Questions About Corner

It doesn't seem like the story changes much from year to year when it comes to cornerbacks. The Rebels need more to surface. Under new CB Coach Jason Jones, some of that took place in spring, but more development is needed in fall camp.

One would be hard-pressed to remember a time when an Ole Miss head coach stood at the preseason podium and said, "Cornerback is a strength of our team. We have outstanding starters and plenty of quality backups."

Hugh Freeze is no different based on what he inherited and what he has tried to "add on" in the past year.

What could have been a road block in the development of the corners was avoided.

Freeze lost Corners Coach Wesley "Crime Dawg" McGriff to the NFL. What could have been a big hit was averted with Hugh's hiring of one Jason Jones, a veteran CB coach who McGriff recommended and who was coaching in Stillwater, OK, at Okie State.

"It was critical we hire the right guy to replace Coach McGriff, who did a great job on the field and recruiting for us," Freeze noted. "I think we got it right with Coach Jones."

Jones hit the bricks running, trying to get acclimated to Ole Miss, the staff, his corner prospects and the defensive system with spring training just around the bend.

Fans like to talk about players being "thrown in the fire," but this time it was a coach. The only thing more difficult would have been if he had been hired the week of the start of fall camp.

"We all made good strides in spring," said Jones. "I got to know, work with and evaluate the guys at corner and I also learned so much about Coach (Dave) Wommack's system.

"The corners improved in a lot of areas. We still have work to do on playing the deep ball, making plays when they are there to be made, ball skills and things like that, but we have become better open field tacklers and technicians. Overall, as a unit, I am pleased with the way they accepted me and have worked hard for me. They have done everything I have asked them to do, without exception."

At Boundary Corner, Charles Sawyer heads up the list of candidates.

Charles Sawyer
File Photo

"Charles is a leader in my room. He's older and experienced. He has a lot of games under his belt," noted Jones. "I challenged him to get better and he has accepted that challenge. He wants to get better. He's focused on his eyes being in the right place and staying aggressive. Charles had a solid spring was injured late and missed a couple of practices."

Obviously, the wild card in the corner hand of hold 'em is reverse transfer Nick Brassell, who returns to Ole Miss after a season at EMCC. Will he be eligible or not? That is a story for another day. This one is about how he did in spring training.

"Nick is very talented. He has great coverage skills, can run and has length. He's picked up on the defense well considering it's his first time in it," Jones stated. "If he is academically eligible, he will help us in the secondary, without question. With our depth what it is, the addition of Nick would be a blessing, no doubt. He's also talented enough that he can play Boundary or Field CB."

Louis Covington is next on the Boundary depth chart.

"Louis played some last year. He progressed pretty well this spring. He understands the defense and knows what he is doing. We would trust him in the games," added Jason.

LaKedrick King, a walk-on, was next in line when spring concluded.

"He comes to practice every day with energy and comes to work every day. I am glad he is on this team," noted Jones.

At Field Corner, incumbent Senquez Golson has maintained his number one status.

"I really challenged Senquez this spring to be more physical and to play with lower pads. He would sometimes lose his concentration and play too high at times, especially when he got tired," Jones assessed. "He's gotten better. I want more from him because there's more there, but he got better. He can help us win games, for sure."

Senquez Golson
File Photo

One of the surprises of the spring was next. Carlos Davis, a special teams ace last year, moved from running back to cornerback and attacked the change emphatically.

"Carlos is competitive. He'll hit you and he has good speed. Carlos is learning the position, but if he continues on the path he was on in spring when fall camp opens, he will help us in the fall," noted Jones.

Anthony Standifer, who played sparingly as a true freshman before having knee issues, was next in line.

"His body is still developing in the weight room. He's a tall corner who has good athletic ability and is smart. He understands our scheme," Jones said. "As he continues to grow, mature and get stronger, he will make an impact."

Veteran Cliff Coleman is next and is a player who can man both corner slots.

"Cliff is smart and can handle both. He just wants to help the team. I feel comfortable we can put him in there and help us win," Jason stated.

Rounding out the Field CB position is Abdul Bangura.

"Abdul didn't get much action in spring because he had a lot of conflicts with his class schedule. I need to see more of him to evaluate him properly. All I know is that whatever I have asked him to do, he has done and that's positive," Jones noted.

The last two days of spring training, Dehendret Collins moved from Husky to CB. Jones liked what he saw but, like Bagura, didn't get enough of a look to evaluate much.

"Dehendret has played corner before and has experience in the secondary. I'm not sure where he fits in right now, but he will be playing quite a bit somewhere," Jones closed.

Analysis: With Brassell, this unit can move up a notch. Without him, thin is the word. The emergence of Davis was a pleasant surprise and the addition of Collins can help shore things up even more, but both have work to do to make that type of declaration.

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