"We know we're good," says Berry. "We know we're the best there is."
They have the benefit of learning from Springs and other former Buckeyes who spend parts of their NFL off-season working out in Columbus. "I can't tell you all the little nuggets Shawn has passed along to the younger guys," says Plummer. The Buckeyes' secondary also has the invaluable experience of working in practice against pro-ready wideouts David Boston and Dee Miller and, before them, Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway. "If you can blanket those guys," says Moore, "you can blanket anybody in the country."
Moore, a fifth-year senior who started with Howard, Kelly and Springs, is the leader of the group. "He's the quarterback," says defensive backs coach Jon Tenuta. "He's the one who makes us work and makes us laugh," says Plummer.
Growing up outside Toledo, in northeast Ohio, Moore dreamed of playing for Michigan. "I'm lucky it worked out this way," he says, despite the Buckeyes' annual failure against Michigan, and the Wolverines' co-national title last season. Moore doesn't play for the maize and blue because Michigan did not recruit him until his senior year, and by then it was too late.
At 5'11" and 200 pounds, Moore is a safety in name only. While he can cover most wide receivers if necessary, he was, by his own estimation, in pass coverage "about three times" in the win over Penn State. The rest of the afternoon he spent terrorizing Thompson and ear-holing running backs. He led the Buckeyes with five unassisted tackles, including two for losses and one sack.
For much of his career Moore has freely voiced his opinions, however incendiary. That might change. Before the Buckeyes' victory over Missouri, he said publicly that Tigers quarterback Corby Jones would "give up," as he supposedly did against Ohio State last season after being hit hard by Katzenmoyer. Later, when he read that Jones's father had died of a heart attack over the summer, Moore felt embarrassed by his comment; he lost his own father to a heart attack last year. Moore has vowed to be more temperate in his remarks.
Berry, a junior, brought the gaudiest credentials to Ohio State. As a senior at De-Sales High in the Columbus suburb of Worthington, he was a nationally recruited running back. He made official visits to Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State, and joined the Buckeyes with the potent class that included Boston, Katzenmoyer and running back Michael Wiley. Berry practiced with both offense and defense as a freshman and made a permanent home on defense only when the coaching staff told him it was where he could play right away.
"I miss carrying the ball," says Berry. "Of course, I still get to carry it when I pick off a pass." He has six interceptions in his career. He also returns punts.
McClellion, a fifth-year senior, is the utilityman. He is the nickelback and the first corner off the bench behind both Plummer and Winfield. Raised in Delray Beach, Fla., he is also the only one among the five regulars who isn't from Ohio.
Plummer, a fourth-year junior, is the preacher. He leads the team's prayer group. "I'll tell you a story that I've never told anyone," he says. "My mother [Babette Plummer, a psychologist] told me that when I was in her womb, the doctors did tests and told her that I wouldn't be born healthy and that she should consider an abortion. She told me that she prayed and that angels appeared to her and told her to have this baby. She went against the doctors, and her prayers were answered."