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Buckeye Football Notebook: 'We're scuffing them up, we've got to do that a little bit'
By Tony Gerdeman

Last season, the Ohio State secondary labeled themselves "BIA", for "Best in America." Normally, giving yourself a nickname is frowned upon, but the Buckeyes lived up to every last syllable.

Three members of the secondary were selected in the first round of last month's NFL Draft, including a pair of cornerbacks in Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore. Replacing them is the sizable duty of cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. Coombs has shown the ability to develop starters every single year, but this might be a bigger test than most.

"We’re not giving ourselves any names," he said. "We just have a lot of really good players that come here to play football and they work really, really hard. I am blessed. I have an unbelievable room right now. I love these kids from young to old, though mostly they’re young. But they are playing really hard. We’re scuffing them up, we’ve got to do that a little bit, but I’m very excited about them."

When it comes to scuffing somebody up, the Ohio State defensive line didn't do as much as they would have liked a year ago. The Buckeyes finished in the middle of the Big Ten pack in sacks last season. It was a disappointing outcome from a very talented group of pass rushers.

This spring, they went about changing their effectiveness.

"We’re definitely doing some different things, whether it’s how we get lined up, or different plays, but overall just kind of playing faster," defensive end Sam Hubbard said this spring. "I think the ends and especially the defensive line has a little bit less responsibilities and more emphasis on getting off the rock and getting after the quarterback and the running back. They want us to play faster this year."

Playing faster could be the key, because the Buckeyes believe they already have the necessary technique for success.

"I think if we’re all going full speed we’re the best pass rushers," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "Nobody really uses the technique we do in country I don’t think. Coach Johnson teaches us well, hands, feet. Last year we weren’t getting off the ball, but this year I think we’re going to be more pass-rush driven, more of a d-line driven team."

On the other side of the ball, Billy Price has taken to his new role as the starting center very well. He is not a finished product yet, however. He had a fantastic spring, but will continue to focus on several areas of his game to improve upon over the summer.

"There’s some things I continue to work on," he said. "My hands have to be a little faster, feet have to be a little faster, just continue to work on those kind of things, watch a little bit of film on what Pat did last year, even some of the guys in the NFL and trying to mimic some of those actions."

When the spring started for the Buckeyes, Demetrius Knox was lining up right next to Billy Price as the team's No. 1 right guard. He wasn't able to hold on to the spot, but the competition is far from over. For players who have never started before, it can sometimes take them a bit longer to play with the type of confidence necessary to succeed.

"It’s confidence," Price said of Knox in the spring. "He’s becoming more comfortable too playing with guys because he’s kind of a guy who fits in the program but doesn’t get to play. Then the next thing you know he gets thrown into it and suddenly you have to be the guy. There’s just a little bit of uneasiness and you have to settle into that. That’s what I’ve seen him in the spring get more comfortable, become more comfortable in his play and his ability to dominate people and Demetrius is doing a fantastic job with that."

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