Position Analysis: Corners
The Players: 3 Rocky Hayes (5-11, 185 Sr); 1 Blaise Taylor (5-9, 170 So.); 22 Jamaris Hart (5-9 165 RSo); 2 Nehemiah Wagner (6-0 180 So.), 28 Brandon Byner (5-11 180 So.), 16 TeDarius Turner (5-8, 160 RSr.); 39 Jai Knight (6-0, 168 Fr.), 24 Kellen Blanchett (5-10, 150).
The Breakdown: Field CB Rocky Hayes, Jamaris Hart. Brandon Byner or Nehemiah Wagner. Boundary CB Blaise Taylor, Brandon Byner.
The Numbers: With the graduation of Andrew Tryon and Artez Brown, a combined 96 tackles and 6 interceptions, it left the cornerback position this offseason open. Rocky Hayes has played extensively the last two seasons after being an offensive weapon during his freshman campaign. Hayes had 24 tackles and an interception last season, he also returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown at Idaho. Hayes did miss some of the last regular season game last year with a shoulder injury, forcing Nehemiah Wagner into some playing time as a true freshman. Wagner recorded two tackles. Jamaris Hart added 4 tackles. Blaise Taylor saw time as a slot corner and also in certain sub packages, as well as on special teams. Taylor finished the season with 9 tackles and a forced fumble.
The Analysis: Hayes has always been viewed as one of the most explosive players on the team and now takes the reins in a secondary that is short of veteran experience. He and Taylor look to have the starting spots held for now, as most of the shuffling is for that third corner spot that Hayes filled last year.
The first two candidates are Wagner, who is long and rangy but struggles with his hips at times, and Brandon Byner, who was moved from RB in the spring. Byner played both ways in high school, and is a long, fluid athlete who can run and has enough swivel in his hips to make the transition.
Behind Taylor, Hart has been described as pesky and is fundamentally sound, while TeDarius Turner is a walk-on who battled shoulder injuries all last season and has still been limited this fall. Behind that there are two more walk-ons, Jai Knight, who is a long defensive back from Louisiana, and Kellen Blanchett from Forrest City.
This may be the overall thinnest group on the field for Arkansas State in 2015, though not without talent. The key will be staying healthy and playing to potential at the cornerback spot.
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