One-on-one With MSU CB Coach Melvin Smith

Mississippi State cornerback coach Melvin Smith talks about his current players and his incoming players.

Talk about each of your cornerbacks.
"Obviously, we don't have any experienced corners. We moved (Derek) Pegues to safety, which looks like a really good fit for him. And David Heard graduated.

"Who we have is Anthony Johnson, a really good athlete who has a lot of potential. But he has a ways to go to be the kind of defensive back that I want at cornerback. He's just got to go out there and be consistent and pay attention. If he does that and also allows me to coach and teach him what I know, he is going to be a really good player. If he doesn't do that, then I don't know what I will get out of him. But he's got a lot of ability and it would be hard to sign a guy that is better than him."

Is he ready to start in the SEC?
"We didn't sign him to watch and there's nobody in front of him. He's played some down the stretch. He played some during the Ole Miss game. And he had some good plays and bad plays. He also played in the Alabama game and even had a chance to intercept the ball against Alabama. He's got enough talent, but what he needs to do is work on the mental part of the game."

The other starter during the spring was Marcus Washington. What are your thoughts about him?
"I like his attitude. But he's inexperienced, too. He didn't play as much as Anthony. But he got a lot better this spring. He's really consistent. He and I communicate pretty well. He's not a moody guy. But I don't really know how he's going to do, but I have a really good feeling about him. Come back and talk to me about him after about six games."

You mentioned that he's not moody. Is that a great trait for a cornerback to have since they are really the last line of defense?
"Yes. A cornerback has a job where they are always in space and are always the last guy. I think not being moody allows you to focus. And the cornerback position is a focus position. One thing about (former MSU star and NFL star) Fred Smoot was that when he hit the practice field and game field he saw everything. His focus was inside those lines. And that's what a cornerback has to be able to do. He has to really pay attention big-time and moody people can't do that because they float. They don't zero in. And I like Marcus' disposition."

You mentioned Anthony's talent level. Does Marcus have that same type ability?
"I hope he does. Marcus is a hurdler. That lets you know he's a finisher. AJ could be a hurdler, a high jumper. He could be anything. I think AJ is a great athlete and I think Marcus is a real good athlete. I really don't know the limit on Marcus' talent or AJ's. I can't assess his overall talent until I match him up against some of the most talented guys in this league. But I know he does pretty good against our guys. We just have to see how talented our guys are."

What are your thoughts about your backups?
"We don't have any experienced backups. Keon (Humphries) was moved from wide receiver to corner. He's just learning how to play corner. The fact of the matter is he played corner for the first time last spring. He's inexperienced but he's got talent. He made some progress during the spring, but he still has to get better at tackling and covering guys. And I feel like he will be able to contribute in time.

"Tay Bowser is our third best corner. I saw some positive things out of him this spring. And he's got ability, but he was a receiver that is being trained to be a cornerback. You don't just go out there and be a corner in this league. There just aren't that many guys that can do that."

What are the expectations for your two junior college cornerbacks?
"They are not expected to come in and do anything but give us depth. I feel like our corners who will play the first game are already here. But I hope those guys will help."

What do you like about Jasper O'Quinn and Chris Nance?
"Jasper is a really good athlete who can cover and who is tough. He can play man or zone concepts. And he's an intelligent kid who qualified out of high school. I like that about him because he will be a good student in the class room. And I want a guy who wants to learn because you can do things with him.

"Chris is the same way. I think they are good guys who will be good in the class room. And you can teach them how to play coverage concepts. I don't know if they will be ready to play the first game because we do some things in our secondary that takes you a little while to learn. but I think they will be able to play for us from the third game on.

"And they are both talented enough, although the defense we play now doesn't just put the scheme on one guy. When I was here before, our scheme put all the stress on the corners. But this defense doesn't do that. There's just as much stress on the safeties are there is on the corners. Sometimes our corners aren't deep players. They stay in the flat."

What are your thoughts about your two freshmen signees, Damein Anderson and Wade Bonner?
"If we have to use the two freshmen our first year we will be having a hard time. When you play freshmen at corner you are going to have a problem out there. But they have enough talent to play defensive back. Whether they have enough to play corner, I don't know. I think they do based on what we saw in high school, but you won't know that until they get here."

This is the third installment of a ten-part installment with all the Mississippi State football coaches.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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