CORNERBACK: WSU Fall Camp Preview

THE CORNERBACK POSITION headed into the 2012 fall camp at Washington State will field a decided lack of youth – not a single true freshman shows up on the roster. But young or old, all that really matters is how good the crew will be out on the islands. Here's your complete breakdown…

Daniel Simmons: Fifth year Senior. He's started 20 games over his WSU career, participating in 25. In 2011, racked up 74 tackles (63 solo) in 7 starts and 10 games total.

Damante Horton: Third year junior. He has 11 career starts and 19 games of playing experience. Last season, he started 11 of 12 games, posted 47 tackles (36 solo) and picked off 4 passes.

Nolan Washington: Fourth year junior. Despite injuries, he's played in all 24 possible games the past two seasons, starting 19 of them. Last year, in 7 starts, he posted 24 tackles (17 solo) and has 56 career tackles to his credit.

Spencer Waseem: Second year freshman. He received a medical redshirt after a season ending knee injury early in 2011 and was out injured this spring.

Tracy Clark: Third year sophomore. Appeared in all 12 games, mainly on special teams, posting 5 tackles (5 solo).

Brandon Golden: Second year freshman. Also appeared in all 12 games last year, primarily on special teams, posting 5 tackles (4 solo).

Mike McAdie: Second year sophomore. Walk on from Kennewick who arrived at WSU this spring. Played the previous season at UPS.

Brandon Bagley: Second year Sophomore. Slated to arrive at WSU by Aug. 1. At College of the Sequoias last season, posted 21 tackles (13 solo) with four interceptions including one for score, six pass break-ups and five passes defensed.

If Washington State is going to play the kind of defense Mike Breske likes to play, let alone excel at it, there will have to be some surprises at cornerback this fall camp.

Breske likes tall, lockdown corners. And while WSU is recruiting that way for the 2013 class, it doesn't change the height of the current team – every scholarship player on the 2012 roster is listed between 5-9 and 5-11. And as much as the top guys at corner have potential and are fan favorites, it's a tall task to rewind the games and objectively label the play at corner as "lockdown."

Did we mention that Breske likes lockdown corners? His preference is to go with man coverage and bring the blitz. Disguised and from all angels. But if he doesn't have that coming out of fall camp, Cougar fans should look for plenty of Cover-4. Breske is still going to blitz, but he'll pick his spots and when he blitzes, he'll mostly leave a zone behind it.

Quick Hitters:
On the upside, WSU returns all three corners who started in 2011 – Horton, Simmons and Washington. That's not insignificant.

And it's not inconceivable that Simmons puts it all together this year while Horton takes another large leap forward. If you want to get greedy, imagine if Washington also takes a big jump and Waseem is ready now to both compete in and win Pac-12 battles.

The downside? The Cougs only had three fully healthy cornerbacks to work with all spring – Horton, Simmons and Clark.

Simmons and Horton are the starters on the post-spring depth chart. Simmons earlier in his career looked like he was a first-team all conference pick in the making but it hasn't turned out that way… so far. Horton arguably was the Cougs' best corner last year, and Simmons and Washington fought through injuries.

More good news: Washington, Jeff Tuel told CF.C recently, was more focused this summer and was doing things on the field in the summer's latter half that Tuel hadn't seen him ever do before.

Waseem had more than enough potential to challenge for a starting job when he went down in 2011. The big question, as it is with all knee injuries, is if he's truly back all the way, or if he's healthy enough to play now but getting back his full athleticism, trust and skill will happen next season, in 2013.

Bagley is a good cover corner. He's not real big but he does have good hips and coverage skills. But the Pac-12 is a also a far different animal than is junior college. Fortunately, Bagley has 4-to-play-3 starting this year.

The battles:
No one should feel safe in the pecking order at corner headed into fall camp.

Assuming Washington and Waseem are healthy, there should be plenty of competition between those two and the starters heading in, Simmons and Horton.

In the ideal, everyone would take a good-sized step forward, there would be a surprise or two from some of the cornerbacks, and there would be a battle royale through a good portion of camp. And just like with the safeties, the corners are going to take more chances in 2012 -- and that could lead to some fall camp surprises. Some gambles pay off big, and takeaways are going to be on the rise at WSU in 2012.

Final thoughts and intangibles:
Consider this, (with italicized emphasis added): "Corners are the key to our defense," Breske told CF.C's Paul Sorenson after the spring session. "If we can find lock down coverage corners this defense will dominate, and we can do the things we want to create havoc on the opponent."

So there it is. Do the Cougs have the corners to dominate in 2012? Or will they play a lot of Cover-4. Fall camp at Washington State, which gets underway on Aug. 2, will go a long ways towards answering that question.

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