Q&A With MSU Cornerbacks Coach Melvin Smith

Mississippi State cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith talks about each of his cornerbacks after the conclusion of spring practice.

What are your thoughts about the cornerbacks?
"At the end of this spring, I felt as good about our defensive backs as I have since I've been back at Mississippi State. When I first came back we were very thin at corner. We really didn't have any corners other than David Heard. Derek Pegues was trying to shape into a corner, but he was more suited to be something else.

"When coach moved Derek to safety we had to start over. We played with brand new corners last year. We didn't have a corner who had started a game at cornerback. Marcus Washington hadn't started. Anthony Johnson played a little bit at the end of the season, but he hadn't started any SEC games. Obviously, Tay Bowser and Jasper O'Quinn hadn't started.

"But this year we are in really good shape. We have, in my opinion, four good corners - three (Washington, Bowser, O'Quinn) that have played with games on the line and one (true freshman Damein Anderson) who hasn't played in any games. I've been working with skill guys for a long time and I have a good feeling about Damein Anderson.

"Marcus had the best spring because he knows me. I've been his only coach since he's been here. Jasper really had a great spring, but he's had three coaches in four years, so he doesn't know me as well as Marcus does. Jasper and Tay do know what kind of intensity that I want. Tay did a really great job covering people. He and Damein just have to get better versus the run. Coach Harbison and I have talked about ways to help them do that.

"I really like this group and it's not just due to football. I like them because if I call them I know they are going to call me back. I know where they are about 95% of the time. And I like that. I would give my wallet to Marcus, Jasper, Tay and Damein any time."

Saying you trust them with your wallet, are you referring to the caliber of individuals they are or are you referring to something else?
"When you send a cornerback out there you are saying you trust your wallet with them. You don't just put a guy out there for the heck of it. When I put a guy in the game I put my livelihood on the line. But I feel good about these four guys."

Marcus has really come on since he got beat out by Jasper last season.
"Marcus did really, really well in the spring. After he got beat out by Jasper, that caused him to pull his hair out because you don't want to get beat out by Jasper. If you lose your job to someone who is serious about taking your job like Jasper was, you aren't getting it back. That's how the NFL is."

How good can Tay Bowser be? "Tay Bowser has the talent to do anything he wants to do. He has a gift. There was maybe one cornerback drafted in the NFL draft that is as tall as him. If Tay could learn to control himself, he could be just as good as the guy from Tennessee State that went in the first round."

Is he close to where you want him to be?
"He's made progress. I don't think I'm just practicing coaching on him, my coaching is taking on him. I've spent a lot of time working with Tay. But I've still got a lot to teach him."

What is it about Damein Anderson that you like?
"He is a really good athlete. He has great catch-up speed. He has a great makeup. A cornerback has to be able to react with poise when he's in a bad situation. And I think he has that. He's very committed to doing something special. He won a lot of games as a quarterback in high school, including the state championship his junior season."

Who will be the starters and who will be the backups?
"I am going to put the two guys who graded the highest out there first. Marcus made an A this spring. Jasper made a B+. Tay made a B-. And Damein had a C+. But I am going to play them all. I am going to be committed to playing four corners."

How good can this group of corners be?
"Overall, I feel like we are in the best shape that we have been in in a long time, probably since Robert Bean and Fred Smoot were here. We are going to be good in the secondary."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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