It's tough to stand up straight when the entire Defense is depending on you...
Cornerback is still one of the more frightening positions on the roster to discuss. We had serious issues with depth, injuries and talent here in 2011. True freshman Greg Henderson was a nice surprise, but after that, things got ridiculous. We had safeties, wide receivers and running backs all see time at CB last season. Injuries before and during the season left us without much depth or talent at corner, and it was already a position of concern after losing Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown from an underperforming secondary in 2010. Here's what we have going on here going into 2012.
- Parker Orms, Jr - I'm listing him as a corner even though he would be best served as a safety. He's a very good athlete, but isn't quite what you want out of a coverage guy on the outside. He's best covering guys inside, and even better when he's allowed to play the run. He's not afraid of contact, even with all of the injuries he's dealt with in his time here, and he has a great nose for the ball. Our pass defense was best in 2011 when he was healthy opposite Greg Henderson, but his inability to stay on the field when we were depending on him was devastating to the defense. It's never good to depend on one guy, especially when he's playing out of position. Here's to hoping that he can slide inside to cover slot guys in 2012.
- Jered Bell, So - Bell is coming off of an ACL tear at the end of last summer when he looked like he was the only solid option at CB going into 2011. In fact, a healthy Bell opposite Henderson probably would've been huge for our defense, but enough of the ‘what ifs'. Hopefully his recovery is going well and he can work his way back into shape sometime in the spring. His return would bolster the depth at corner, and he might even be able to snag the starting spot that he looked destined for. His play after burning a redshirt in 2010 was solid, though he did often looked like a rookie. He had good speed and solid size, so hopefully he can bring those things to the team again soon.
- D.D. Goodson, So - Depth here is a problem when a guy like D.D. is one of the more ‘veteran' players here. Not to knock him, but he switched to corner from running back late in the season to help out with depth. He actually played pretty well as the nickelback for a guy who was learning on the fly. He's small, but played with passion and wasn't afraid to stick his nose in there, which is why he missed time after suffering a concussion. He's actually a prototypical Greg Brown nickelback, and will get some mentoring from graduate assistant Chapelle Brown, who was a pretty good one for us during his time here. He's a good athlete and has good short-area quickness. His size is a concern, but he has the right disposition for it.
- Greg Henderson, So - The star of the defense in 2011. He may not have been the best CB in the conference, but he played more snaps than any of our other defensive players (and WAY more than any other DB), and was quick to shake off mistakes. He looked like a seasoned pro out there as far as the mental side of the game is concerned. He learned as the season went on and was often left with less help than whoever lined up opposite him. He was strong, a solid tackler, and displayed some very good instincts. Unfortunately (and this isn't his fault), he was asked to give a pretty big cushion to receivers much of the time. I have no doubt he'll be starting in 2012, and that the defense will be better and faster around him. I'm hoping this means that they'll let him work with less of a cushion, which will hopefully play to his strengths. One of which is his strength (ha!), which can be put towards redirecting WRs off the line and taking the rhythm away from their route running. I think he's going to be very good for us as the rest of the defense improves.
- Josh Moten, So - He's still figuring out the whole cornerback thing, but he's a good athlete. He scored our only defensive touchdown in 2011 on a very heads up play. Unfortunately, it's the lack of development from guys like Moten that forced the coaches to keep using converted RBs and WRs at cornerback. Hopefully the light comes on for Josh soon, as he could provide some much needed depth going forward.
- Brandon Brisco, RFr - Walk on. Don't know anything about him, average size.
- Sherrard Harrington, RFr - He redshirted after it was discovered he had a hip injury that he needed to recover from. He was a guy that people thought could come in and play right away. He's a great athlete and hopefully he can work his way into the CB rotation in the spring. He's got good height, long arms and very good speed.
- River Thompson, RFr - Local walk on. Don't know anything about him either. Small guy who probably projects inside as a nickelback
So if you look at that list, you'll see that we only have 5 scholarship cornerbacks (and I think Parker Orms is really a safety that is playing CB out of need). So we really need to sign 3 more guys here. I know that seems like a lot at one position in one class, but we desperately need the depth. We could even stand to grab a 4th if he looks like he could fit at either S or CB. And if we were able to sneak one in as an early enrollee, it would help us to smooth out some of the class distribution, but we need a bunch of guys there as soon as possible. Greg Henderson proved he was a guy we could trust out there, but the spot opposite him is wide open. Parker Orms has yet to prove that he can stay healthy, and I still would like him to not be forced to play outside. Jered Bell looked like a candidate before he was injured, though his play was inconsistent in 2010. We don't know what we have in Harrington, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see another true freshman come in and take some playing time like Henderson did. Bold statement? D.D. Goodson gets a good amount of playing time in the nickel in 2012 and ends up picking off two passes.