Burns realizes progress in cornerbacks group

Going into fall camp, and with the loss of Omar Bolden to an ACL tear in the spring, it seemed as if the weakest position group for ASU would be at cornerback. Yet, less than a week away from the start of the season it appears as if this unit may be better off than originally thought. Cornerbacks coach Greg Burns has certainly been cognizant of his group's development the last few weeks.

With Bolden down, and junior Deveron Carr who missed all of spring practice due to shoulder surgery missing even more time in fall camp due to a hamstring pull, ,a lot of previously untested players were able to get quality reps and many of them have stepped up immensely.

"We're doing alright," cornerbacks coach Greg Burns acknowledged. "From an assessment standpoint everybody is starting to lock in a lot more; obviously we're game planning, so we're doing alright. Guys are healing up and getting their bodies right."

For the majority of fall camp Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor have been the starters on the left and right side respectively. With Carr now back in the fold, Darby has been pushed back into the second group, but both he and Irabor have showed Burns enough to expect to see both playing quite a bit when the season starts.

"He's probably the most improved," Burns mentioned of Irabor. "If you're ranking them today, he's probably one of the top corners we've got from a standpoint of being consistent, getting better, and improving everyday. Obviously Deveron got injured a little bit and he's been the one that's just standing out consistently.

"(Darby) is a different style corner, probably along the lines of a physical guy. We're still working on some of the fundamentals that I need him to do, but he's doing a good job, a real good job actually, and I'm hoping and expecting to get him some playing time."

Burns now knows he can trust his guys in the event Carr goes down once again, but for the time being he's happy to have him healthy and is eager to get him on the field.

"We're prepared for whatever," Burns declared. "I'm going to let Deveron trust his body, and I'm going to get him in and grind him as much as I can, but be smart about it and be ready to make sure that we have some guys that can go in and be successful, and Darby can really be that guy."

Most of the uncertainty surrounding this group is due to age and lack of experience. Thus, with Bolden and Carr out, it was important not only for Darby and Irabor to step up, but for youngsters Devan Spann and Rashad Wadood to do so as well.

"They're doing well, they're working," Burns said of his young players. "From a standpoint of the mental aspect, Wadood obviously has to catch up, he's the youngest, Spann is obviously a lot further along, but at the same time he still has to understand what the defense is also.

"I need more out of the young guys. They need to understand that they are a play away and the intensity, sense of urgency, attention to detail, they have to understand that. It's coming along, they aren't understanding why I'm so hard on them, but eventually they'll understand it."

Helping them understand is injured All Pac-10 corner Omar Bolden who has been there every step of the way guiding the young players as an extension of coach Burns, and as he put it so simply, "sometimes it's better to hear it from a peer than a coach."

Another advantage coach Burns has is an improved offense for ASU, allowing for better looks for his corners and overall and boost in competition between his guys and the receivers.

"They make us better," Burns asserted concerning the ASU offense. "They do a great job of route running. The pace of the offense is so fast that it forces us to focus and lock in our keys and obviously because we're a pass happy offense from a secondary standpoint I love it. We get more throws and more practice."

Now with only a few days before the season opener, coach Burns' crew can be content with their progress this fall, but need to continue and improve if the Sun Devils wish the fulfill their expectations as Pac-12 champions. As for what needs to be corrected before the season starts, Burns once again kept it short, though, not entirely so sweet.

"Everything," Burns said bluntly. "There is always something to work on."

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