Cornerback has been a topic of conversation from the start of spring football practice. The thought right now is the three young candidates at the position are getting better each practice.
Honestly, I feel like all we have presented to you here at Go Pokes this spring in coverage of the Cowboys spring football activities is news on offensive line and cornerbacks. But, if you go back to head coach Mike Gundy's initial news conference on spring ball the first topic was the young corners and the move of veteran cornerback Ramon Richards to safety, where he actually played some a chunk of last season. The other major portion of that news conference went to the combination of offensive line, finding the depth chart order behind Mason Rudolph at quarterback, and how to use the plethora of receivers on the Cowboys roster.
The first major scrimmage of the spring was on Friday and according to the head coach it was more offensive oriented and he passed out "attaboys" to the receivers and Tyron Johnson, running backs and Ja'Ron Wilson, quarterbacks with most of them getting mention, and he did give some defensive props to defensive end Jarrell Owens and safety Tre Flowers.
I watched the corners closely, and while there were some big plays in the passing game on the outside. There were also pass plays well covered and the middle was involved in where the offense was attacking the field. I saw some good things from the young corners and the "mother hen" at that position right now in senior Darius Curry.
The three young pups to watch that really need to be ready to step up and play a lot, even as starters, are sophomore A.J. Green, red-shirt freshman Rodarius Williams, and sophomore Madre Harper.
"I think all three of them are doing well. We are just trying to get them consistent so that we can truly count on them this year," said Duffie. "It has been great attitudes, great work ethic, and really, they have shown some dependability over the last six or seven days."
The education those three, and all the players in the secondary at Oklahoma State is off the charts. Remember, everyday in seven-on-seven and one-on-one drills those corners and safeties are dealing with James Washington, Marcell Ateman, Chris Lacy, the star of Friday's scrimmage LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, Jalen McCleskey, red-shirt freshman Tyrell Alexander, and sophomore walk-on talent Obi Obialo. It is a loaded group with lots of talent meaning Green, Williams, Harper and company won't see many more players next fall on Saturdays with the talent of the guys they drill against everyday in practice.
The big difference at the corners for the Cowboys with this young bunch is size. Previously, Curry at 6-1, 205 pounds was the big body at corner that could muscle up with bigger, post-up type receivers in short yardage and red-zone situations. Now with Green (6-1, 180), Williams (6-0, 180), and Harper (6-1, 190) all the corners can match up with some size, and thanks to Rob Glass and his staff and their influence growing strength as well. The better to get into press coverage and win the match-ups.
"Very long kids, I think the shortest one probably is six-foot by NFL standards," agreed Duffie. "The biggest thing and, by far the most glaring attribute, is competitiveness and toughness. All three of them are tough kids and they want to compete and refuse to lose."
That is good to hear, but you see it in practice. The young corners respect the veteran receivers like Washington, Ateman, Lacy, and McCleskey but they are not intimidated and not taking anything off of them. It is an education in process, but if my opinion has accuracy, then I think the education is taking. All three played at a high level of high school football with Green at DeSoto and Harper at Arlington Lamar in Texas. Williams cut his teeth in Shreveport going against receiver talent in Louisiana like McCleskey and Johnson, those type of kids.
The young trio is better now than they were at the start of spring and with all summer and fall camp to follow I would say by the time the Tulsa game rolls around the talk about the corners won't be whether they can hold up, but how much they can add to the defensive success. As Duffie said, they seem to get better every practice.