(This is the ninth installment of a series of interviews with the assistant coaches about spring football training.)
Cornerbacks Coach Chris Vaughn is not a "shy" coach.
From the start of each spring practice until the very end – and sometimes beyond, Vaughn can clearly be heard throwing down challenges to his guys.
"I challenge them to compete every single down," said Vaughn, who is soft-spoken off the field. "It's not enough to say ‘I got my guy' or ‘I'm in my zone.' We have to show up in the running game, we have to help our teammates when they are in trouble, we have to be all over the field giving effort and playing fast. It's all about great effort.
"I've been pleased with the response and how they have received me and the rest of the coaching staff. They are trying to do what we ask them to do. It's just a process and the process involves getting better every day."
There was some movement roughly midway through spring at the cornerback slots. Marshay Green and Jeremy McGee were brought over from offense to help out the position, so rather than a true left and right depth chart, Vaughn opted to simply discuss each corner individually.
He started with senior Dustin Mouzon even though it appears there will be quite a battle with Green and it appeared as if Green had the edge as spring progressed on at the left CB position.
"Dustin is a guy who has played a lot of football here and has had a lot of success. I expect him to play a lot of football here next year, but I also expect him to get better at the techniques we are asking him to do," Chris began. "We are doing some new things that he has never done before and it's thrown off his game some, but we are counting on him having a great summer and offseason and being a player for us. I think he can help us win some big games."
Junior Cassius Vaughn was next on Chris' list. Cassius has been holding down the number one slot on the right side of the defense most of spring.
"Cassius has a lot of ability, a whole lot of ability," Chris continued. "Again, though, we are teaching him some new things he has to grasp. We are going to challenge him to be a playmaker for us next year and also be a leader. He does not have as much experience as Dustin, but he will be counted on just as much as one of the older guys I'm working with."
Marshay has never played any defense in his football career, but it was quickly apparent he has the physical tools and the demeanor to do it. He also accepted the move from offense without batting an eye.
"I am very excited about having Marshay on our side of the ball," Chris noted. "He has great ability, he gives us a spark of energy and he's a great competitor. We really need him to come on and be a leader for us. We need him to set the tempo for us and I think he has the ability and personality to do that."
Sophomore Jamariey Atterberry is backing up Vaughn.
"Jamariey is a young man with excellent ability. His 40, vertical jump and agility drills are excellent. He's one of the best athletes on the team, but what he has to learn is the tempo required to play the college game. His motor has to run high all the time. We are going to count on him next year. He has SEC ability and he needs to play that way," said Vaughn. "This is his first spring, so there is a learning curve there – I understand that, but we are still pushing him hard to pick up on what we are trying to do because I know we will need him next year."
McGee was a running back all last season on the scout team after transferring in from UCLA, where he did gain some corner experience in his year as a Bruin.
"Jeremy is eager to learn and he's got some ability. He gives great effort and he wants to learn and be good. We are going to need all our guns next year, so our task is to get him caught up on all the techniques and everything we are teaching. If we do that, he will help us next season," Vaughn assessed.
The Rebels picked up a transfer from Hargrave – Julian Whitehead - at the semester break and he's currently cutting his teeth on the transition to major college football.
"Everything is moving fast for him, but I think he can find a role for next year here on special teams and as a solid backup," said Chris. "Time is on his side. He's a true freshman. We need to find places for him to contribute while he learns and have some patience with him."
Sophomore Fon Ingram has worked at both corner and safety in the spring, but mostly at corner. As spring ended, he was working with the safeties more, but Vaughn assessed his spring since he had him longer and may get him back when all is said and done.
"Fon is tough and he knows what to do. He competes hard. We need him to be a standout on special teams and to compete to play at corner. He brings toughness to the table and could get some looks in the fall at safety as well," Vaughn noted.
Sophomore George Helow is a true safety who has been asked to play corner for numbers reasons. Ditto on redshirt freshman Zane Allcorn.
"We just needed more help and asked George to do it. He's out of position, but he was willing and has worked very, very hard. He gives us energy and is a great want-to guy. He will help us on special teams next year," Chris allowed. "Zane is another safety we needed for depth purposes at corner. Again, I think he might be able to help on special teams as well. He and George can also give our offense great looks on the scout team."
Freshman walkon Josh McGlaum, an Oxford product, rounds out the candidates.
"We'll need Josh on all our look squads next year to help us become a better team. He'll give the effort to do what he can to help the team and hopefully one day he'll help on special teams and go from there," Vaughn stated.
Overall, the corners have been willing and have taken Vaughn's challenges to heart, but Chris and the Rebel defense are going to need more production in the fall than they've gotten in spring. Look for Green to be a big factor in making that happen.
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