Cornerbacks Have Talent, Need To Build Depth

The Fighting Illini secondary has upperclassmen starters but little depth. Cornerback coach Steve Clinkscale is excited about his veterans, and he believes three newcomer corners have great potential as well. He talks about personnel going into spring ball in part two of a three part interview.

Illinois cornerback coach Steve Clinkscale is eager to work with starting senior quarterbacks Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green. Of course, they and the coach must adapt to each other.

"It makes you feel great. There's two sides of that. You want to make sure you're doing everything right because sometimes they feel they're successful from what they've done before. But they've been very open to my style of coaching and teaching and our philosophy. So I think it'll be a good fit.

"Terry is a mature young man. He'll do a great job and do anything I ask him. So will Mr. Green do everything I ask him as well. Those guys have experience back there. Even with the safeties, they can all play each position, which is good for us too."

He feels the athletes are ready to prove themselves in spring ball beginning Wednesday.

"The guys are ready to go. They're excited to see what we have, they're excited to begin work, they're excited about the discipline being enforced on the team. They're just excited altogether to get the spring started. They can show us what they can do."

Clinkscale has depth issues. Senior Jack Ramsey and redshirt freshman Eaton Spence are the only other scholarship players on the spring depth chart. Second semester enrollee Tajarvis Fuller will probably play the Star position to start out.

"Having a couple of guys with experience makes the transition that much easier. But by the same token, there's a lot of young guys under them, so you have to teach it and approach it like you're teaching a ninth grader in high school.

"There's one freshman here already, TaJarvis Fuller. He's a db, depending on where we decide to put him. With Jack Ramsey and Eaton Spence, we still have to teach those guys. Jack hasn't played defensive back for a long time, so we have to teach him like he's never played before. Same thing with Eaton as well."

Clinkscale believes three freshmen signed in February will be able to provide immediate assistance this fall.

"I think they're fast and versatile. V'Angelo Bentley is one who has played in some of the big All-Star games. He's a very good athlete. He's going to play hard and be physical, and he can do a lot of things in the return game. He's kind of an all-around athlete and can play a lot of different positions.

"Justin Hardee has just kind of come into his own lately. He's a bigger kid, he's tall and fast. He's excited about challenging the corners that are here. He has big goals.

"Jevaris Little is a special athlete as well. He comes from a school in Florida where they produce big-time players, at Lakewood down in St. Pete, year after year. He's a guy that went through his season and got better every week. He started to catch the eye of a lot of different schools.

"I'm excited about him. He's got a great family life; his mom is gonna make sure he's doing things right.

"The big thing with all three of those guys is academically, their GPA's are very good. In my previous experience, the guys that do well GPA-wise are gonna do the same thing on the field. They're gonna work hard, they're going to study the film, they're going to be a student of the game. I'll get everything out of them."

Clinkscale will also be helping defensive coordinator Tim Banks coach safeties.

"I'm excited about the safeties. We have Supo Sanni there. He's healthy and ready to roll. He and Steve Hull played a ton. And then Patrick Nixon-Youman did a great job as well last year. We watched a lot of film, and we see these three show up continuously back there at the safety spot. So that's a good corps to build upon.

"I'm excited about the entire secondary. The players here are kind of ahead of the curve. It helps with the things we're teaching. They've been coached, and now it's just giving them an opportunity to build some confidence and play to be successful."

In part three, Clinkscale talks about his recruiting areas and the advantages inherent in recruiting top players to Illinois.


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