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Spotlight on the Draft: Ashton Youboty

The latest standout cornerback from Ohio State has already made the most of several big moves in his life, and he plans to work tirelessly to succeed upon moving on to the NFL


Ashton Youboty left Ohio State a year early but felt fulfilled by his three years in Columbus, particularly the two wins over Michigan

(The 2006 NFL Draft is scheduled to take place on the weekend of April 29-30, during which nearly 300 college standouts will enter into the professional ranks. During the months of March and April, will run a series of features on these NFL hopefuls, taking a closer look at some of the names you'll be hearing on draft weekend. There is no correlation between the players chosen for these features and the Buccaneers' draft plans, and any mentions of draft status or scouting reports are from outside sources. Our next feature: Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty.)

That he got a thrill out of Barry Sanders' logic-defying moves, that he loved watching the former Detroit Lion make opposing defenders look silly, made Ashton Youboty no different than countless other football-loving kids in his generation.

That he believes, if given the chance, he could tackle Sanders definitely sets Youboty apart.

"Yes, of course," said the Ohio State cornerback when confronted with that hypothetical. "I can tackle everybody out here. He's just slippery, so you've got to try to balance up and let him make the first move."

Barring an extraordinarily unlikely return to the NFL by Sanders or a wormhole back to the Silverdome circa the 1990s, we'll never know if Youboty's skills match his confidence. But we do know that this particular Buckeye is about to follow a long line of standout OSU cornerbacks into the NFL by way of this month's draft, possibly even as a first-round pick. And, indeed, the scouting reports on Youboty indicate that he is not only a cover corner in the mold of a Chris Gamble or Antoine Winfield but also a strong tackler.

If such reports prove true on the next level, Youboty would seemingly be an asset for a defense such as the one run by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which asks a lot of its cornerbacks. Youboty, who sounds and looks a bit like former Buccaneer Warrick Dunn, certainly agrees with that assessment.

"I think on the field I bring a complete corner," he said. "I'm going to be out there competing 110% every play. Off the field, I don't think you'll see me get into any trouble. Go to practice, go home, get some food, get some sleep, go back to practice."

Youboty displayed that type of dedication to his craft while excelling for the Buckeyes, amassing 117 tackles, five interceptions, 23 passes defensed and two sacks over his two years as a starter. Compiling such numbers on the Ohio State defense – which had no fewer than eight defensive players at the NFL Scouting Combine in February – took more than talent; sometimes getting a simple tackle was a matter of will.

"I think with the Ohio State defense it was a competition," he said with a laugh. "It's a rush to get the tackle. That was just the mentality up there. I attempted to get all my tackles solo because our linebackers, when they come in there they just hit whatever's in the way. I take pride in that. I try to be a complete corner and I think that's one step to doing that."

The 5-11, 189-pound Youboty was an understudy to Gamble in 2003, playing in all 12 games as a nickel back and recording 14 tackles. He started nine contests in 2004 and racked up 61 tackles and four picks, and last year he won first-team All-Big Ten honors while making 56 tackles and one interception.

Youboty then declared for the draft and, while he is technically coming out early he feels more like a graduating senior. He actually began attending Ohio State in January of 2003, when he basically fell in step with the team's class of 2002. Indeed, 70% of those players who came to Columbus in '02 ended up redshirting as freshmen, and Youboty suspects he would have done the same.

The next three seasons were quite fulfilling – particularly the two wins over Michigan in three attempts – and Youboty searched his feelings enough to realize he was ready for the next challenge.

"I've been a part of that [2002] class," he said. "And I've played since my true freshmen year, three full seasons, and I think I did a good job at Ohio State and I appreciated my time there. It was time for me to move on."

Youboty is no stranger to moving on, either. He was born in Liberia, but the Youboty family moved to Philadelphia when he was four. When he was in the eighth grade, they moved again to Texas, where the young Youboty became a football and track standout at Klein high school. While spending summers in Houston with his mother, he took summer school classes, which eventually allowed him to graduate early from high school and move to Columbus.

"I never planned on leaving high school early, it just happened like that," said Youboty. "I was in town and my mother suggested it. She said, 'Do you want to take classes while you're here?' so I just went ahead and did it."

He shows that same eagerness to learn when it comes to football, which is good since there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period when he hits the NFL. Scouts love his size and say he has room to grow, and see a smooth athlete with good speed and the ability to go up for the ball. Youboty can certainly jump; in one high school game he blocked a field goal to send a game into overtime than blocked an extra point to seal the victory in OT.

Youboty can already identify one aspect of the NFL game that's going to take some getting used to.

"I look forward to working hard, listening to what they have to tell me, [learning] the different techniques I have to use," he said. "The new five-yard rule, that's a big change. [Not] touching receivers after five, that's a big difference. I plan on listening to what they have to say and improving from there."

Of course, he may not ever have to tackle anyone as crazily elusive as Barry Sanders. In fact, he may not ever get any closer to Sanders than he did at the 2004 Alamo Bowl, when the Buckeyes played Oklahoma State, Sanders' alma mater, and Youboty saw the former NFL star from afar. No matter, there are plenty of other challenges awaiting Youboty after the draft.

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