Mississippi State Football – Year In Review: Cornerbacks and Safeties

December 20, 2011

News, Sports

Cornerbacks

Initial Outlook: The cornerbacks were viewed as quite possibly the strongest position on the roster. They did nothing to refute that thought process. The unit, led by Johnthan Banks, only allowed 194.9 yards a game.

I decided to breakdown the cornerbacks for the 2011 season, and how they projected going into the future.

2011 Assessment

Johnthan Banks: I felt it was fitting that I talk about Banks first in this assessment. Already one of the better corners in the SEC, the talented junior became one of the elite cornerbacks in the conference. He performed well enough to be named to AP All-SEC team, but the rangy athlete didn’t make the Coaches’ All-SEC team. It’s a joke Banks didn’t get recognized by the coaches, given what Banks did this year. LSU cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu had great years, but I can’t think of anyone else better than Banks in 2011. I would simply point to the stat line: 64 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 9 pass break ups, and 14 pass deflections.

Corey Broomfield: Banks became an elite Cornerback, but Broomfield regressed in 2011. He didn’t get exposed, but the junior Cornerback did get picked on by opposing teams’ quarterbacks on several occasions. The heady player finished the season with 50 tackles and three tackles for loss. Broomfield will have to fight to keep his starting position — even if Banks goes to the NFL.

Darius Slay: Slay arrived late to Mississippi State, after signing on from the junior college ranks. He came along slowly, but the explosive Cornerback eventually got in the mix. The junior was a key part of the rotation and finished with 22 tackles. Slay is set up to start in 2012.

Jamerson Love: Love was a nice surprise in 2011. I don’t think anyone expected him to become a part of the rotation, but he did get into the mix early and performed well. Love finished with 17 tackles and will compete for a larger role in 2012.

Damien Anderson: Anderson was used as a nickel Cornerback during the 2011 season, and he started in the Ole Miss game. Anderson finished the season with 10 tackles.

Marvin Bure: Bure didn’t play Cornerback much during the 2011 season, but he was a monster on kick and punt coverage. Bure’s abilities will be missed on the coverage units in 2012.

2011 Grade: A-

The Future

Scholarships Cornerbacks: Johnthan Banks (Sr. Potential Early Entrant), Corey Broomfield (RS Sr.), Darius Slay (Sr.), Jamerson Love (RS So.), Taveze Calhoun (RS Fr.)

2012 Commits: Cedric Jiles, Xavier Grindle, Will Redmond (Potential Safety), Adarius Barnes

2012 Remaining Targets: Tyrell Dixon (JUCO), Fidel Montgomery (JUCO)

Future Breakdown: The immediate future will be determined by Johnthan Banks’ decision to enter the NFL Draft or to return to Mississippi State. I will operate under the assumption that Banks is still a part of the Bulldog roster.

Banks and Slay will be the starting cornerbacks in my opinion. I don’t see Broomfield holding off Slay, who can be a special Cornerback. The other three slots at Cornerback will be a battle between five players: Corey Broomfield, Jamerson Love, Taveze Calhoun, and incoming freshmen Will Redmond and Cedric Jiles.

Jiles is the wildcard player — the speedster just has all the tools. I see no reason why Jiles should redshirt in 2012. He has the swagger, speed, and skill set to be a star at Cornerback.

Redmond should make a push as well. He isn’t a natural Cornerback like Jiles, but the versatile athlete does have good size. Redmond should be pushing 190 after a summer with Matt Balis. He will either be a big corner as a freshman or make an early move to Safety, which will likely be his future position.

Xavier Grindle and Adarius Barnes are likely headed toward a redshirt in 2012.

Slay, Banks, and Broomfield’s departure should lead to heavy competition at Cornerback. I think there will be seven potential players competing for five spots: Former Bulldog signee Justin Cox, Cedric Jiles, Will Redmond, Taveze Calhoun, Adarius Barnes, Xavier Grindle, and Jamerson Love. If Cox re-signs, he will start at one Cornerback position in my opinion. The other starting and rotation spots will be determined by competition.

