COLUMBUS – Ohio State sophomore cornerback Doran Grant says he has looked up to teammate Bradley Roby as a mentor since the day he stepped onto campus.
When Roby – one of the leaders of OSU’s defense -- was unable to play against Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday because of a shoulder injury, Grant had to draw on all that information and guidance and more.
In his first start, Grant replaced Roby at cornerback and filled out an impressive statistical line. He intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, got credit for a quarterback sack and had seven tackles.
His play was one of the highlights for OSU in its 29-15 win over Alabama-Birmingham on a day when bright spots were scarce.
Half of Ohio State’s starting defensive backfield was out of action against UAB. In addition to Roby, safety C.J. Barnett sat out the game with an ankle injury.
Grant, an Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary graduate, said he found out in the middle of last week he would be starting.
“It was my chance to show the coaches and show Buckeye Nation what I could do,” he said. “I was more excited than nervous. I was a little nervous, but more excited.”
Grant was highly recruited in high school. He chose Ohio State over Michigan State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Cincinnati.
He had appeared in only one of Ohio State’s first three games.
Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said the coaches were confident putting Roby at cornerback despite his limited game day experience.
“I think we had a lot of confidence putting him in the game. We just haven’t had many opportunities to throw a second-team guy into the game. This week gave us an opportunity to see if we had some depth at that position and I think we do now,” Withers said.
“Hopefully this will build confidence for him,” he said.
Next up for Ohio State (4-0) is Michigan State (3-1) in the Big Ten opener for both teams. It will be a 3:30 p.m. game at MSU this Saturday.
The Spartans have struggled to live up to their reputation the last two weeks, losing to Notre Dame and struggling past winless Eastern Michigan 23-7 on Saturday.
Michigan State fans booed their team as it left the field at halftime with Eastern Michigan leading 7-3. Michigan State’s eight first-half possessions produced five punts, a lost fumble, a missed field goal and a made field goal.
Running back Le’Veon Bell, who has rushed for 610 yards this season, carried 36 times for 253 yards in the win over Eastern Michigan.
First-year quarterback Andrew Maxwell has completed 56 percent of his passes for 869 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The strength of the Spartans is on defense, though, where they have eight returning starters from a defense that ranked sixth nationally in overall defense last season.