BF.C Fall Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

CORVALLIS - Jordan Poyer is gone, and OSU is up a creek at corner. Oh wait, that's not correct. The Beavers welcome back a stud at corner in 2013, one who likely won't be unsung for long. A position battle will take place opposite him. So what depth concerns exist, if any? And what about the rookie corners who will make their first fall camp appearances on Aug. 5, what should we expect of them?

The Starters
Powering into fall camp, OSU will field a slate of nine guys looking to fill essentially three positions in the secondary.

One of those players is a four-star recruit out of Westlake Village, Calif. Dashon Hunt was highly sought, and OSU nabbed him. Will he be of immediate use to the Beaver secondary and bypass a redshirt season?

My guess is no.

Why?

Because two of the three potentially open slots were pretty much filled post-spring ball. Senior Rashaad Reynolds is a shoe-in for starting time, likely remaining across from the opposition's flanker, where some Pa-12 offenses will place a bigger and occasionally slower wideout.

By extension, these bigger and sometimes slower athletes are (generally) quite aggressive to the football.

In other words, they are right up Reynolds' alley.

Reynolds plays much bigger than his 5-11, 186-pound frame would suggest. His ability to place jarring hits and actively combat guys that are 6-4, 215 with gangly tree branches for arms was seen plenty last season and now that he's out of Poyer's shadow, more and more people are going to be talking about him.

He has a nasty streak in getting to the ball carrier and making contact. He plays with poise, power and agility. Reynolds is… The Noisy Cricket. Watch the original Men in Black, and you will know exactly what I am talking about.

THE STARTING NOD for the corner opposite Reynolds will probably go to Sean Martin – that's my educated guess headed into fall camp.

Undoubtedly, he will be battling Steven Nelson during fall camp in order to officially secure that role. Spring lent itself to healthy displays of speed and awareness by both corners, but Martin is – perhaps – the more logical choice.

Why?

Experience. Martin is a senior who has played in 24 games with three starts. Nelson has two years junior college experience and a spring with the Beavs.

Martin is accustomed not only to the schemes and coverages under Rod Perry, he's well-adjusted to his teammates various tendencies in the way only an upperclassmen can be -- where the strengths and weaknesses lie within each player's technique, how they operate in the clutch, etc. Furthermore, Martin knows what it feels like to be in high pressure situations.

Should Martin continue in the fall what he started in the spring, he's the guy. Nelson had a good run in spring ball, and I wholly anticipate seeing the 5-10, 190-pounder as the third string corner – and also getting play in the dime and nickel packages.

He has a redshirt year available – but the guess here is he'll play. OSU loses both Martin and Reynolds at the end of 2013. Having Nelson gain some real-world experience this year could be critical, and not just practice reps.

In the Wings
That OSU corner depth starts with Larry Scott.

With all this talk about the competition for Poyer's old role between Nelson and Martin, it would be a mistake to forget there are others in the mix. Scott is a sophomore who stands at 5-11, 192 pounds and he can be hell on wide receivers. He is a high energy guy with a persistent motor – he makes good reads and closes fast.

Scott is not afraid to use his arms and get in the face of the opposition. Perry praised him frequently during and after practices this spring.

Yet Scott might be too aggressive for his own good – the type of mentality that leads to missed assignments and/or tackles. But could he use fall camp to his advantage to sneak up behind Nelson and earn some extra PT in the latter half of August? Absolutely.

A veteran of both the offensive and defensive squads, senior Jovan Stevenson has quietly slipped below the radar. He made the conversion from running back to defensive back prior to fall camp in 2012 at the request of Riley but has yet to become the Pac-12 force many predicted for him at the start of his career, including the guy who recruited him for OSU, Mike Cavanaugh.

Stevenson is in his final year of eligibility and there are no more tomorrows.

Tyler Hasty was someone to keep tabs on but last week got himself kicked off the program following a run-in with the law. That bumps Malcolm Marable (5-7, 168) and walk on Naji Patrick (5-8, 188) up a bit.

Marable is quick and has been a fixture during camps as a kick returner. His size puts him at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to significantly taller receivers but Marable puts a lot of effort into every snap. He has some hops in addition to that speed, so his relative lack of size is somewhat accounted for.

Patrick, a walk on, has been a very quiet player in the time I've been covering the Beavers. He is good at reading opposing formations but the Beavs have other options that are more athletic. Patrick could be of utility on the special team units.

In addition to Hunt, two other prep corners join the program this year in Charles Okonkwo and Walter Jones. While all three are expected to redshirt, corner is one of the few spots where a special freshman can earn early playing time and even win a starting job.

Fall camp is always full of surprises – it's the first time coaches and others get to see them going up against Pac-12 level competition day-in and day-out. Guys you thought would challenge for playing time sometimes don't, and a guy you thought would be an obvious choice for a redshirt season is suddenly in the mix.

That could happen with Hunt, Okonkwo or Jones. My guess is that the Beavs will be fairly well set with Reynolds and Martin, with Nelson and Scott behind them. But the first few weeks of fall camp will ultimately tell the tale.

NOTABLE NOTE:
I would consider both Steven Christian and Zack Robinson candidates for cornerback gigs as well – both players have experience at the position and are versatile enough to slot at corner or safety. They are listed as members of the safety unit currently, but if more cushion is needed at corner and the rookies either aren't quite ready and/or Riley wants to redshirt them, I look for I Perry to pull from this duo.


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