OSU SPRING PREVIEW: The Cornerbacks

CORVALLIS – If you like competition, the No. 2 and nickel corner slots are up for grabs this spring. Experience and speed are present with the likes of Steven Nelson, Larry Scott and Malcolm Marable returning. But if you like spring ball curveballs, from this chair there is one freshman with a chance to snag a starting role out from underneath some veteran talent.

The pre-spring signs are pointing toward junior Nelson and sophomore Scott locking the corner spots down.

But Dashon Hunt has an opportunity to emerge this spring and make a case for more reps.

Hunt was a great practice player in 2013, finishing out the year strong and generally at the forefront of a pack of young corners including freshmen Charles Okonkwo and Chris Hayes and sophomore Naji Patrick.

Hunt's natural ability and maturation under secondary coach Rod Perry could make him an appealing 2014 option for filling one of the voids left by the graduated Rashaad Reynolds and Sean Martin.

One thing to keep in mind though - experience does count for something in the OSU camp. So while Hunt's physical skills and promise may give him an edge, senior-to-be Marable has paid his dues.

Marable has been a part of the OSU system for four years now. In that time, he has accrued reps on defense and special teams as a cornerback kick returner and gunner. In total, Marable is responsible for seven assisted tackles, one deflected pass and 501 kickoff return yards.

As much of a valuable asset as Marable is to Oregon State, he will need to put up a fight if he hopes to own the lion's share of reps at the nickel this spring – Hunt has size over the more experienced Marable (Hunt is 5-8, 189 pounds, Marable is 5-7, 169 pounds).

Any progress beyond consideration for the nickel corner job will leave Hunt in contention with Scott for playing time, and that's where things could get interesting in April.

Scott (5-11, 194) played bigger than his stats would suggest, collecting nine total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception during the 2013 campaign. A good spring session combining his hustle and work ethic puts him in the running for a lot of playing time in '14 -- the real question is where he will end up.

Does Hunt or Marable have what it takes to grab the job over Scott? Based on how Scott played towards the end of last year, that seems like a tall order. But again, Hunt was impressive on the scout team last season.

Slice it however you choose - you're probably looking at a mix of Nelson, Scott, Marable and Hunt as the primary corner pool in April, with Nelson expected to lead the pack.

After all, Nelson;s breakout 2013 season where he notched 62 tackles, six interceptions and eight plays broken up playing alongside Reynolds isn't easily overlooked.


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