One of the youngest positions on the 2012 team will be tested pretty often this fall. New cornerback coach David Gunn, will have a total of 7 players when camp opens barring any invited walk-ons. Of those 7 young men, 6 will either be sophomores or freshmen. There are some positives and negatives that can come out of this when looking at the cornerback position.
The positive is that this position could be one of the most athletic group of Red Wolves on the team and the potential is there to be very good. The negative is that this group may not be very good until they gain that experience.
Chaz Scales (5'9 170 SR) is the only upperclassman among the corners. He has really improved in his time with Arkansas State. Scales has excellent speed and really reminds me of former Red Wolf Daylan Walker. The diminutive Scales has proven that he is willing to come up and make the big hit when needed and isn't intimidated by the bigger receivers. Scales lead the team with 11 pass break ups in 2011 and finished with 33 tackles and 1 interception.
Scales will have to play really well in fall camp to win the starting job because the young corners are bigger and taller and very athletic.
Andrew Tryon (5'10 185 RSO) was a special teams star last fall and most of his tackles came on the kickoff team.
Tryon even saw time in 2011 returning kicks allowing him to showcase his speed. Tryon is a physical receiver that has no problem bringing the big hits. He pushed for a starting job throughout spring practice and will again battle the redshirt freshmen when fall camp opens. Tryon is physical enough that he could move over to the safety position and provide depth there; maybe even giving playing a hybrid position when the 4-2-5 wants to use more of a cover corner from the Wolf position.
Terrious Triplett (6'1 185 RFR) is a guy that has been talked about since the day he signed. The previous staff bragged on Triplett and his abilities from day one, quoting Memphis Ridgeway coach Duron Sutton as they acknowledged that they stole a big time recruit in Triplett. Triplett has outstanding size for a corner and has excellent ball skills.
Triplett is extremely athletic and coach Sutton made statements that Triplett was good enough to be a big corner in the SEC. Triplett has a chance to be a 4 year starter for the Red Wolves.
Artez Brown (6'0 175 SO) was a major get for coach Hugh Freeze when the Red Wolves picked up the Newport, Arkansas signee after months of being committed to Ole Miss.
Brown is a very good athlete that saw action this past fall in both special teams and mop up duty on defense. Brown has good speed and size and provides another extremely athletic young corner.
Quitin Sparkmon (5'9 180 RFR) is built in the same mold as another A-State Red Wolf/West Memphis Blue Devil – Marquette Williams. Sparkmon is appropriately named as he is truly a sparkplug. A guy that can come make big hits on runners or receivers, Sparkmon is smaller but has good speed and can be a very physical corner.
Rocky Hayes (6'0 175 FR) was a big get in Gus Malzahn's first class. Hayes signed with Arkansas State as many were pretty sure he was headed to Orlando and Central Florida. Hayes is in the same mold as Artez Brown.
A very athletic guy, Rocky can play a number of positions, but has the ability to be a big time corner for the Red Wolves. It wouldn't be a surprise if Hayes comes in and competes for a spot in the depth chart right away.
Derek Keaton (5'11 175 FR) and Hayes are almost carbon copies. Either one could end up at wide receiver this fall, though I feel like Keaton may be the one that actually does make the move to offense. Walk-on TeDarius Turner (5'8 175 RFR) will also compete at cornerback this fall and should see time on the special teams this fall.
Cornerback may have the most talented group of young players on the Red Wolf squad. This group can end up being a strength of the defense, however it may take some bumps and bruises before they get there. As a group they remind me of the safeties in 2004 when Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns started as redshirt freshmen and classmate Darren Toney played a backup role as well as seeing time at corner.
All three guys had good size, good speed, and all three had time in professional football (Minnesota drafted Johnson in the 2nd round and he is still playing with the Miami Dolphins). This group of cornerbacks all have good size, speed, and athleticism and are very similar to talent level of the 2004 safeties. However that young 2004 squad struggled at times before becoming a big time group of prospects. This group may do the same, but the expectations may be higher in 2012 for quicker improvement.