One thing I believe is that competition breeds success.  The players competing with each other will help everyone on the MSU team reach their full potential. I think the versatility of the players at the position gives the coaching staff options. They could move Calhoun, Redmond, Barnes, Grindle, and Cox to different positions. It puts the coaching staff in the position to get their best players on the field. Dan Mullen’s recruiting strategy of bringing in pure athletes instead of strictly positional players will be on display at the Cornerback position.

Future Positional Standing: Great

Final Outlook: Mississippi State is blessed with a tremendous amount of talent at the Cornerback position. The good thing is that Melvin Smith is developing them; he has done good job of helping players reach their potential. The players still have to pan out, but the position looks promising heading into the future.

Safeties

Initial Outlook: The Safety position, like Cornerback, was considered one of the stronger positions on the team with three starters: Charles Mitchell, Wade Bonner, and Nickoe Whitley. The unit didn’t quite live up to their expectations, but they still had a good year overall.

I decided to breakdown the Safety position for the 2011 season, and I also projected what the future at the position looks like.

2011 Assessment

Charles Mitchell: Mitchell was expected to be one of the leaders of the secondary in 2011. He did lead vocally, but the senior Safety continued to regress in pass coverage. He did provide good run support, finishing the season with 92 tackles and three tackles for loss.

Wade Bonner: Bonner came into 2011 after a solid 2010, where he started a few games. He struggled in pass coverage, but the senior was solid in run support with 60 tackles.

Nickoe Whitley: Whitley had an impressive freshman season, and he was expected to take the next step in 2011. Whitley didn’t disappoint, with 34 tackles and four interceptions. His season was cut short by an Achilles injury during the Alabama game. Whitley will need to improve in the mental aspect of the game, if he hopes to become an elite, All-SEC Safety in 2012.

Jay Hughes: Hughes was moved to Safety after Dennis Thames was dismissed from the team. He played during some regular game situations, but he was mostly used on special teams and mop-up duty. He finished with ten tackles.

Louis Watson: Watson didn’t play much in 2011. He was primarily used as a special teams player, totaling six tackles on the season.

Dee Arrington: Arrington was able to get his feet wet on special teams in 2011. He played some at the end of games, and he finished with nine tackles.

2011 Grade: B-

The Future

Scholarship Safeties: Louis Watson (RS Sr.), Nickoe Whitley (RS Jr.), Kendrick Market (RS Fr.), Dee Arrington (So.), Jay Hughes (RS So.)

2012 Commits: Kivon Coman, Quadry Antoine

2012 Remaining Targets: Dennis Thames (Potential Return from JUCO)

Future Breakdown: There are five questions that will be need to be answered for 2012: will Whitley return healthy, will Wells move back to safety, will Dennis Thames return, will Arrington stay at Safety, and will Antoine play as a freshman.

I feel after the dust settles, Whitley will naturally start at Free Safety, and Strong Safety will be determined by competition. There will be potentially four players in the competition: Matt Wells, Dee Arrington, Dennis Thames, and Quadry Antoine.

I seriously think all these players could be the starter at Strong Safety. I know some will have pause thinking about Antoine starting as a freshman, but Antoine brings something different to the table. The 210-pound Safety can be a flat-out intimidator, and I feel teams would start to game plan for him.

Kendrick Market, Jay Hughes and possibly Thames will back up Whitley at Free Safety. Whitley might need a good backup, coming off the injury to his Achilles tendon.

The Safety position should start to take shape in 2013. Whitley will be coming off an All-SEC season, and I think Antoine will take over as the Strong Safety. The duo could be the hardest-hitting safeties in the SEC. I’m not participating in hyperbole with that statement—I actually believe it.

In 2013, Whitley’s backups will be Kendrick Market, Jay Hughes or Kivon Coman, who will be coming off a redshirt. The backups at Strong Safety would still be in question. Thames will still be there, but Arrington or Wells will probably slide down to linebacker. It doesn’t matter who moves down to linebacker, because the safety position will be three deep. I wouldn’t sleep on the Bulldogs signing 2013 prospect Ashton Shumpert, who projects as a Safety at the college level.

Future Positional Standing: Very Good

Final Outlook: I like the overall talent of the Safety position, but what concerns me are all the hybrid players. They could present some issues, if the coaching staff can’t figure out how to use the versatile safeties. The position should ultimately be fine, but there are some questions that will need to be answered.

@JeremiahShort26

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