Going into the 2011 season, the Bears had two returning starters at the cornerback spot, including multi-year starter Chance Casey and Tyler Stephenson. However, by the end of the season opener, both players would be out of the starting lineup for the rest of the season. By the end of the year, Casey was out for the year after coming back as a safety, while Stephenson could never get fully healthy and stayed in a backup role.
In their place stood a junior college transfer that showed up for the fall, and another that showed up the previous week. Joe Williams was the third cornerback on the roster and came in for Stephenson. Williams started off as being a stable corner with solid skills, and he played that way for most of the season. K.J. Morton came in as the 4th corner, and struggled early. However, by the end of the year, he was a top level defender and was playing at a very high level.
Williams and Morton are expected to return as starters in 2012, but the Bears have more depth from players returning from injury. The second string corners right now are Tuswani Copeland and Stephenson. Copeland was expected to compete for a starting position last season, but was knocked out for the season due to a knee injury. Stephenson is looking to put the injuries behind him, something that he has struggled with during his tenure at Baylor.
Behind the second string and making a strong push are two very interesting players. The first is Demitri Goodson, a former basketball player for Gonzaga that transferred to Baylor last season to play football. He is a tremendous athlete and has been receiving repetitions with the first string. The other player is Darius Jones, the former 4-star wide receiver. Recruited as a defensive back by the likes of Oklahoma, Jones made the transition to defensive back during the off-season, simply due to just not getting enough playing time on the offensive side of the ball.
Both Jones and Goodson are projects at the position, but both have high-end ability. It will be up to Coach Buckels, Norwood and Bennett to get them ready for the season. Along with those projects the Bears also have younger players in Jemarcus Johnson, Anthony Webb and a few incoming freshman as good options in the defensive backfield.
The 2012 recruiting class focused heavily on the defensive backfield, with 7 players being classified as a safety or corner. All of those players might not end up on the defensive side of the ball, but I could see at least 2 and maybe 3 getting a chance at corner. The highest rated of the possibilities is Terrell Burt, a player that has been also getting a chance at the safety position. Burt is a slight 5-9, 175 pounds, but showed excellent coverage skills. He is one of those rare recruits that showed advanced skills at the corner position and played there primarily in high school.
Along with Burt is my personal favorite candidate for the corner spot, Ryan Reid. Reid brings a little more size to the position and also has excellent speed. The Sherman High School alum is a candidate for playing time, but I do expect him to redshirt.
The final player is Patrick Levels, a lightly recruited late-commit from Dallas. As Andy Claughton reviewed in his film study of Levels, he has good speed and skills, but he has an excellent ability to change direction, a very important skill for coverage. Levels is a pure corner who will redshirt to get stronger, but the hope is he will be on the next list of sleeper recruits for the Bears defense.
With the 2011 class being rather defensive back heavy, I expected this current recruiting class to be lighter, but I was mistaken. The Bears currently have 4 defensive backs committed with several players being able to play the safety or corner position.
The only player listed as a corner is Southwest High School star Wesley Harris, teammate of Robbie Rhodes. Harris is currently the star quarterback, but was recruited to Baylor as an athlete. To me, Harris is a natural corner with his bulldog mentality and tremendous athletic gifts. He will need some time to build strength and learn the position, but at 6-1, he has excellent size for the position.
Alongside Harris are two guys that could see time at safety or corner; Taion Sells and Austin Jupe. Sells is the more likely of the two to play corner. He is another of those high level athletes with tremendous speed. The 100m and 4x100m standout received his offer during a summer mini-camp and jumped on it quickly.
Jupe at 6-1, has the size to play safety, but was told by Coach Bennett that he will have the chance to play "cornerback, roll-down safety or cover safety. Coach Bennett said he really likes that I am multi-talented." Jupe has tremendous range and is great at seeing the play happen and reacting.
Outside of these three recruits, I do not think that the Bears will get any more defensive back commitments.
1. K.J. Morton - 5-10, 180, JR.
2. Tuswani Copeland - 5-10, 180, SO.
1. Joe Williams - 5-10, 185, JR.
2. Tyler Stephenson - 5-10, 170, JR.
3. Demetri Goodson - 5-11, 180, SR.
1. Darius Jones - 5-11, 190, JR.
2. Anthony Webb - 5-11, 190, rFR.
3. Jemarcus Johnson - 6-1, 175, rFR.
1. Terrell Burt - 5-9, 175, three-star (47th Ranked)
2. Ryan Reid - 5-10, 185, three-star (58th Ranked)
3. Patrick Levels - 5-10, 175, two-star (Not Ranked)
1. Wesley Harris - 6-1, 160, two-star (119th Ranked) COMMIT
2. Taion Sells - 5-10, 180, two-star (105th Ranked Safety) COMMIT
3. Austin Jupe - 6-1, 185, three-star (29th Ranked Safety) COMMIT
Positional Preview Series - Cornerback
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