Hungry For Success

The Rebel cornerbacks (and Husky), under Wesley McGriff's direction, had a very good transitional spring, sopping up the instruction from "Crime Dawg." Carryover to fall is important.

After last year's debacle, the new coaching staff had concerns what they would be faced with when spring training rolled around.

Would they have the needed desire? Work ethic? Intensity?

Co-Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach Wesley McGriff discovered those things are not a problem with his group.

"They've been hungry. They want to succeed. They have bought into the philosophy of the head coach and they are excited," said McGriff, affectionately known as Crime Dog. "They like what this scheme allows them to do. This scheme gives them ownership, where they can make internal checks on the field to get them in the best position to make plays.

"They have embraced the responsibility and accountability that has been put on them. I like how they have bought into what we are teaching."

Note: McGriff coaches the Boundary CB, the Field CB and the Husky, essentially a nickel back.

At the Boundary, JUCO transfer Dehendret "Stank" Collins has emerged as the leader with Cliff Coleman backing him.

"Stank, he loves that nickname, has really made great strides throughout spring. We would be in trouble without him. He's one of those kids who has gotten better every session," said McGriff. "His knowledge and understanding has jumped a lot and his skill set, his techniques, have gotten so much better throughout. He's caught up with the speed of the game. He is showing some instincts and he's diagnosing plays now. All he needs to do is trust his ability. He has amazing short-area quickness, he's tough and he has good ball skills, but at times he doesn't trust what he sees. Sometimes, he just needs to trust what he sees and pull the trigger. Once he gets there, you will see him take it to another level. So far in the offseason, he has done just that – taken it to another level.

"Cliff is improving, but he has to work on his short-area quickness. He's a long body and he's physical at the line of scrimmage. He will challenge receivers. He has to work on having a short memory and his confidence. We tell them all things are going to go wrong. It's the nature of the position, but you have the ability to fix it and move on to the next play. He will help us when he learns that."

Wesley Pendleton
File Photo

At Field Corner, Wesley Pendleton is setting the pace.

"Wesley has really been playing well for us. He's a guy who has all the tools you look for. He can play in space, he can cover one-on-one, he is good at reading patterns and he's instinctive in zone coverage," said McGriff.

"He just needs, like all of them, to continue to improve his fundamental techniques. He's so talented that sometimes he tries to cheat the coverage and not go through the process. Once he goes through the process, he comes up with the big play. I was teasing him the other day that he is leading the country in pass breakups, but if he would go through the process, he'd be leading the country in interceptions. I am pleased he is in position to break them up, but he can be a guy who has a lot of interceptions if he goes through the process of doing things correctly with great fundamentals. Wesley is a hard worker who wants to be good."

Abdul Bangura is next in line at Field CB. He's a walkon, but McGriff says he's not a typical walkon.

"He's one of those kids who absorbs something quickly. He's going to do it exactly like you tell him to do it every time and he takes pride in doing things right. He's very coachable and he's made some plays this spring," McGriff stated. "Abdul doesn't carry himself like a walkon. He has learned the scheme, he has pride in what he is doing and he wants to be good. He wants to be on the field. If he has a bad day at practice, I have to run him out of the film room because he wants to know exactly what he did wrong and how to correct it."

At Husky, Ivan Nicholas started out behind Brishen Mathews but has since overtaken Brishen for the top spot as August quickly approaches.

"Ivan has been a pleasant surprise. In the offseason, I didn't think his change of direction would be good enough, but on the field in pads, he's getting it done and has made tremendous improvements," said Wesley. "He and Collins have improved the most in my group. Ivan has absorbed the scheme and has shown some great instincts. He has to be instinctive because he is not blessed with tremendous vertical speed. He gets jumps on formations because of his quick recognition. He's making plays, he hustles to the ball and he does his assignments the way a coach wants him to.

Senquez Golson
File Photo

"Brishen creates good competition for that position. He has all the skill sets. He can change directions, he can run, he has good ball skills and he can be physical. He has to work on being consistent. With his skill set, he should be on the field, but he's got to play every single down. When he does that, he can be pretty special."

Tyriek Garcia is also in the mix as well.

"Tyriek is a smart kid who has improved. He's instinctive, but he has to improve his fundamentals and techniques. He gives great effort. When he learns the position through and through, he will help us," McGriff allowed. "He should help us on special teams."

The wild card in all this is Senquez Golson, who sat out spring to concentrate on baseball and has some catching up to do academically this summer. "I did not get to see Senquez, but from what I understand he has a very good skill set – speed, agility," McGriff ended. "I am looking forward to working with him in the fall. We can certainly use more talented players at those positions."

Analysis: The corners/Husky had a good spring, a B+ score, to be exact. Why is it not an A? Not enough depth and depth will be key at those slots. To think they can go through a year with zero injuries is not realistic. Someone else has to be ready to play and compete if one of them goes down. Also, there have been a lot of opportunities, as McGriff said, for turnovers and not just knocked down passes, which has been plentiful. A real good group gets those picks and takes the ball away from the opposing offense. Overall, though, a pleasant surprise of the spring.

This is part nine of a 10-part series on spring football.

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