Spring Football Preview Part 2: Cornerbacks
STILLWATER -- Oklahoma State returns every starting defender on last season's defensive unit that showed significant improvement with one exception. There's no doubt that the loss of A.J. Green at corner is a big one. Green was excellent in man coverage and was a physical corner with speed, so he was adaptable to a lot of challenges by opposing receivers.
The Oklahoma State defense became a blend of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' 4-2-5 concepts and the 3-man front and multiple 3-3-5 and dime package 3-2-6 concepts that head coach Mike Gundy had encouraged Knowles and the defensive staff to explore. By the later part of the season, Knowles and his staff had narrowed their menu down and had it much easier for the players to practice and perfect.
A key part of the success to what the Cowboys are doing is good play at corner, particularly in coverage. Most of the Cowboys schemes and covers rely on the corners to be in man and take the outside quarters and sometimes deep halves.
Rodarius Williams returns as a four-year starter and the 6-0, 192-pound red-shirt senior will be the leader back there. Williams will be fine as he has the ability, a good attitude, and he has developed into a good leader.
The spring roster shows that starting strike safety from last season, Jarrick Bernard is back at corner. The strike safety is the first to dive in on man coverage when it is called for. Bernard has good cover skills and came in originally from Shreveport Evangel Christian as a corner. At 6-1, 200-pounds, Bernard will be perfect for covering opposing "X" receivers, usually the 6-2 and above big guys on the outside.
Thomas Harper is a sophomore, the younger brother of linebacker Devin Harper. By the end of last season, the explosive Harper was the third corner behind Green and Williams. He is 5-10, 176-pounds, but plays bigger than his size.
It is time for two younger corners to push the envelope and really compete for time. Gabe Lemons is a football savvy red-shirt sophomore from Coppell. He is 6-0, 184-pounds and has all the tools. Demarco Jones is a red-shirt freshman from Tulsa Booker T. Washington that is 6-0, 183 and has lots of speed.
Another player to watch is walk-on Anthony Jimmerson. The 5-10, 168-pound product of Tulsa Edison has lots of ability.
There are several corners coming in for the fall in freshmen Jabbar Muhammad, Korie Black, and Jordan Reagan. The Cowboys are also expecting a graduate transfer in Christian Holmes from Missouri. Holmes, with his experience, will give the Cowboys a real security blanket at the position.
The goal needs to be to hone Williams, Bernard, and Harper as a probable top three, get the others ready, and then have the new additions to add to the competition for fall camp.