Cornerbacks -

The cornerbacks had a tough spring, but all involved feel there are better days ahead as each gain more experience. Part VI of a series.

There are several things not real appealing to me.

One is going "abroad." My oldest daughter "loves" Europe, but I like it just fine in our 50 states and can find anything I want to do right here.

Another is working on anything mechanical. I simply do not have that aptitude or natural inclination. My brother, a mechanical engineer, can take apart anything and put it back together by memory. I have a hard time checking the oil in my truck.

Yet another would be trying to play cornerback in the Southeastern Conference. Having attempted, albeit poorly, just about everything known to athletics, I can't think of anything harder or potentially more humbling, even humiliating, than trying to cover the gazelles in our league while staying within the rules designed to give the wide receivers an advantage –as if they needed more edge than knowing where they are going versus the CB not knowing – in front of 60-100,000 fans watching your every move.

It's like hitting a baseball. Your odds of failing are a lot higher than they are of succeeding. It's a fact and something you have to learn to deal with.

It's a heavy burden being the last line of defense and mostly responsible for stopping the high octane passing attacks of today's game. A good pass rush is part of the equation, for sure, but when push comes to shove, it's the CBs who get the "blame" for completions.

Because I know the difficulties of playing corner on this level from years of observation, my criticisms of those guys are usually held in check. It's like saying King Kong is just a big monkey. Everyone knows when they succeed and when they don't and it does no good to repeatedly point it out.

Having said all of that, however, no matter how much sympathy I have for them, they still have a job to do and still have to be held accountable.

Cornerback Coach Chris Vaughn does not accept anything less than accountability and performance.

Spring training turned out to be trying times for our corner candidates. No, they didn't flop, but nobody escaped from the onslaught of the attack of Jevan Snead to a very experienced and talented WR corps totally unscathed. The good news is there is hope they won't face many any better than the passing attack they faced in spring training, but the bad news is they never really shut those guys down either.

Yes, they had their moments. Yes, they improved. Yes, the techniques being employed now are more aggressive and give them more opportunities to make plays on the ball, which they did. That's all good, but what wasn't fabulous was that long pass completions on them were the norm and not the exception.

You have to temper some of that because Tyrone Nix's defense was "toned down" most of spring in terms of the amount of blitzing and pressure packages they tried to put on Snead and the fact that Snead could not be hit in spring ball, but the big plays still surfaced, after everything was tallied, as a sore spot.

It wasn't for lack of trying. And it wasn't – in my opinion – based on a lack of overall athletic ability. It was a consistency issue, which could stem from new techniques and philosophies being introduced or from overall inexperience of playing the demanding position.

When you look at the top candidates closely, only Dustin Mouzon has substantial experience. Cassius Vaughn has some, but not enough to label him a tried-and-true veteran. The rest – Marshay Gree and Jeremy McGee – are relative "newbies" to the position.

Mouzon started out slowly and went downhill from there for three weeks, but in the fourth week he started to catch on to what Vaughn and the defensive staff wanted. His play jumped up a couple of notches once the light came on. Vaughn started real strong and then tapered off a bit, but he still ended up, in the coaches' minds, having the best overall spring of the CBs. Of all the corners, he is probably the most "ideal." He's bigger than the rest, he's fast and mobile and he doesn't seem to get to down on himself when the inevitable happens and he gets beaten. He has the get-ack-up-when-you-get-knocked-down mentality corners have to possess.

Green and McGee, who were switched from WR and RB respectively halfway through spring training, are perhaps the most physically gifted of the group, but they are green as May tomatoes. What will put them over the top, especially Green, is an ultra-competitive nature. He cannot stand to lose, fail, get beaten or succumb. In fact, he refuses to. From the day he was moved over from offense, the defense got an emotional spark, even when he was giving up plays. Marshay just has that affect on those around him and that's a valuable asset to possess. McGee also had his moments of basking in the sun, but they weren't close enough together. Whereas Marshay was on a 2-1 good-to-bad play ratio, McGee was 3-1.

Hargrave transfer Julian Whitehead is behind pace. Two and two equals six to him currently. He too will have the light come on one day.

But don't take this offering to mean we are hurting at corner. We had aches and pains in spring training is all this means. Better play is expected in August and next season. Vaughn and the D staff are upbeat three competent corners are going to surface in the fall. They aren't quite sure which three yet, but they know a trio of good ones are lurking in the pile somewhere.

Also there play will pick up when they are given more help in the form of Nix turning the front four and LBs completely loose in his pressure packages.

My money, for now, is on Green, Vaughn and Mouzon, in no particular order, but this is certainly a wait-and-see deal.


OM Spirit Top Stories