POST-SPRING EXAM: Corner questions

PULLMAN -- Washington State has spent the past few years rebuilding the cornerback position. The Cougars entered the spring with eight corners on the depth chart -- seven of them underclassmen. There were bright spots over the 15 practices of the spring session, but one wonders if the position still poses more questions than answers.

Suspensions, injuries and academics combined to produce a situation this spring where the Cougs at times were borrowing from the safety ranks in order to fill the corner spots.

And when that's the case, several of the questions that the coaches hoped to have answered will remain open heading into August camp.

BUT THERE WERE some good things coming out of spring ball as well. For starters, Daniel Simmons. a second-year freshman from Ontario, Calif., came on late.

Simmons saw a lot of work after he returned from a two-day suspension for an unspecified team rules violation. It took him a while to gain consistency. For instance, for the first two-thirds of spring he seemed to have a series of chances to make a big interception but didn't. And then, in practice No. 10, nabbed one and took it to the house.

Simmons had his fair share of double reps -- and each time he would work to correct his form and became more consistent.

Simmons plays the corner with a physical cover style and that can get young players into trouble at times, but by spring's end he looked like he might be on the verge of a breakthrough. Stay tuned in fall camp, he's still learning but he's also coming on.

ANOTHER BRIGHT SPOT was the play of Brandon Jones, the former Seattle/O'Dea and Cal player. He was the best cornerback the Cougs had this spring after he returned from a hand injury.

With Jones, his knowledge of the game is what's separating him from the pack. He just plays smart.

His height (5-9 1/2) has the potential to hold him back at times but he brings versatility and physical play to the position. He also has the potential to be a return guy for the Cougs.

After those two, things became murkier this spring. Devin Giles, listed as a starter on the depth chart at the beginning of spring, saw some reps in the early spring over 2-3 practices before taking a hiatus to concentrate on academics. Terrance Hayward, still only 17 years old, missed nearly the entire spring with a shoulder injury but did, however, take "mental reps" at most of the practices.

Junior CB Romeo Pellum was suspended the entire spring, and the rest of the academic year, for breaking an unspecified team rule. Speculation by newspapers and in cyberspace alike has been that Pellum, who started 12 games last season, will transfer at the end of the term but WSU has not yet commented one way or the other on his Cougars future.

Cornerback Tyrone Justin was also suspended for the first two practices, but returned and ran with the ones for a bit. He wound up going to every other practice, skipping some for academics, but he looked quite good out on the field even only getting reps part-time. Kevin Frank, third on the pre-spring depth chart, struggled mightily during drills in the spring's early going and decided to transfer.

AS A WHOLE, in analyzing the Cougar cornerbacks this spring, it could potentially develop into a very good group. Add into the mix some of those players that missed time and things look much different than they did on Day 15.

The potential loss of Pellum is not the hit some may think. Jones and Simmons each showed increasing flashes this spring and Justin, if he can put on more weight, has a boatload of athleticism.

The problem is so many of them missed significant chunks of time, there are more questions than answers and it will likely remain that way until the Cougars get into fall camp.

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