Editor's Note: The following is Part VII of our spring position-by-position breakdown with the Ole Miss assistant football coaches. Today, the cornerbacks.
Chris Rippon is in charge of the secondary of the Ole Miss defense, but he primarily coaches the cornerbacks while Tony Hughes handles the safeties in practice. In this issue, Hughes assessed the safeties and Rippon will evaluate the spring effort of the corners.
Secondary Coach Chris Rippon likes the position he's in with the Rebel secondary after viewing them throughout spring training.
"Every coach likes experienced players," he smiled. "We have experience in the secondary and that bodes well for us. We have had a productive spring. I'm happy with the results. I'm very pleased with their continued development, their effort and their competitiveness. I think we have been productive and have a good foundation for having a productive summer."
Rip's focus in practice – in individual drills – is centered on the cornerbacks while Tony Hughes handles the safeties.
The following is a breakdown of the cornerback depth chart and Rippon's comments on each:
Right Cornerback – Trumaine McBride – Senior, 5-10, 185 – "This spring, Trumaine has established himself as a shut down cornerback," Rippon noted. "He has taken his game to another level. He's put on a little weight which has helped him be more physical in press coverage and against the run. T-Mac did very well last season and has followed that up with an excellent offseason and spring. He's also become a leader of the defense. I'm very pleased with him and expect big things from him next year. Trumaine is also a big part of our special teams and is vital in that capacity."
Terrell Jackson – Sophomore, 5-10, 190 – "Terrell is really having a solid spring. As the installation of some things has progressed, it slowed him a little bit, but the difference in him this spring and last season is night and day," Chris continued. "The light has come on in a lot of areas for Terrell. I fully expect him to have a chance to be a contributor this fall and last year, frankly, he wasn't ready to handle it. His progress has been good to see. Terrell is also a candidate for special teams work."
Left Cornerback – Nate Banks – Junior, 5-11, 180 – "Nate has had a very solid spring. He was given the opportunity to be the starter going into spring and hasn't lost the position," Rippon assessed. "Nate will be a very good SEC corner once he gets some of the little things down. I feel comfortable with him in there. He got a lot of valuable experience last year and will capitalize on that as a starter next season. Nate is also a valuable special teams player for us."
Dustin Mouzon – Sophomore, 5-10, 175 – "Dustin was slowed a little this spring with a groin injury, but when he's been healthy he has produced and had a good spring," Chris said. "He's playing with more confidence now that he knows the ropes better. Dustin has good speed and he's physical for a kid his size. He got some experience last year and I expect his role to increase in 2006. Like the rest of them, Dustin will contribute on special teams."
Our Take: All four cornerback candidates did what you want them to do in spring – they got better. T-Mac needed to take his game from reliable to "lock down" status. Rippon believes he has accomplished that. Banks needed to establish himself as a competent starter. Done. Terrell needed to get more in tune with the system. Mission accomplished. Dustin needed to get his game to "starter" status. He's there. To go along with experienced safeties, the secondary has a chance to be a strength of the team next year. That's the good news. The bad? It's not overwhelming, but something that has to be considered. It's rare when there are only four corners on campus. It will be important to get a fifth, for sure, and sixth, ideally, on the roster and ready for some action. The Rebs signed one (Cassius Vaughn) who fills that bill for next season and Mr. Versatile B. Brown can play corner if needed, but the Reb corners – as good as they can be – are somewhat thin. Here's hoping for a healthy 2006.
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