For most of his time as the cornerbacks coach at IU it has been difficult for Brandon Shelby to play more than a few guys because he didn’t have confidence in the back-ups, but for 2017 he doesn’t feel like that will be an issue. Peegs.com spoke with the Indiana assistant about his players, and about how the first practice went for the team after having more than a week off.
Coach Shelby felt like both sides of the ball did some good things in their first practice in about 11 days, but he is looking for more consistency from his guys.
“They’ve been off for spring break so they can sleep in a little later and they’re having fun so that first day is always tough,” he said. “The offense did a great job. What we had today was a lot of back and forth. We made some plays and then they made a couple explosive plays. What we have to do is be more consistent in keeping the ball in front of us. I think in today’s practice we let the ball get behind us too many times. The receivers are doing a good job and Coach (Grant) Heard has got those guys rockin’ and rollin’. But the big issue I have is we have got to be more consistent and keep the ball in front of us.”
After having some success on defense last year Coach Shelby the most important thing for the players is learning how to deal with that.
“I think the main thing with is when you have success learning how to handle it,” the IU assistant said. “Over the past few years we as a team, we as a defense, we as a secondary, haven’t handled success very well. Last year was fairly successful based on some of the standards we’ve had in the past, but it wasn’t very successful based on where you want to be. The main thing we have to do is not get complacent, and do the little things to become a really, really great defense. With that being said, we’ve got be more consistent.”
The Hoosiers have two returning starters in Rashard Fant and A’Shon Riggins, and with Riggins the future is bright for him according to Coach Shelby because he is still learning how to play corner.
“When you’re talking about A’Shon, he is a guy that is still learning the game and so there are going to be some days are going to be bad when it comes to going back to technique when you get tired,” Coach Shelby said. “When we recruited A’Shon he played a lot of offense, but one thing you did see was the change of direction and the burst of speed. He played quarterback sometimes so that means he knows how to communicate and knows how to look at defenses. Those are the things that I looked at when I recruited him that told me that he could probably play corner for us. With that being said, he is still young because he wasn’t doing that every day, and he will sometimes have the freshman busts just learning football. Knowing what the offense will do in certain situations is something you learn as you get older, and that is what he needs to get better as we go along.”
What has Coach Shelby feeling good about the cornerback position is the amount of experienced depth he has behind Fant and Riggins, along with the talented newcomers that will be arriving in the fall.
“Tyler ended the season for us and he had to start (in the Foster Farms Bowl) against Utah,” Coach Shelby said. “He had been a back-up for a while, but he really showed me that he can go out there and prepare and play, and he did it with the flu so I was really impressed with that. He’s getting better too. And then Andre getting back is big. I think Andre started seven, eight games a couple years ago but then he got hit with the injury bug. He’s like A’Shon in that he was a quarterback in high school out of Atlanta so those same attributes that A’Shon had he also had. We’re starting to have a lot of guys with game responsibility to the point where I don’t feel as nervous putting guys. The issue we’ve had is that over the last six years is that people had to play so many snaps because I wasn’t confident enough to put other corners in the game. Those guys have a lot of game reps, and I expect them to help us out tremendously. We should be able to take some of those snaps off of (Rashard) and A’Shon toward the end of the season and especially in the fourth quarter, especially with Raheem (Layne) and LaDamion Hunt coming in this fall. I feel really excited about where we’re going.”