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Positional Outlooks: Cornerbacks

I'm writing some positional outlooks for our beloved Buffaloes. They are based on what I've read and seen of the players we've got.

(Analysis after the jump)


This is one of the few positions that I'm not worried about at all. On top we've got two guys in Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown that are All-Conference quality and have a combined 55 games under their belts. After that we have a slew of redshirt and true freshmen, but they all have gotten high marks from the coaching staff. They expect a couple of them to contribute, especially because the Buffs expect to face plenty of 3 and 4 receiver formations this year. The coaches trust the two starters enough to leave them out on an island most of the time, which should help the rest of the defense out a ton.

The cast:

  • Jalil Brown, Sr
    • He began as a great Special Teams guy, and has become a great Cornerback. OK, we have yet to see if he can be "great," but he sure has a great chance to prove it this season. QBs won't have much of a choice but to throw it his way because the guy on the other side has been pretty spectacular. But Brown isn't too far behind him anymore. They've been working hard on creating turnovers, so I fully expect Brown to get his hands on plenty of passes this season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him be among the Big 12 leaders in picks at least through the pre-season, if not at the end of the year as well. He's one of the strongest DBs we have, and isn't afraid to come up to make a tackle. Has very good size and speed, and should be even better in coverage this season. He looked better in fall camp than he did at any point last year. Covering guys like Clemons, Jefferson and McKnight all offseason has definitely helped him to improve.
  • Jimmy Smith, Sr
    • He embodies one of the oldest college football clichés out there: He's got all the physical tools, but his head isn't there yet. Or at least, it wasn't there for his first few years. In the last two seasons we've seen Jimmy Smith mature. He is finally doing what he needs to do to become great. He is dedicated, intelligent and he finally knows exactly what he's doing out there. They don't track the stats for this, but I would be surprised to see if he allowed a single to completion to anyone besides Clemons all Fall. He is the complete package. He's tall, has long arms, is both fast and quick, is smart, knows how to use the sideline like an extra defender and can hit. There isn't really much he can't do. He has taken plays off in the past, but I don't see that happening this year. It might be cynical to think that his ‘draftability' is what has caused him to get his act together, but it has definitely worked.
  • Jonathan Hawkins, Jr
    • He has been around for a while, and he just can't quite seem to crack the two-deep. He is currently listed as the #2 Nickel-back, but I feel like Travis Sandersfeld will get the first looks at that position. Here's another example of the coaches giving guys looks at different positions since they closed practices and scrimmages this Fall.
  • Javen Correia, So
    • I wouldn't expect you to recognize his name, unless you've been following the CU track team. He forfeited his track scholarship to walk on to the football team. While he isn't a stranger to collegiate competition, he hasn't played football for a while, and he could stand to add a bunch of muscle before getting out there and butting heads with folks.
  • Josh Moten, Fr (true, grayshirt)
    • Wow, we've got two seniors, a junior, a sophomore walkon, and then all freshmen. Anyway, Moten is competing with fellow true freshman Jered Bell for the spot behind Jalil Brown, and one of them will win it next year. Moten came to CU as a QB, but quickly switched positions so he could see playing time. While he may have initially been opposed to the move, it sounds like he likes playing Defense now. He's a pretty impressive athlete who needs to work on his hip-fluidity a little bit (that tends to happen when switching to Defense) before he can be a top-flight corner. It looks like he's got the tools to be pretty good, though. Here's hoping that he and Bell can log some meaningful snaps this year in preparation for losing our two Seniors.
  • Deji Olatoye, Fr (redshirt)
    • ****He's since been switched to Safety, but I'll list him as a CB for now****
    • He looks like a young Jimmy Smith, both physically and with his style of play. Only difference is that he likes to hit a little bit more than a young Smith did. That may be why he was moved to Safety. He still may need to add a few pounds, especially as a Safety, but he is another guy who has all the physical tools to be a top-flight defender. He has pretty good technique, and it should only get better. And I have no doubt that Ashley Ambrose will teach these guys everything they need to know to be great. After that, it's on the players to make good things happen. He will probably get his chance to see the field this year, and will compete with Paul Vigo to be the first Defensive Back off the bench.
  • Paul Vigo, Fr (gray shirted and then redshirted)
    • He's already been here for a year and a half, and still has 4 years to play. Coaches have said that he should be the first guy to come in at either Corner or Safety to relieve someone. He's a pretty good athlete, and is very smart. They seem to think he can be a Ben Burney type player if they need him to be. He also will be competing for one of the starting spots next year, so they may want to get him some quality snaps this year.
  • Jered Bell, Fr (true)
    • I'm not too surprised to see him listed as the primary backup to Jalil Brown. Of all the freshmen, he looks the part the most. He's incredibly muscular, and looks much bigger than he's listed. We'll see where he is mentally, but physically he might be the most imposing guy in the secondary. I think he will be a guy to watch. He showed some flashes of phenomenal recognition in the scrimmage and in practice, so hopefully he can build off that. He may also be able to help out in a department where we've been lacking: turnovers. I think he is a guy who will be in position to pick off quite a few passes over his career. We may not snag the 4 and 5 star recruits, but guys like Bell make me think we're doing just fine.

In 2010:

I will be disappointed if Smith and Brown don't play like one of the top CB tandems in the country. With the experience there, and the growth and development each of those guys has shown, there is no reason why they shouldn't shut down the passing attacks we will face this year. Everybody should be extremely excited for the matchup between our CBs and Georgia's A.J. Green on October 2nd. Many people consider him to be the top receiver in the country, and taking him out of the game will do wonders for Smith and Brown and the public perception of them as the season goes on. I think they'll also get a good test @ Cal.

Beyond 2010:

There are probably a few people who are trying as hard as they can not to think about what happens after Brown and Smith graduate. As of right now, we won't have anybody who has logged any snaps at CB behind them. That should change this year, but I'm not that worried anyway. The young guys behind them are pretty spectacular athletes, and they're learning from two of the better Cornerbacks out there. Not to mention the things that they'll learn from Ashley Ambrose. I'll say it again: He will go down as one of the best two hires of the Hawkins era. It will be something to watch, but I'm not terribly worried. I think between Vigo, Bell, Moten and Olatoye, we will have some good competition there next spring and fall. My guess is that Bell and Vigo are the starters, with Moten as the primary reserve and Olatoye as the next guy after Moten and a top reserve at Safety.


-What did I get wrong?

-What was your impression of our Quarterbacks last season? What do you think/hope will change?

-What have you noticed (Spring scrimmage/Fall camp)?

-Where do these guys fit in recently or historically at CU? Will you remember any of them down the road?

-What's your impression of the coaching and recruiting at this position?

Positional Outlooks:

Running Back

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

Tight End

Defensive End

Wide Receiver

Outside Linebacker

Offensive Tackle



If you have any questions or additional comments or insights, please feel free to email me at: