BLOOMINGTON – No one is going to back Joe Palcic into a corner just yet.
The Hoosiers' co-defensive coordinator coach has six players competing for two starting cornerback spots this spring, and he isn't about to single out anyone as the odds-on favorites to replace Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors in the starting lineup in the fall.
"We're in a tight to see who is going to become a starter," Palcic said. "I've never had this much depth where I feel good about six guys. Of course, that's good and bad because I don't have two guys who are really standing out, either."
Those six guys are Chris Phillips, Donnell Jones, Chris Adkins, Richard Council, Bruce Hampton and Adrian Burks. Phillips was the team's No. 3 corner a year ago and figures to be one of the starters this fall, but the other spot remains hotly contested. Palcic has also given each of those players reps with the No. 1 defense in an effort to give each an equal opportunity to show off their skills.
"They're all competing and playing well right now," Palcic said. "I might not even come out of spring with a starter. I might go into the fall and see who it ends up being."
No matter who eventually wins the starting job, the cornerback position will be one devoid of much experience. Phillips is the one of the bunch who's played a snap in college at the position, having played in 35 career games and ranking second on the team a year ago with three interceptions. But Hampton and Burks have been limited to some special teams action, while Jones, Adkins and Council have yet to see any action.
While that lack of experience is a concern, Palcic said this group of corners will bring something different to the IU defense.
"This group is much more physical than the corners we've had in the past," Palcic said. "Leslie Majors liked contact, but he was only 165 pounds. Tracy Porter got better with age, but these guys are truly physical corners. Adkins and Donnell Jones and Chris Phillips and Richard Council are all bigger, stronger, physical guys who will look for contact."
That trait could have an impact on IU's defensive approach as well. While Majors and Porter might have been better suited to play man-to-man, this group's willingness to step up and deliver a big hit could result in some more zone coverage in the fall.
"We'll probably end up playing some more Cover 2, get the corners in support a little bit," Palcic said.
So who are the favorites to start opposite Chris Phillips? Freshman Chris Adkins and Donnell Jones have both drawn solid reviews from Palcic and Coach Bill Lynch throughout camp for their play-making abilities. Both are big and physical, with Adkins listed at 6'1" and 185 pounds, while Jones is 5'10" and 205 pounds.
Council is another player to keep an eye on. The Texas native was limited last year after suffering a torn ACL, but he's a 6'1", 188-pounder who has also done some good things this spring.
"Council has really made good improvement," said Lynch. "He missed a year with that torn ACL and his recovery was slow."
While no one has separated themselves from the pack yet, Saturday will provide an opportunity for someone to do just that. The Hoosiers will scrimmage for the first time this spring at 1:30 p.m., and the staff will get an opportunity to see how the corners perform with some live tackling added to the mix.
"We'll know more when we scrimmage and it's not so controlled," Palcic said. "Then you can really see people play when coaches aren't out there telling them what to do."
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