“I actually do,” the Bulldog cornerback said. “I like when the game is on me. When it’s your time, your play to be made, you’ve got to make the play.”
Will Redmond is indeed making the play. Or plays, lots of plays. Eight games into Mississippi State’s perfect-so-far season, Redmond is tied for third in team tackling (37) as well as tied for first in interceptions (3).
Yet it is not his statistics so much as the situations which stand out most for Redmond. Because whether in the late-game crunch or other big-play opportunities he is rising to the occasion. Literally at times. Such as last Saturday when Arkansas fired for the Bulldog end zone, attempting to tie-up the number-one team in the country.
Unfortunately for Demetric Wilson and fortunately for the home team Redmond jumped up between Razorback and ball. The third pick of his year sealed another SEC victory. Though, Redmond now sorta downplays his individual effort.
“It was just man-to-man coverage. Just go up and make a play. I don’t know, it just happened to me.”
Riiiiight. Same as Redmond ‘just happened’ to be in ideal defensive position on a receiver three inches taller, close enough for contact without interfering yet still able to get off the ground cleanly. These things don’t ‘just happen’ in big-time college ball. No, not even for a fellow with Redmond’s gifts. To those tools, the mentoring of Coach Deshea Townsend has added tactics.
Even better, Redmond has taken to Townsend’s teaching. “Oh, he’s smart. That’s one thing big on him, he helps me mentally in the game knowing what’s coming before. He always tells me athletic ability will take you far but knowing the game will take you a long way.”
Redmond has come a long way just in this season. Back in the non-conference games he was relying on still-raw abilities. Hey, it always worked before, right? Then came some humbling breakdowns, most notably against UAB. While those didn’t cost State games the too-often outcome was points to sting Bulldog defensive pride.
Take a second-half situation where Redmond was in-stride with a Blazer down their left sideline, saw the throw, had position, timed the jump…and let the ball get through his hands for a catch. Townsend seized upon the gaffe as a teaching tool.
”He told me when I came back the next day what should you have done? I was like, knock the ball down,” Redmond said. “That’s just come with learning.” So has knowing when he can go for a catch, too. When Louisiana State let fly their own last-chance shot for the end zone in a one-score game, Redmond didn’t bat the ball down; he intercepted it at the goal line to clinch what became a program-changing win.
That pick and more so his catch last week showed too that Redmond has a knack for the ‘high point’ approach against deep balls. Some is natural; much more is learned. “A lot of that high-pointing the ball is just technique. A lot of work after practice and in the off-season. It comes with experience, but you’ve got to work on it.”
Honing Redmond into a quality college cornerback has been a little easier because he likes the man-on-man matchup and alllll the risks and rewards which come with it. By the same token though, Redmond doesn’t regard his assignment as playing on the proverbial ‘island’. OK, so he’s the only Dog fans see in coverage.
Redmond knows he isn’t alone at all.
“I try not to think about it. I say my D-line, before we even go there we’ve someone out there they’re telling me they’ve got it. So I have no help in the overage but I know I’ve got help on the pressure somewhere on the d-line.”
Redmond and all Bulldog corner-men operate out of the same 1A/1B rotation as the rest of the defense. He is in the second tandem with Tolando Cleveland, while older hands Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun draw the starting jobs. It isn’t always a ‘rotation’ however. Townsend and coordinator Geoff Collins are just as likely to mix and match, or have whoever is freshest take over during a series.It does keep the corners on their toes, Redmond said. “We always be alert. Coach always tells us if somebody is tired or something like that he’ll call our name and tell us to get in. He trusts us all. So that’s a good thing when it’s your time to go and he calls your number.”
“Yeah, it keeps you fresh. I think it helps us personnel-wise like you said. They (receivers) don’t get to see the same guy, same guy, so you don’t get to pick up tendencies.” Whereas State’s cornerbacks have done their scouting already off video, along with any in-game instruction and adjusting.
Thing is, for all the rotation and alternation, it has been Redmond coming up clutch in SEC games more than most. Not just covering passes, either; he had a ten-tackle day against Texas A&M taking down receivers after the catch for shorter gains or supporting against runs. And of course, there are those two game-sealing picks. So is Redmond the crunch-time corner?
“I never really looked at it like that. I just feel whoever is out there is going to make the play, if it’s me, Jamerson, Taveze, Tolando. One of us is going to make the play. And that time was my time to be out there.”
Speaking of time… Having had a season-and-a-half taken off the front end of his college career, it would seem Redmond is trying to make up for the lost time now. Wrong impression.
“I don’t think about it. At the end of the day you’ve got to go make plays. I try to put all that behind me. You can only focus on what’s ahead of you,” he said. Besides, “I’m a junior! So it’s no pressure as far as that.”
There’s plenty other pressure anyway as Mississippi State will be hitting their SEC stretch run in another week. Opponents can read the stat sheet and watch the scouting video, and likely conclude their best percentage play is to attack the Bulldog defense with passes. The Dogs know it, too. Yet this isn’t an insult in Redmond’s mind.
It is just another chance to make a different and better impression in November.
”Coach always said towards the end of the year you want to start playing your best football,” said Redmond. “We started off slow and we’re just picking it up.”