Coach's Corner: Strickland on Cro

Marcus Cromartie, the younger cousin of Antonio Cromartie, has been called up from San Diego's practice squad just in time for the second round of Raider Week. To ready Bolts backers for his debut, we take a look back at this inside scouting report we got from one of his college coaches shortly after he signed.

When opportunity knocks, cornerback Marcus Cromartie answers -- usually with a helmet on and shoulder pads in place.

Cromartie started his collegiate career slowly, biding his time as a reserve defensive back and special-teams contributor until his junior year in 2011 when starting corner Devin Smith broke his foot. That opened the door for Cromartie to prove his mettle.

Being suddenly thrust into the starting lineup was a daunting challenge, but assistant secondary coach and former Wisconsin defensive back Ben Strickland was always confident in the young Cromartie.

"Marcus was somebody that obviously had the athletic abilities," Strickland said. "You don't have a whole lot of kids that are tall like him but have light feet."

Cromartie (6-foot-1, 192 pounds) made seven tackles in his starting debut against Oregon State. He didn't make his first interception until his senior season, but it was a big one: a pick-six in the Big Ten Championship game against Nebraska.

He established himself as a consistent, hard working player, but it was not enough to earn an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I was surprised because just in terms of being a 6-foot-plus corner, it was something where you'd expect him to get that [invite]," admitted Strickland. "But it helped him because it kept a chip on his shoulder. Whatever opportunity he gets, he takes it and uses it to grow and improve."

Those improvements -- and his light feet -- were showcased at Wisconsin's Pro Day. Perhaps fueled by the disappointment of not participating in the Combine, Cromartie blazed through the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds. It raised some eyebrows amongst scouts and even his coaches.

"I didn't think he was going to be that fast, but I never worried about him getting athletically beat, because he can run with anybody," Strickland said. "The thing that surprised me was how well he did with change-of-direction drills."

Strickland said of Cromartie's Pro Day showing, "I was really proud of him," again citing Cromartie's ability to not let his height interfere with his speed and agility.

As Strickland said, Marcus is "definitely a guy that can stick in the league for a while."

What can Cromartie do with this opportunity? Discuss inside the message boards.

Nicolette Harris, a native San Diegan, is a senior at New York University as part of the school's Media, Culture and Communications program.

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