The Ohio State football team has had trouble generating a consistent pass rush through the first two games, leaving its defensive backs exposed.
But even if opposing quarterbacks have ample time to scan the field, cornerback Travis Howard believes the Buckeyes should be able to stick to receivers like shrinkwrap on a CD.
“We thrive on being the best secondary,” Howard said. “We want to do our job against any team no matter what. We try to come out with fire and juice and just compete.”
Fire and juice are popular terms around the OSU program and mean intensity and energy, and Howard has been supplying plenty of both this year. He has three interceptions, putting him in a tie for first nationally with Stanford’s Ed Reynolds.
He also has already matched the top individual total on the team last season.
Although the fifth-year senior was a starter in 2011, he didn’t exactly endear himself to his coaches with his work habits.
“Travis Howard has really, really shown a maturity level and how to be a pro,” co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “We talked about handling all the adverse situations, doing everything he needs to do on and off the field. He always had the ability. Some guys prepare a little differently as they get older and realize what kind of ability they have.”
Howard is among many OSU players who have benefited from getting to reboot their careers with the arrival of coach Urban Meyer.
“I can say last year, I wasn’t too focused,” he said. “There were a lot of things going on in the past. This year, I had a clear mindset and I was all in, and our coaching staff we have is brilliant. They know everything. They prepare us well. I’m way more comfortable, and when you’re comfortable, it allows you to go out there and perform at your best.”
Asked what derailed him in the past, Howard said: “It was the little things as far as competing. … Most of all, it’s just me being more focused and tuned in and buying into what we’re doing.”
The Buckeyes have five interceptions this season, which is tied for the third nationally. They finished in a tie for 43rd last season with 13.
Howard had two in each of the last two years. But while the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Miami, Fla., native has always had the ideal size and speed to be a top-notch cornerback, he’s finally bringing the proper mentality to the position.
“Travis has really taken care of his business since the day I arrived,” said first-year cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
“He’s really taken care of his footwork and is having great vision on the quarterback, which I think is very important. … His level of play is reflective of the work he put in during the offseason. He’s doing really, really well.”