COLUMBUS - There is hopefully that moment in the life of a college football player when he progresses from just "playing" the game to ultimately grasping it. For some, it comes eventually, and for others the clock runs out before their understanding reaches that pinnacle.
Ohio State defensive back Devon Torrence thinks that moment has arrived. As he prepares for his final season as a Buckeye, Torrence has gone through spring practice with a more comfortable grip on the concepts Ohio State employs.
"Last year at this time I was out there just playing, really didn't maybe understand everything that was going on," Torrence said. "This year, I'm trying to concentrate on the little things and understand the total defensive package, and maybe be a little more football savvy."
OSU coaches expect Torrence and fellow senior Chimdi Chekwa to be their starting cornerbacks in the 2010 season.
The Buckeyes will have their final workout of the spring Saturday in Ohio Stadium in the spring game. The defensive secondary has a blend of returning starters, experienced backups, and new role players.
Chekwa has been a starter the past two seasons and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention last year. He has been slowed this spring by injuries but should again be one of the top coverage players in the fall.
Torrence, who started out as a receiver for the Buckeyes and then switched to defensive back, moved into a starting role for the five-time Big Ten champions last season.
OSU cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said Torrence has done remarkably well, considering the position change, and Johnson
expects that development to continue daily.
Torrence was a highly regarded offensive weapon coming out of Canton South High School, where he scored 48 touchdowns and had more than 3,000 all purpose yards. He played three summers of minor league baseball before concentrating solely on football last summer.
"Devon has played a lot of football for us, which is great," Johnson said. "Last year was really his first time playing corner for a full year, and there is still a lot to be played with him, because he's not a natural corner yet - he's a natural athlete. I think he has really taken a hold of that, which has been nice."
Torrence had 35 tackles with two interceptions and a sack last season as part of an Ohio State unit that ranked fifth in the nation in total defense.
Junior Donnie Evege has played with the first unit while Chekwa has been sidelined and should be the top backup at corner.
At safety the Buckeyes return Jermale Hines and Orhian Johnson, and they are the likely starters.
Hines, a senior from Cleveland, was a regular in the secondary last season when he had 57 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and two interceptions.
Johnson is a sophomore from Florida who played in 11 games a year ago.
Also in the mix at safety, where the Buckeyes are replacing All-American Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, are sophomores Zach Domicone and C.J. Barnett, juniors Nate Oliver and Chris Maxwell, and seniors Aaron Gant and Tyler Moeller.
Moeller was a top reserve at linebacker two years ago, but missed all of the 2009 season after suffering a serious nonfootball head injury.
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There is hopefully that moment in the life of a college football player when he progresses from just "playing" the game to ultimately grasping it. For some, it comes eventually, and for others the clock runs out before their understanding reaches that pinnacle.