The 2015 season was not a difficult one for the IU cornerbacks, but with everyone back and more experienced there are high expectation that this group will be much improved this fall. Indiana cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby spoke with Peegs.com about what he expects to see from his players in 2016.
Coach Shelby felt like Fall Camp went well for his guys as the coaches used that time to try and develop good depth to ensure that players will still be going strong late in the season.
“I think overall it went pretty well,” Shelby said. “Those guys are coming along pretty well. Those guys just have to keep pushing. I think for us to be successful we have to play a lot of guys so that we don’t get beat up in October and November. We want to get a lot of guys ready and we want to make sure they are capable and know the playbook good enough to help us win. I think we got some guys in place that are going to help us compete and reach the goals we want to get to.”
When it comes to the leader of the cornerbacks Coach Shelby said that honor belongs to redshirt junior Rashard Fant.
“He has some days where he is really, really good, and then he has some days where he just kind of goes through the motions,” Shelby said about Fant. “I think he can turn it on when he wants to so my deal with him is coming to practice and practice like a pro. When you get on that field something ought to click where you are just working on you and your fundamentals. But overall he is the leader of that room, and I think a lot of times as he goes we go. I have high expectations for him and I’m going to hold him to a different standard because he is a guy that has the ability to be really, really good. But with that being said, sometimes when you’re really athletic you can take plays off, so what I want to do is push him to be the best player he can be.”
Ben Bach was a cornerback last fall before being moved to Husky in spring ball, but in Fall Camp he was back getting reps at corner. Coach Shelby said that Bach is someone the staff knows will be in the right place at the right time.
“I think he is one of our most productive corners,” Shelby said about Bach. “I was watching film of the FIU game from last year and he was actually on the field quite a few times at the corner position. The great thing about Ben is he is versatile. He can play corner and he can also play Husky. He is a guy that we can move around and we feel comfortable with. He always makes plays and at the end of the day this is a game about making plays so you want guys that are going to be around the ball. Good things happen when he is on the field. He is a guy that we will try to utilize a lot and keep working him in somewhere.”
Coach Shelby said another reason Bach adds so much value as a cornerback is because he brings a physical presence to the position.
“One thing that his size allows us to do is we do a lot of things with for the corner and he’s a lot of times the edge of the defense,” the IU cornerbacks coach said. “So we needed a bigger body guy that could fit the run as well as defend the pass. Just a good physical presence in the boundary and he fits that well for us.”
One player that has a chance to be an impact player is South Carolina transfer Wesley Green, but Coach Shelby said for that to happen Green has to learn to practice the right way all the time.
“Wesley is probably one of the top athletes out there,” Shelby said. “The main thing with him is the inconsistency in coming to practice every day. That is the main thing we’ve got to get with him too, but he’ll be playing. He just has to make sure to do the things that we want him to do on and off the field and he’ll be a good player for us.”
The Hoosiers have one newcomer at corner in freshman A’Shon Riggins, and he is a guy that Coach Shelby believes can help the team early on.
“A’Shon is not having any trouble mentally,” Shelby said. “He is a guy that you are going to see. He is a guy that is going to play. He is probably one guy that as a freshman has come in here and from a mental side he knows what to do. He competes and he comes from a good program at Hamilton (Ohio). He is a guy that I expect to play, and you are going to see him quite a bit.”
When it comes to Florida International the IU corners will have their hands full with an experienced group of receivers that is very talented.
“They have a really good quarterback that is going to know where to throw the ball,” Shelby said about FIU. “I think it is his third year there so he is going to be confident. They also have an All-American type tight end that can make a lot of plays. And then they’ve got some young guys at receiver, and in that part of the country you are going to have a whole lot of skill guys and that is right in their backyard. So I expect them to have fast, athletic guys and we’ve got to be able to match up with them because they’ve got the skill position players that can hurt you if you’re not ready for them.”
Indiana defensive coordinator Tom Allen said on Friday at the press conference previewing the FIU game that playing defensive back in today’s college football is not easy, but he believes they will play well this year and that starts with the game Thursday night.
“It’s a tough position to play for sure, especially in today’s game with how many snaps they end up having to play and in so much space with the tempo that you see,” Coach Allen said. “There are many opportunities to make plays or not make a play. They’ve got to rise up. We believe in them. We’re excited for these guys. I know that they will be challenged by a very experienced receiver core and experienced quarterback, but I feel like they will be guys that will respond to that, and make plays when we need it most. That is what guys in the secondary have to do.”