Talking Defensive Back with C.L. Whittington

When talking about the defensive back position all that it entails, finding a coach to talk to on the high school level was simple. South Houston head coach C.L. Whittington played in the NFL for more than five seasons and happens to be coaching one of the top junior corners in the state in Leroy Scott. Burnt Orange Beat files this report from Whittington on the position.

South Houston head coach C.L. Whittington has played at the highest level with the Houston Oilers from 1974-78. The former safety is now teaching high school aged kids the game and it comes from the unique perspective of having been a professional athlete. Recently, Burnt Orange Beat stopped by South Houston to talk about the defensive back position with the Beaumont area star.

Q: What do you look for in a corner?

A: There are several different intangibles that you look for in a corner. So many times people want to put the emphasis on pure speed, but I look at pure speed as it's good if you have it. It still comes down to the ability to change direction. I look at body type, the contour. Does a player have the right contour waist like a running back? You look at how many running backs are converted to corner and look at that contour. The ability to change direction at a moments notice is like a good running back doing the same. Then when you put that running back on the other side of the ball at corner and he's almost anticipating what the running back is going to do in that same situation he has been in.

You are looking at the footwork he has running forward and then translate that to running backwards and then a guy that can make those adjustments. A corner looks at the waist of the receiver or running back. You don't look at the top of the body or the feet. The waist will tell you what you need to know. You for explosiveness after a move and the vertical to go up with a guy whether he's 5-10 or 6-5. You have to go up through the receiver and want to attack. A corner has to have closing ability because you will get beat on a step.

A good corner hates to lose at anything. When you talk about a pure corner, one that can cover and come up and hit, they don't want to lose in anything. You may get them once, but I guarantee you it may be the only time they get the guy the whole night.

Q: What do you look for in a safety?

A: A safety is a guy that I feel like has to have a baseball centerfielder's ability to play the ball if you are a free safety. Now days there aren't many free safeties because of coverages.

A strong safety has to be able to cover out in the slot and close a gap in the run game as if he were a linebacker. You still have to have the mobility out in space to be able to handle the coverage responsibilities. A lot of safeties that are pure hitters have gone out of business because teams are going to look to isolate that particular guy.

Another thing about a good safety is not to make the perfect form tackle, but just a get a guy on the ground in space as well as coming up to fill.

Corners and safeties are different positions, but there is one common trait; you hate to lose. When you are in the secondary, you are the last line of defense. Everything that happens behind you is bad. If you have a guy that in your secondary that looks at an offensive players feet every time, you have a problem.

Q: What is the hardest thing to get through to the high school defensive backs?

A: It's not pro ball and what they see on TV. It's always the same thing when someone comes at them, they want to move out of the way. The way that high school and college works is that as long as the guy is in front of you, use the rule and don't worry about what you see pros do. So as long as the guy is in front of you, maintain contact with him as long as the ball is not in the air.

Q: From the days when you played to now, what is a difference you notice?

A: Consistency with the weight room and body types. Before it was six months on and six months off. The rarity was a few that continued it year round. Now, it's about the zero body fat and perfect look. I'll take a guy with a little body fat that makes plays instead of that guy that is always going to have a little tweak, pull and is too tight or stiff to make the same plays.


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