After a rough year in 2015, the cornerback rotation is going to look very different in 2016 filled with position changes and younger players. SMU senior Darrion Millines will be back at strong safety, however, with Horace Richardson at least beginning the year as one of the starting cornerbacks.
Although Richardson will begin the year as a starter, he will have to stay healthy and produce to keep that spot with a couple younger players waiting in the wings. From there, the changes begin. After moving from safety to cornerback after last season, Jordan Wyatt should get the start at cornerback to provide a veteran presence following a good camp. Eric Sutton and Rodney Clemons will provide some young blood to round out this group and give them a playmaking ability that was nonexistent last season.
Although Mikial Onu and Christian Davis were not listed among the starters, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be on the field a lot this season. As the year progresses, these two will be nipping at the heels of a number of the starters, both at safety and cornerback, waiting to grab one of their spots.
As was the case with Sutton, both Davis and Onu will add some speed to the secondary and be around the ball a lot. Kevin Johnson is another player that should see a lot of time for SMU right behind Clemons, both of whom have had good camps.
Not to be forgotten at cornerback is William Jeanlys who should see his share of snaps over the course of the season, as well. The same can be said for Cedric Lancaster, a year removed from switching from wide receiver to cornerback.
This is a young group with Sutton, Onu and Davis set to play a lot. The question with these three, is what kind of impact they can make in their first season on the Hilltop. There’s no question they are going to add speed and playmaking ability, but how they will adjust going against better athletes and in different coverages is still to be determined.
Inexperience and all, Eric Sutton will lead SMU in interceptions this season. Speed is something that can’t be taught and allows him to cover up a lot of mistakes but also make some plays on the ball as quarterbacks are sure to challenge him. His coverage still needs to get better, but Sutton’s ability to play the ball in the air will be a welcome sight for SMU fans and he will come away with his fair share of interceptions.
This is a young group and there will be growing pains especially early on going against offenses like Baylor and TCU. The freshman will have their moments during the year for SMU but I expect some of the veterans like Millines and Wyatt to provide some stability as the leaders of this group.
As the overhaul of the roster continues, expect a lot of players to rotate in and out as the coaches continue to search for players that will stick. One thing for certain, there will be a lot more speed on the back end of this defense than last year.