes.

He decided to return. Then a skirmish in an Indiana bar led to a one-game suspension.

Now the All-Big Ten performer is back with the Buckeyes as they prepare for Saturday's game against San Diego State.

Coach Urban Meyer said it's been a strange last nine months or so for Roby.

"Bradley Roby, who I have a lot of respect for, made a decision to come back. It was because he came in with a group of players and he wanted to finish (with them), which I think is very admirable," Meyer said earlier this week. "He catches a lot of people in his ear, people saying, 'You could have done this, you could have done this.' I believe that he went through a little bit of a funk of buyer's remorse or whatever."

Meyer meant that Roby perhaps had second thoughts about his decision to come back instead of taking a big paycheck as a high NFL draft pick. It's a problem for a lot of kids who have to make that call after their third year in college. Many end up thinking back on what might have been instead of concentrating on what's coming up.

Roby was charged with misdemeanor battery after an incident in Bloomington, Ind., when a bar bouncer said he was struck in the chest by Roby. Eventually, the charges were reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and will be dropped from Roby's record if he stays out of trouble for the next year.

Roby has not spoken to reporters since his arrest. But he apparently played an active role with the Buckeyes in the weeks leading up to last week's 40-20 win over Buffalo in the opener.

Meyer stressed on Monday that there was no evidence that Roby did anything wrong.

"Once the (bar's surveillance) videotape came out, (it was clear) there was no assault, there was no battery, there was no, whatever," said Meyer, who still elected to bench Roby for the opener for being in a situation he shouldn't have been in. "But I think he learned a really strong lesson and he's done everything we've asked him to do, and I'm anxious to get him back on the field."

From the sound of it, Roby hasn't just sat around eating chips and watching soap operas.

"Football players at all levels, but certainly the great ones, they live to play the game," Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. "The great players don't try to get out of practice, the great players don't try to get out of working out, they try to find ways to get in. Last week, all week, (Roby) was in the office watching San Diego State film to prepare himself. He has treated his situation like a professional and he has worked hard to stay in shape."

Backup tailback Rod Smith also returns to the lineup this week. He was suspended for the first game because of an unspecified violation of team rules that took place last January or February, according to Meyer.

The addition of the two fortifies an Ohio State team that is thin in the secondary and needs a big back like Smith. Whether both step right into the starting lineup or are eased back onto the depth chart will be determined in practice this week.

Armani Reeves started in place of Roby last week on the corner opposite Doran Grant. Reeves played hard but it became evident as the game went on that Buffalo was picking on the youngster making his first collegiate start. He was called for a pass-interference penalty, was beaten on a couple of throws and went through the typical trials and tribulations of a young player who had never before been in on more than three plays in a game and suddenly participated in 68 defensive plays and 12 on special teams. On a hot, humid day.

Now Reeves, Grant and Roby will vie for the two starting spots this week against San Diego State, which fell behind and was forced to call an uncharacteristic 67 passes in a 40-19 home loss to FCS school Eastern Illinois on Saturday night.

"(Roby) was just being a coach, really, knowing he wasn't going to be able to play the first game he was helping out myself, Armani Reeves and the young guys and basically the whole defense," Grant said of Roby's impact in practice a week ago. "He was still being a great leader. He was always there talking, giving us keys and clues of what we have to look for."

Smith jumps into the mix at tailback where Jordan Hall rushed for a career-best 159 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Buffalo. But Hall may shift more to the hybrid H-back spot, freeing up room for Smith. He will be joined at tailback by Warren Ball, Bri'onte Dunn and freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott. Dunn and Elliott did not get a carry in the opener.

In two weeks, the Buckeyes will also get back suspended tailback Carlos Hyde, last year's leading scorer. He's been sidelined since his name came up in an alleged assault against a female at a Columbus bar in July.

"What they do is they have to come in and earn their position back," Meyer said of all the suspended players.