COUNTDOWN TO 2013: Cougars CBs Preview

PULLMAN – The secondary holds the most room for improvement for the Cougs this season on defense. And cornerback is Job One. The Cougs return everyone with the exception of Daniel Simmons, but the question begs -- who's going to step up?

For as much publicity as Washington State has gotten for being ‘Quarterback-U', you could make the argument ‘Cornerback-U' is much more fitting over the past 10 years. Going back to 2003, the Cougs have produced eight cornerbacks that have graced an NFL roster.

But the Cougs haven't seen a corner go to the NFL since 2007 when Tyron Brackenridge broke through. That may change in the coming years as the Cougs are stockpiling talent. In the near term, mix in those players with a good balance of upperclassmen and the secondary could be a pleasant surprise this fall. But just how much of an improvement could be in the offing?

The Cougs ranked 98th out of 120 teams in 2012 in pass defense. When you combine the fact that WSU ranked 14th in the country in sacks last season, that pass defense ranking looks even worse.

If the Cougs can establish some consistent play in the secondary, especially at the cornerback position, it will go a long ways toward putting this defense over the top.

Presumptively the top cornerback on the Cougar depth chart headed into fall camp -- senior Anthony Carpenter (6-0, 196). He could see himself on draft boards next April with a strong 2013 campaign.

Carpenter can lay the wood, there's no doubt about it. He's a surefire tackler, and a good press corner. While his cover skills are still being refined, he has the instincts and size to play at the next level.

Fellow seniors Nolan Washington (5-11, 190) and Damante Horton (5-10, 178) are looking for resurgent seasons after a lackluster 2012. Horton looked like he was primed for a solid season but ultimately started just six contests and Washington started just three – injuries had something to do with that, but not all.

Horton had a very strong spring and should push for a starting position this fall, though consistency need to be his top priority as he found himself benched halfway through last season after getting burnt on the outside too many times.

Washington has struggled with injuries his entire career and has never climbed to the level Cougar fans envisioned. The Seattle native will have one last chance to make a statement and go out with a bang.

THAT BRINGS US to a quartet of redshirt freshmen and incoming rookies who bode well for Washington State moving forward. Each has speed, athleticism and ball skills that should translate well to the gridiron this fall.

Redshirt freshmen Alex Jackson (5-10, 168) and Rahmel Dockery (5-10, 171) were both recruited as athletes and even dabbled with receiver during their freshmen seasons. Both ended up making the transition to corner, and both have made waves on the practice field. It would be a plus for the Cougs if both made strong pushes for starting consideration in fall camp.

Jackson sat out this spring with a shoulder injury, but showed during Thursday Night Football practice sessions last season why he was such a very nice get coming out of Culver City, California.

Jackson has the speed and hips to be a top notch cornerback in the Pac-12. But he'll need to prove he can play bigger than his size against the taller wideouts in the conference -- and durability questions have to be answered if he's to make a play for a starting gig.

Dockery reluctantly made the switch to corner toward the end of camp last fall and frankly, sulked around after the transition. But he eventually embraced the move in the latter half of last season, and it could be argued Dockery in turn had one of the finest springs on the team a few months back. At one point, the Tacoma native pulled down five interceptions in three days.

Dockery has the hips and leaping ability to stick with most wideouts in the Pac-12, though again, it's about consistency here – and working hard on every practice rep and play.

MEANWHILE, TRUE FRESHMEN Daquawn Brown (6-0, 172) and Charleston White (6-1, 170) are two corners to really keep an eye on. Corner is one of the few positions a high school player can step in and start at the FBS level, although he obviously needs to be a special player. Are either in that category? Fall camp holds some of the answers.

Brown comes to Washington State after a lockdown career at corner in high school. A product of Dorsey High (Los Angeles, Calif.), Brown has one of the more impressive prep highlight tapes for my money in quite some time.

Blessed with exceptional speed, agility and burst, Brown was able to stick with virtually any wideout he was put up against. The Pac-12 is a different animal than high school but defensive coordinator Mike Breske said this spring Brown should have the ability to come in and compete for playing time right out of the gate.

White also has the speed and the hops to play defensive back in the Pac-12, and only recently did he decide the defensive side of the ball was for him.

Recruited as an athlete, White said coach Leach gave him the option to play wideout or corner at the next level and, thus far, he's gone with defense.

With a lanky build and supreme leaping ability, White has the tools. He's definitely one to keep an eye on when fall camp gets underway the first week in August.

SEVERAL OTHERS help fill out the depth chart and compete for playing time in 2013. Fourth-year junior Tracy Clark plus three walk ons -- sophomores Michael Fields and Mike McAdie, as well as second-year freshman Beau Glover, all had their moments last season during practice.

Each will need to build upon those successes if they hope to crack the two-deeps in 2013.

In all, the corner position may still be a year away from fielding a daunting, cohesive group -- but the pieces are finally in place to see those plans through in the near future.

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