COLUMBUS: Doran Grant has waited for two years at Ohio State, but he wasn’t really waiting.
Grant, a junior cornerback from St. Vincent-St. Mary, continued his relentless work in the weight room, dropping his body fat to a mind-boggling 4.2 percent.
“Isn’t that something?” OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said, marveling at the number.
During winter 2013, Grant was one of two Ohio State skill players to earn the Iron Buckeye Award, given for physical training dedication, determination, discipline, toughness and leadership. Now 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, he said he added eight pounds of muscle.
But Grant wasn’t just biding his time on the bench press.
Playing the third cornerback spot last season behind All-Big Ten selections Bradley Roby and Travis Howard, Grant picked their brains, listened and learned. He knew he was being mentored by future pros. Howard signed as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans; Roby could be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft in May.
Now with Howard gone, it is finally Grant’s turn. When the Buckeyes open the season Aug. 31 against Buffalo in Ohio Stadium, Grant is expected to start.
Speaking last Sunday at Ohio State media day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Grant was as unassuming as ever, even though he said he was approaching 2013 with a little bit of an attitude.
“I’m hungry for this season, ready to step up and play for the Buckeyes, have my presence felt here,” he said.
But Coombs and starting safety C.J. Barnett were over the top when they talked about Grant.
“In my opinion he’s having the best camp so far out of everybody,” said Barnett, a fifth-year senior. “He practices like a pro. He’s great at everything he does, even in special teams. He’s projected as a starter, but he’s going the hardest in special teams.
“Coach Coombs says, ‘A team will be great if the great players are the hardest workers’ and that defines Doran Grant. He works hard in the weight room, on the field, everywhere and it’s showing in his play. He’s stepping up and is going to be one of the leaders of our defense.”
Coombs said Grant, a two-time All-Ohio selection at St. V-M, relishes his new responsibility.
“More than anything else it’s the attitude and demeanor and the knowledge that I’m a starter,” Coombs said. “When you walk out of the locker room as a starter, that’s different than walking out of the locker room as a backup. He loves that role. He’s leading in the meeting room, leading on the field. He has no fear of being the starter. He’s accepted that responsibility and that’s probably the biggest difference.”
Grant played in all 25 games his first two years. During a 12-0 season in 2012, he got in for 165 defensive plays and totaled 19 tackles, 15 solos. Starting against Alabama-Birmingham when Roby was injured, he recorded a career-high seven tackles, along with a sack, a fumble recovery and his first interception. In 2011 he managed just six tackles, three in the opener against the University of Akron.
Asked what he thinks Grant will do best this season, Coombs said: “He’s a great man cover corner. He doesn’t make mental mistakes on the field.
“He’s had a fantastic camp and he’s playing extremely well. I’m very excited to watch him play in a game. I told Doran yesterday I feel like I’ve had him for a whole career because it’s been two springs and two falls. That’s like four years in my book and this is by far the best he’s played.”
If he has individual goals, Grant kept them to himself. He wouldn’t give examples of how he believes he has improved in the past two years.
“Just learning the college game, the mentality and what I have to do to perform at a high level here,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing and I feel like it’s going to be a pretty good year for us.”
But Grant said coming to Ohio State was everything he dreamed of — and then some.
“A lot of things I didn’t know about Ohio State really are great. It’s humbling just to be able to put on a jersey every day, practice jersey, game jersey, and play for the Buckeyes,” he said. “I really didn’t realize how big it was when I first got here. It’s a big deal.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.