Corner Crisis?

The Rebels are faced with having only five cornerbacks to work with in spring training, but that does not seem to faze CB Coach Keith Burns. Read about it inside.

The cornerback situation at Ole Miss - due to a lack of numbers - seems to be in a near-crisis stage this spring.

There are only five available and one is a converted safety (Jarius Williams) and one is a new walkon (Abdul Bangura).

But Cornerback Coach Keith Burns is taking all that in stride. It is what it is and he intends to make the most of the situation without belaboring the point of a lack of bodies at those two positions.

"I am very impressed with our work ethic. We've got five guys working very hard and their attitude has been outstanding," said Burns. "The thing about coming in new is that we are learning each other - I'm learning them and they are learning me.

Cornerbacks coach Keith Burns
Chuck Rounsaville
"The little things that are expected and demanded are different. It's change and change is not easy sometimes. The good thing is they are listening and are willing to change. Their retention has been good."

Burns is trying to instill a certain mentality into the corners.

"It's a one-play-at-a-time mentality. Coaches talk and preach that all the time and I'm not sure that sinks in all the time at every position, but it better at corner," he explained. "If you have 75 plays in a game, you can play 70 plays at a winning level and that not be good enough sometimes. Those other five get you beat.

"It's just training that mentality that we are going through, starting from scratch, and that's no reflection on how it's been done before. That's just my way."

With senior Marcus Temple out due offseason sports hernia surgery, sophomore Charles Sawyer leads the pack in experience.

Sawyer needs work, but it's the "others" who have to catch his standard.

"I try to create competition every way I can, from the way they come on the field to how they dress to the way we sit in the meeting rooms," Burns continued. "The depth chart is fluid. I grade everything on each rep - who they go against, who the QB is, the route, everything - and then I give them a grade and post those results every day for them to see.

"Hey, that guy graded better than me yesterday. I have to step up my game. It's all about competition. It won't work without competition."

RS Frosh Cliff Coleman and JUCO transfer Wesley Pendleton are next behind Sawyer on the pecking order for now.

"We are counting on Cliff, obviously, and we need him to work hard to mature and continue to develop. I like his toughness," said Burns. "What I like about Wesley is that he is very talented. He can really run. In our system, we are going to play a lot of man coverage. That's a simple coverage that fits his current skill set. We're not asking him to do a whole lot yet in different coverages, but so far I am very impressed and am very glad we have him."

Burns will keep plugging away, creating a competitive environment and coaching one play at a time.

What will shake out, nobody knows, but Keith does know one thing.

"We will develop the one-play-at-a-time approach, we will work hard and we will compete," he closed. "I already know these kids will work hard. Now it's just a matter of molding them."

For now, until the numbers improve in fall, that's all anyone can ask.

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