The cornerback position in Stillwater is just about the only position that will see a battle for starting spots this fall.
The Cowboys lost one of the top corners in the conference in AJ Green, who was a 2019 Jim Thorpe Semifinalist and is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
The #2 cornerback from last year, Rodarius Williams will be sliding into the #1 role for his senior season. Williams comes in as the most veteran player on the defense, accounting for 39 total starts in his career.
Williams was solid last year but the spotlight will be his now and he will be expected to be at his best on the boundaries. His battery mate on the opposite side of the field however is undetermined at this time.
There are several options for cornerbacks coach Tim Duffie to look at.
Rising sophomore Thomas Harper was impressive in his limited playing time in his freshman season but showed flashes that he could be the real deal. Missouri transfer Christian Holmes proved himself worthy against some of the SEC’s best wideouts and will be looking to use that experience in the Big 12. It is also important to note that Jarrick Bernard, who played the striker safety position last year is moving up to the corner position.
A fourth name that should be purely in the mix for significant playing time is redshirt freshman Demarco (DJ) Jones.
Myself and Robert Allen were able to catch up with DJ in his hometown of Tulsa last week while he was working out with a mix of college athletes and some nationally ranked prospects.
We spoke with him about how he has spent his quarantine break away from the program and what he is looking forward to this year. He looked to be in great shape and it showed in his workout, he was easily the most physically advanced in the group.
“It will definitely be all competition between all of us.”, Jones said about the battle at the position in the program. “Everybody is really good at the position and I’m just ready to go out there and compete.”
The competition will start soon with the third wave of players reporting to campus taking place this Monday, June 15th. Jones is a member of that third wave and is hoping that the Coronavirus will not delay anything in the process moving forward.
All signs point toward Jones having all the tools to compete with the best in the Big 12. He measures in at 6’0 and 190 pounds, much better than his 2019 freshman reporting weight of 175.
He has added a good deal of muscle over the past two months, working out with his grandfather and using his membership at the gym when it opened up.
Jones saw action in two games during the 2019 season, McNeese and Texas A&M, although did not record any statistics.
Even if Jones is not seeing action on defense every snap, he says he is “trying to get on the field and contribute in any way I can.” With his weight in a much better state than last year, his size on special teams could be very valuable, especially with his natural defensive skills to attack a ball carrier.
Jones said this upcoming season for the defense is going to be “real fun”. “With Kolbe coming back from his injury, everybody coming back healthy, also this pandemic has given everybody some time to rejuvenate and get everything going, so I feel like we’re going to be really good on defense.”
Jones also said he and the other corners were on zoom calls with Coach Duffie about three times a week throughout the pandemic. They went over the mental side of preparation including understanding the playbook for this upcoming season so everyone will be on the same page when practices resume.
The Oklahoma State defense is certainly primed to be the cream of the crop in the Big 12 and the secondary is a big reason for that.
The next few months will be used to fill that one position opposite of Rodarius Williams but I have no doubt that all the names mentioned earlier will be playing a role on the field. Simply put, they are too good not to.
Jim Knowles likes to run a 4-2-5 defense, meaning 5 defensive backs on the field. Depending on what offense they are facing this could be 3 safeties and 2 corners or vice versa. If the latter is true, we could be seeing plenty of rotation through the group. The fresher they are, the better they will play, and with this group, I would expect some highlight reel plays all season.