Ohio's cornerbacks have had a bit of fun in the meeting room.

Recently, the group has gotten together to watch film — but also to watch highlight tapes of one another from high school. It's designed to lighten up the room, to break up the monotony of camp. 

But those high school highlight tapes are about to become college game film. And fast.

In recent weeks, cornerbacks Mayne Williams, London Miller and Bradd Ellis have been sidelined with injures. Williams' injury is the most devastating — he's out indefinitely with a lingering neck injury, and likely is out for the remainder of his college career. 

That's led to competition at a position that was expected to be settled on the first day of camp, with then-backups now competing for starting roles. 

“It really leaves everyone else with a chance to step up and make plays; everybody else now has the opportunity," cornerbacks coach De'Angelo Smith said. "Not that Mayne is gone — he’s still with us, he’s like another coach now. He’s like extra ears, eyes and hands for me to see what’s going on in the locker room or what’s going on on the field."

Ellis has since returned from a hamstring injury, but Miller is now out with a hamstring injury. The timetable for Miller's return is unknown. 

“The thing that is encouraging to me is that everybody is hungry, everybody wants a spot," Ellis said. "When you have this many guys willing to battle for it, it forces everybody to take a step up, and I think it’s come time that they realize that that spot is open."

Williams, a redshirt sophomore, started in 22 games last season and was primed to start with Ellis at the cornerback slots. It seemed a fair bet, on paper, that the unit would improve from last year's 102nd ranking in passing yards allowed. 

Then, for a short time, Ellis and Williams were watching practice on the sideline, baseball hats on backwards, offering encouragement to teammates who were on those high school highlight tapes just months ago.

For the time being, the leadership couldn't come from leading by example.

“I think for me it’s just, everything has to be perfect," Ellis said. "I don’t have excuses, I don’t have the luxury of making these mistakes. I have to be the leader for these guys.”

With those two out, however, meant an opportunity for others on the roster to earn a starting spot at the opposite corner from Ellis. Smith cited Jalen Fox and the Motley twins, Ilyaas and Xavier, as a few standouts in camp. 

Fox has been on the starting defense with Ellis, with the Motley twins rotating in after that.

“It’s just, look yourself in the mirror and go ‘it’s time to go,’" Smith said. "This defense is on the edge, you’re basically on your own country, whatever you want to say. This is you, you’re the reception of what you put out on the field."

That intensity has ramped up, as some in the secondary are looking to seize their opportunity to become a starter in just over a week against Hampton.

“The competition is kinda just trying to rise now, all the young guys have to come and step up and contribute," Fox said. "When one guy goes down, the next guy has to be ready.”

That "next guy" might not even know yet that he'll be called upon in the next days, weeks or even months to step up into a starting. 

The cornerbacks aren't running out of time — the season opener is a week and a half away. But time certainly isn't their friend right now. 

"It’s for the taking — if you want it, it doesn’t matter who you are," Ellis said. "Just ball out.”



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