COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The arrangement is temporary in the starting lineup, and there’s not much guaranteed even after the first snap.
Armani Reeves will take what he can get and make the most of it, though, even if the circumstances that will lead to the sophomore’s first start when the season opens next week aren’t exactly ideal.
Reeves is certainly aware of how short his stay with the first unit in place of Ohio State’s star junior Bradley Roby might be following the announcement of a one-game suspension tied to Roby's arrest for an incident at a bar last month. But the Buckeyes didn’t waste much time elevating Reeves on the depth chart, either, at least offering a suggestion that he might be leading a talented pack of defensive backs pushing the established starters for playing time.
“Obviously, [Roby] is one of the best in the country, if not the best,” Reeves said after practice Monday. “When he comes back, I’m still going to do the same thing I’ve been doing the whole time, and that’s just working hard. If I’m on the field at corner, I’m going to go hard. And if I’m not, I’m going to go hard on special teams.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s on the field or not, I’m just going to do my job and help this team any way I can.”
Roby officially won’t be out there for the opener against Buffalo despite the possibility that a charge which has already been reduced from battery to disorderly conduct could be dismissed entirely. And after the Buckeyes settled on that punishment on Saturday, it only took two days before cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs announced a replacement for him, tabbing Reeves for the honor instead of continuing to let a heated battle for practice reps continue.
Reeves might have inherited a spot in the starting group due to something well out of his control, but he certainly hasn’t been just handed playing time thanks to the deep, talented pool of options Ohio State has on hand in the secondary.
Arguably the most skilled signing class of cornerbacks in the country is on campus with Gareon Conley, Eli Apple and Cam Burrows, and all of them have made an impression with their athleticism and vied for action right away.
Doran Grant has done enough to hang on to the starting job he claimed coming out of spring practice, and he’ll likely be handling Roby’s normal responsibilities at the boundary cornerback spot while he’s gone. But Reeves has had to earn the opportunity he’s going to get against Buffalo, both by breathing down the neck of Grant at times and in separating himself from the highly touted freshmen.
“Incredible offseason, great spring, worked really hard, understands the game, very committed, very focused -- but still has to play,” Coombs said. “Still has to play, so we’ll find out on the 31st, but he’s going to line up and he’s going to play.
“I’m excited to see him play, to be honest with you.”
That audition could be particularly valuable down the road, as Grant might attest after shining in place of Roby when given the chance a year ago when a shoulder injury forced Ohio State’s shutdown defender to miss a game.
Roby came right back to reclaim his spot last season, and he surely will again when his suspension ends. But however briefly a starting role might belong to Reeves, that doesn’t diminish the importance of a chance to showcase his ability.
“This is my first game start, and who wouldn’t be nervous, really?” Reeves said. “But first play, first hit, I’ll be cool. Just have to go play, it’s a great experience and I can’t wait for it.
“I prepared the whole offseason for this -- spring ball, summer workouts -- all for this moment. I just have to take the opportunity and just go with it.”
When it’s over, Reeves just might have to go back to the second unit. But the next wave of cornerbacks appears to be coming, and he can send the warning signal.