The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.
No. 2: Bradley Roby decides to stick around
Development: The combination of a previous redshirt season and a breakout campaign as a sophomore gave Roby something to think about. After more than a month of deliberations, the rising star at cornerback eventually decided that a chance to compete for a championship and boost his stock even more was enough to put his professional dreams on hold for another year. The lightning-fast playmaker had started thinking about parlaying his huge season and the ability to declare for the draft after spending three years with Ohio State into a potential move even before the program had clinched a perfect record, having conversations with the coaching staff about the possibles pros and cons while continuing to play at a high level in the secondary. But he made clear from the start that the opportunity to make a run at a title with the Buckeyes would tempt him, and Roby ultimately couldn't walk away from it.
What it means: Certainly getting an ESPN.com first-team All-America pick to return for another season is invaluable just on its own, but Roby's decision carries even more weight for the Buckeyes when the rest of the defensive roster is factored in as well. Collectively Ohio State was already facing the daunting task of replacing seven starters after defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins elected to skip his senior season, clearly providing no shortage of offseason development and talent identification for the staff on that side of the ball. More specific to the secondary, the Buckeyes also would have needed to replace both starting cornerbacks if Roby had left thanks to the end of Travis Howard's eligibility after a productive senior season. Now the Buckeyes can lead from the back defensively with a secondary set to return three starters as Roby teams up with safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, and that veteran group figures to help ease the transition for a number of guys in front of it.
Numbers game: The Buckeyes had a few communication issues and were prone at times to breakdowns in coverage, but when the defense had to make a play, few units in the country were better on the most critical down in the game. Armed with defensive backs who proved most effective in man coverage and a pass rush that got stronger as the season progressed, Ohio State allowed opponents to convert third-down tries less than 33 percent of the time -- with Roby certainly playing a significant role in that with his ability to win matchups and a knack for disrupting a passing attack.
He said it: "It's stability in the backend, you have the two safeties back now and Roby, so that’s three out of four -- stable. Our defensive line is not stable, and our linebacker position is not stable. If you throw the backend in that, then we’re dealing with an unstable defense. It’s big, plus I love Roby, I love who he is. Tremendous family, a guy that you like showing his face when you talk about Ohio State football. He’s everything you want, and a good person." -- coach Urban Meyer on the impact of Roby's return