First-year cornerback coach Shane Beamer has to find replacements for starting cornerback Odell Bradley and backup cornerbacks Bernard Vinson and Demetric Wright.
With the move of junior Kevin Dockery from safety back to corner and four other guys who received plenty of experience last season, he feels he has enough players to choose from.
"I am really impressed with what we have," said Beamer. "Overall, we have a pretty good group. They were young last year and are a year older and have some experience. With (Kevin) Dockery, Eric Fuller, Quinton Culberson and Adrian Griffin at corner, we have guys that have gotten a lot of reps. Dockery and Fuller are working at right corner and Culberson and Griffin are working at left corner."
One of the four has really impressed Beamer with his combination of ability, leadership and attitude.
"Dockery has played as well as anyone," said Beamer, the son of Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. "He is steady. I know last year he played at safety, but he is a corner. I have really been impressed with him from a leadership standpoint, knowing where to line up and where to be, and carrying out his assignments and doing correct technique. He has really been solid."
Backing up Dockery is senior Eric Fuller, a player who came in last season as a junior college transfer and played in all 12 games, recording 29 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Beamer has liked what he has seen of Fuller, but sees some need for improvement.
"Eric, who is pushing Dockery, is a talent," said Beamer. "He and Culberson have the size and body types that you are looking for. They both have the full package. It's just a matter of them carrying out their assignments on every play. They have to be dependable. They just have to continue to learn to play within the system and play disciplined."
On the opposite side of the field, last year's cornerback, Quinton Culberson, is not full speed due to late-season ankle surgery. Because of that, sophomore Adrian Griffin, who played in all 12 games last season, is running number one on the depth chart.
"Culberson is hampered with his injury and is not 100% right now," said Beamer of the former Parade All-American who made 42 tackles during his 8 starts last season. "Adrian is number one right now because he is out there finishing every practice.
"Adrian has been impressive. He doesn't have the size that the other guys have, so he really has to be mentality above them, knowing where to be, being one step of the offense through film study. He has brought a lot to the table and made some plays in the scrimmages."
Backing them up is sophomore David Heard. David recorded 10 tackles, while playing in all 12 games last season, mostly on special teams. Beamer likes what he has seen on film and in non-contact work this spring but hasn't really had a chance to see what Heard can do in team work this spring due to a shoulder injury.
"David Heard is a solid and dependable guy who has gotten some time at cornerback in the past," said Beamer. "Because he is hampered due to a shoulder injury, he is not doing any contact work. When one-on-one drills are through and we go into the team work, he is done for the day. Based on what I have seen, he is a lot like Dockery in knowing what to do and being a heady guy."
Several walk-ons are also in the mix, with one junior college walk-on impressing Beamer enough to use him in certain second-team situations.
"We have a couple of younger guys who have walked on, junior college transfers Jamal Johnson and Larone Yarbrough," said Beamer. "I have really been impressed with Yarbrough because he has a knack for it and is a good sized kid. His cover skills are good. Fundamentally, he is pretty good. He is a guy that really works at it. When we do any nickel stuff with our second group, he is in there. Jamal is a shorter guy who is tough and gets after it.
"David Carter and Hill are a couple of other walk-ons that are out there and working hard."
While Beamer feels he has a solid group to work with, does he also feel they are talented enough to win in the rugged SEC?
"From what I originally thought the talent level was when I first came in and then actually seeing it, I have been really surprised," said Beamer, who turned 27 years old on March 31st. "We have some guys who get after it and are ready to play. There is no doubt in my mind that we can win with what we have. Obviously, we are not going to be the fastest secondary in the SEC, but we have a group that, as long as they play within the system and carry out their assignments, can play."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.