KaVontae Turpin


Tim May
[Jim Cowsert/The Associated Press]

Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin likes to recite a quote from coach Woody Hayes that helped explain Griffin’s success in the 1970s at Ohio State, though he was diminutive among his contemporaries.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” Griffin says.

With that in mind, Ohio State would best not sleep on the potential of TCU’s KaVontae Turpin on Saturday. At 5 feet 9 and 157 pounds, he will be the smallest man on the field.

But he already stands tall in one major category for the Horned Frogs. He took a punt back 78 yards for a touchdown to ignite a 42-12 win over SMU last week. It was the fourth punt return TD of his career, a TCU record.

He also had four pass catches, one of which came on a slant on a dead run and cut up through the middle of the SMU defense. What was apparent on both plays was what makes him special, despite his size.

“It's speed, elusiveness, he's as quick as a cat,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said.

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Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah said those traits showed up as the Buckeyes studied the Horned Frogs.

“He's really elusive, probably one of the most elusive players I've seen on film,” said Okudah, who could wind up eye to eye with Turpin on pass plays and on returns. “I think he is kind of comparable to a Darren Sproles or someone like that.”

The key, Okudah said, is to cut down the amount of green Turpin might see when he has the ball in his hands on catches, punt returns and on kickoffs — he’s returned one of those for a TD, too.

"Guys like that like space," Okudah said. "I think our job is take all of his space up."

Linebacker Baron Browning said smaller players have at least one advantage if other things are equal in terms of ability and desire.

“Being little (can mean) being quicker than most bigger guys,” Browning said.

Okudah seemed to be looking forward to the challenge.

“I think as far as gunner-wise (on punt coverage), I'm excited to get down the field and see what he's all about,” Okudah said.