Spring Preview: Cornerbacks

With Keith McGill graduating, there's lots of playing time up for grabs at corner, who will step up?

The Contenders

Davion Orphey
The JUCO transfer came to Utah last year and was able to win a starting spot in Fall Camp, and started in 9 games last year. Orphey is a physical corner who is not afraid to bump the receiver at the line of scrimmage, which is a big part of the Utah defensive scheme. He ended the season with 33 tackles and 5 pass break ups. Although he started 10 of 12 games, Orphey still has a lot to work on, especially tackling. He showed the tendency to try and arm tackle opposing ball carriers, and routinely missed tackles. He got better as the year went on as far as his coverage abilities, but he needs to shore up his technique as a tackler if he wants remain a starter for his senior year.

Justin Thomas
At 5'9, Thomas isn't the prototypical corner that can match up with the tall receivers of the Pac 12, but he makes up for it with good technique and great speed. The redshirt sophomore started in 3 games towards the end of the season, as both a nickel and corner back, and proved that his size wasn't an issue in covering the elite talent at WR in the Pac 12. Not only is Thomas a good cover corner, he is also a very sound tackler for his size and is able to use his small frame to chop down ball carriers at their legs. With the versatility to play both nickel and corner, it's hard to imagine a starting line up without Thomas.

Reginald Porter
Another redshirt sophomore, Porter impressed the coaching staff in Spring and Fall Camp of 2013 and was listed as a starter for the majority of both camps, but an untimely injury in Fall Camp forced Porter to miss close to two weeks of practice and was ultimately passed on the depth chart. Porter may be the most well rounded corner on the Utah roster, as he's listed at 5'11-190lbs, and has great speed to go along with that. He played in 11 games in 2013, racking 10 tackles, 1 pass break up and 1 fumble recovery. If Porter can stay healthy and impress like he did in Fall Camp of last year, he should be a favorite to start.

Wykie Freeman
A fifth year senior, it seems like ages ago that Freeman saw the field as a true freshman in Utah's last year in the MWC, and ever since then, the speedster has struggled with injuries and has been mainly relegated to playing special teams. Freeman has exceptional speed and looked like he was finally going to be making his mark on the Ute defense back in 2012, but was sidelined with a knee injury that required surgery and rehab all the way into Spring of 2013. Ever since the injury, Freeman has had a hard time getting back in to the lineup at corner, as he only played in 5 games in 2013 with two total tackles. If he wants to make any sort of impact on anything other than special teams, Freeman will have to have an exception Spring Camp.

Hipolito Corporan
Just a true freshman in 2013, Corporan earned a back up role and played in 10 games, totaling 10 tackles. Corporan has great size at 6'1-175lbs, and impressed the coaching staff early on with his physicality. Where Corporan lacks is in the speed department. He may be the slowest of all the cornerbacks, and will have to improve his speed if he wants to play a significant role going forward. If he can do that, he has all the rest of the tools to become a very good corner, but as Utah has figured out, speed is king in the conference of champions.

Travonne Hobbs (Fall)

Casey Hughes (Fall)

Tavaris Williams (Fall)


Projected Depth Chart Going in to Spring

CB
Davion Orphey
Reginald Porter

CB
Justin Thomas
Wykie Freeman or
Hipolito Corporan

What Needs to Happen
A leader needs to immerge amongst the "Spotlite" group. Utah lost its best corner in senior Keith McGill, and after him, there was really no clear number two. Davion Orphey is the most experienced returning corner, but he saw his reps decrease as the year came to end, in favor of Justin Thomas. It would also be good to see a healthy Reginald Porter and Wykie Freeman compete for a starting job. Depending on how other position groups play out, there also may be a certain senior safety that could transition to corner, which would immediately shake up the depth chart. There's a lot of playing time up for grabs this Spring, and Utah needs someone to step up to the plate.

Projected Depth Chart Coming out of Spring

CB
Davion Orphey or
Reginald Porter
Hipolito Corporan or
Travonne Hobbs

CB
Justin Thomas
Wykie Freeman or
Hipolito Corporan or
Travonne Hobbs


Ute Zone Top Stories