Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, left, runs the ball as Ohio State defensive back Bradley Roby makes a tackle during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A week ago, Bradley Roby was getting a lot of kidding from his fellow Ohio State defensive backs because they had interceptions and he didn't.
After all, the Peachtree Ridge grad was the one member of the secondary who was consistently getting rave reviews from the coaches to that point. Yet Roby had dropped his only real shot at picking off an opposing pass.
"Everybody gives me a hard time because I'm supposed to be all this and all that," Roby said at the time. "It's tough, but I don't really worry about it. It's going to come to me when I need it and when my team needs it."
Boy, was that right.
Roby returned one interception 41 yards for a score and later collected another errant throw in the eighth-ranked Buckeyes' 63-38 victory over Nebraska on Saturday. He provided Ohio State's first points to help shake the Buckeyes out of a lethargic start, then thwarted perhaps Nebraska's last gasp of getting back in the game with another pick late in the third quarter.
Just like before, his coaches are praising him.
"He's by no means a finished product," Roby's position coach, Kerry Coombs, said this week. "He's going to be a phenomenal player. Frankly, I think the sky's the limit. Bradley's a first-round draft pick down the road."
Oh, and Roby's not taking any heat from his friends this week.
In a season in which the Ohio State defense is yielding 21 points and a jaw-dropping 385 yards a game, Roby has stepped forward as a budding star. Despite some shaky efforts by the defense -- the unit has given up lots of big gainers and missed lots of key tackles -- the Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) are still rolling heading into Saturday night's game at Indiana (2-3, 0-2).
Roby, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound redshirt sophomore cornerback, has made a remarkable turnaround after being a bit player on a sub-.500 team a year ago.
Despite still recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss a game, Roby has been perhaps the top playmaker for the Buckeyes on defense.
He's fourth on the team in tackles with 32, has two tackles for a loss including a sack, has recovered a fumble and made an incredible number of important stops and pass deflections. For example, he has broken up nine passes -- as many as the next two Buckeyes combined.
Roby graded out at an almost unheard of 95 percent against Nebraska according to the coaches' evaluations. He was at 94 percent the week before after a make-or-break win at Michigan State.
"If he wasn't playing well, then I'd say he wasn't," coach Urban Meyer said. "But he's played very well. He's grading extraordinarily high for a corner -- I mean, like, real high."
Before the Nebraska game, Roby said he had watched enough film to know that if he concentrated on a couple of particular pass routes he might be able to "jump" the route and step in front of a pass. And that's precisely what he did.
"I already I have a couple of routes that they run a lot that I'm looking for an interception," he said three days before the game. "Hopefully, they're throwing and I'm in the right position. I've got to get one this game."
After the game, Roby said he had a dream earlier in the week that he would return his first interception of the year for a touchdown -- and that his father had texted him on Saturday morning saying he had had the exact same dream.
"It's crazy how things work out like that," Roby said.
Just as he had envisioned scoring on the pick in the dream, he had almost foreseen what he was going to do after all the hours he spent looking at Nebraska passing plays.
"Both of them were routes I had seen on film," he said. "I told someone I would try to get picks on the routes I saw, because they don't throw much and I wanted to capitalize on my opportunities."
Linebacker Ryan Shazier recognized the value of Roby's timing in making the two big plays.
"His play was amazing," Shazier said. "We just really needed that."
Roby intercepted three passes a year ago but more times than not was victimized by a costly completion or a long bomb. Early in the spring, Meyer had questioned whether he was serious about being a great player.
His recent play has clearly provided an answer.
"I don't think he ever gets beat, or rarely ever gets beat," lineman John Simon said of Roby. "He's a huge playmaker for us. We love having him out there for us."
Coombs said it is Roby's confidence that has helped him become an elite defender.
"I don't ever want to coach a single corner who's not cocky, who doesn't have swagger, who doesn't have an arrogance about him," Coombs said. "Because the corner who doesn't is going to (get beat)."
Roby, however, believes it's just luck if a ball is completed on him.
"The reason that he's good, God gave him a lot of ability," Coombs said. "But the reason he's great is because he's taken what God has given him and he's mastered his craft."