If you ask anyone who has ever coached or played the game of football what the toughest position on the field is, quarterback will be answer the overwhelming majority of the time. The physical and mental demands of that position clearly set it apart. The real debate emerges when determining the order of the positions after that. For most, though, cornerback would be considered the second most difficult spot to man on the field.
Corners must be among the fastest and quickest players on the team since they have to react to the movements of receivers all over the field. In addition, they have to be physical… not only in coverage, but also when they come up in run support. And those are just the physical aspects of the position. The best corners have a common mentality. They don’t just have confidence. They also have a swagger or bravado that is confused with arrogance. At last weekend’s U.S. Army National Junior Combine, one corner prospect that exhibited all of those attributes was 5-9, 180-lb. Detroit Cass Tech standout, Boubacar Cissoko. From the time he stepped foot in the door, the soft-spoken youngster was excited and ready to compete. His self description said it all.
“I’m physical, I can flat out play, my cover skills are excellent … aggression … man … all of that! he said emphatically.
When told that his description was similar to that of another prospect, one that claimed to be the most physical corner in attendance, Cissoko took it as a challenge.
“Yeah, okay,” he commented. “We’ll see when we get out there.”
The players hit the Alamodome field early the next morning and Cissoko quickly made it known to those that hadn’t seen him before that he isn’t all talk. He displayed uncanny quickness when reacting to receivers’ breaks and also showed the speed to stay with them deep. When he puts the pads on (something the players weren’t allowed to do in San Antonio), he’s even more impressive. That is when the physical nature of his game really comes to light. Cissoko is a fierce hitter that thrives on playing tight bump & run coverage on almost every play.
“All this year, I was man to man every game,” Cissoko said. “Our safeties could blitz and do whatever. That’s how much trust they’ve got in my jam and how I can cover.”
When the year concluded, Cissoko had tallied 52 tackles, one interception, three forced fumbles, and even managed to return two kickoffs for touchdowns. His play during the season on the heels of a strong Nike Camp performance the previous summer caught the attention of major programs from all across the country. Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC, Oregon, Ohio State, Virginia, North Carolina, Penn State, and Iowa all made strong overtures. After an MVP performance at the Army combine, the level of attention focused his way will skyrocket even more. That makes the task of keeping him home a more difficult proposition for the Michigan Wolverines. Fortunately for them, Cissoko places a great deal of weight on how long they’ve been courting him. He has made no secret of the Maize and Blue’s status atop his leader board in the past. Did the onslaught of national attention coming his way change that, or are the Wolverines still his favorite?
“They are,” he said matter-of-factly. “They are talking about playing me as soon as I come in. Oh yeah … they’re my favorite. It’s the first school I’d ever been to, it’s the first school I ever watched play, and they show me the most love. It’s close to my home and my family will get a chance to see me play.”
That revelation may come as a surprise to some, especially after Michigan was beaten so convincingly in the Rose Bowl by USC. For Cissoko, though, the outcome of that contest only strengthened the Wolverines standing.
“I watched the game and I was like … man, I really need to go there now because I can go in there and play,” he said. “Leon Hall is going to be gone. There’s playing time!”
Cissoko doesn’t expect anything to be given to him, and he knows he’d have to earn his opportunity at Michigan or any other school he decided to go to. He just has the kind of supreme confidence in his own ability that assures him he will be able to do it. That’s a far cry from where he was when he first started playing the game three short years ago. Though always a confident individual, he wasn’t always quite so sure of himself on the football field. That all changed after a game early in his career in which he stepped on the field and was intimidated by a talented opponent.
“It happened one time,” Cissoko admitted. “That was my freshman year on varsity. I had just got moved up. We were playing Dominique Douglas who’s at Iowa. He got me a couple of times. I was nervous because I heard so much about him and I had seen him play. I never got another shot at him and that’s one of the reasons why I’m going to Michigan. It seems like every day when I go school there are people that say, 'Aren’t you that corner?’ I’ve got to make up for it. After that, I started really working hard because I said, 'I can get better.' Then I got better as time went on. I started thinking, ‘Man I can’t be stopped … I can only stop myself.’ ”
Now just a few years later, Cissoko has made himself into one of the top prospects in his class and he has the scholarship offers to prove it. While his comments make it clear that the Wolverines have a substantial lead, he has not yet made a verbal commitment. But that may soon change.
“I’m real close man,” Cissoko responded when asked when he might make his choice. “February 7th. I’m very sure I’m going to make my decision February 7th.”
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more on Cissoko in the coming days.