The Size of UCF's Cornerbacks Expands UCF's Defensive Capabilities

Cornerbacks with long arms and overall height helps a defense in a multitude of ways. UCF Football finding a way to place two, possibly three cornerbacks on the field at the same time with those qualities expands the defensive capabilities.
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We’ve all seen it. It’s a third down inside the 10 yard line. One tall wide receiver lines up to one side of the formation with no other offensive skill players near him. It’s one-on-one with a cornerback. There’s one problem for the defense before the football is snapped, however.

The wide receiver dwarfs the cornerback. It’s common for a 6’5” wide receiver going up against a 5’10” cornerback. Sometimes, that’s okay. The particular situation above, rarely if ever.

Fade ball or fade-stop or any number of other patterns strongly favors the bigger and longer wide receiver. It’s a potential mismatch even if the cornerback is extremely skilled. Speed kills but size matters, too. The UCF cornerback depth chart does hold some promise in stopping bigger wide receivers.

UCF has plenty of size at cornerback. Here are the cornerback for the Knights, which all of them are listed at 6’0” or taller, helping to at least alleviate some of the mismatches that take place against today’s big wide receivers.

The following list was placed in numerical order. Additionally, a cornerback could play safety and vice versa this fall. Thus, this list should not be considered an all-inclusive.

Marco Domio - #0

Vitals: 6’1”, 185-pounds

Class: Senior

High School: Houston (Texas) Houston Heights

Former School: Auburn

Davonte Brown - #7

Vitals: 6’2”, 185-pounds

Class: Sophomore

High School: Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage

Zamari Maxwell - #8

Vitals: 6’1”, 175-pounds

Class: Redshirt Senior

High School: Largo (Fla.) Pinellas Park

Justin Hodges - #12

Vitals: 6’2”, 175-pounds

Class: Sophomore

High School: Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Western

Corey Thornton - #14

Vitals: 6’1”, 190-pounds

Class: Sophomore

High School: Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington

Trevion Shadrick-Harris - #17

Vitals: 6’2”, 195-pounds

Class: Redshirt Sophomore

High School: Tracy (Calif.) High School

Former School: Sierra Community College

Dyllon Lester - #18

Vitals: 6’0”, 200-pounds

Class: Redshirt Junior

High School: Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage

William Wells - #25

Vitals: 6’2”, 185-pounds

Class: Freshman

High School: West Palm Beach (Fla.) Suncoast

Quadric Bullard - #37

Vitals: 6’0”, 170-pounds

Class: Sophomore

High School: Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna

Jarvis Ware - # not yet assigned by the UCF Athletic Website’s Roster Page

Vitals: 6’1”, 175-pounds

Class: Senior

High School: Apopka (Fla.) Wekiva

Former School: Missouri

From the above list, here are the storylines to follow. Keep in mind that as the season moves along it will become easier to identify how UCF plans to use not only each cornerback, but prior games will in fact help fans understand if the UCF coaches prefer to implement more zone or man tactics, or a combination of both.

Which Cornerback(s) Plays Nickel?

It’s almost a formality now to need at least three cornerbacks while playing against spread offenses, one of which will be an inside “nickel” cornerback. Playing nickel cornerback means several different things, depending on the overall defensive scheme, the other defenders on the field, and several other potential factors. In short, it’s more than just a complex topic; it’s a spider web of potential scenarios.

Lester played nickel before. Several of the other UCF cornerbacks possess the size to take on some of the bigger, more powerful inside wide receivers. That position also provides two other primary types of players, and that’s why this position is a non-stop guessing game.

The true slot wide receivers that are really talented at making lateral cuts and making defenders miss would be one, and then the big tight ends that line up in the slot would be the second. Depending on the comfort of the UCF coaches, finding one and hopefully two nickel cornerbacks with the versatility to play against all the different types of players lined up in the slot is the goal.

If two slot cornerbacks with all-around skills are found, it will be a huge bonus for play calling and substitution patterns. That way the Knights can keep players on the field regardless of what personnel packages the opposing teams trot onto the gridiron to face the Knights. It could also allow UCF cornerbacks to stay fresh. Substituting defensive players is vital for success, i.e. depth matters, especially in the Orlando heat!

Taking Away an Opponent’s Best Wide Receiver

Attempting to go man coverage against a truly big-time wide receiver is asking a lot considering how diverse college offenses have become. It’s something that still needs to be done one way or another. As for man coverage, it generally takes a future NFL cornerback to do it. Either a cornerback has the physical and mental tools to accomplish this task, or he does not. One-on-one coverage is truly difficult.

Could Brown, who started five games at cornerback in 2020, become that player? Could fellow sophomore Thornton, who started all 10 games last fall, become that player? It’s another season. Players improve, while other players do not. The list of transfers as well as returning players and even a true freshman like Wells cannot be counted out for that reason.

Davonte Brown, Cornerback, UCF

Davonte Brown, Cornerback, UCF

Button line, the size of this group at least helps UCF defensive coaches to put their minds together to best figure out, game-by-game, how to take away an opponent’s best wide receiver. Maybe the Knights use a form of “bracket” zone coverage to take away an opposing talented wide receiver. Regardless of the Knights’ scheme, there may not be a bigger overall cornerback depth chart in Division I to help accomplish the task.

Scenarios to Consider

**All but one of UCF’s cornerbacks played high school football in the state of Florida. The Sunshine State produces top cornerbacks each year, and there’s little reason to believe UCF will go far from Orlando to find future cornerbacks.

**UCF was caught out of position far too often last season. It allowed big plays and touchdowns that simply were all but given to opposing offenses. Hopefully some of the UCF cornerbacks that have such great length and size, along with even more talent than last fall, will help alleviate that issue. Still, this issue is more about decision making, not size. The size only helps if the UCF players are on the same page with one another.

**Cornerback blitzes have become a big part of college football. For a cornerback, blitzing is a unique skill. Some cornerbacks simply struggle to “get home” to the quarterback. UCF’s size should help when the Knights blitz cornerbacks towards the opponent’s backfield, as they will primarily be players with the height and length to take on running backs attempting to block them much better than other teams with smaller cornerbacks.

**Moving cornerbacks from one specific position to another could happen depending on the team on the UCF schedule, i.e. changes from one week to the next. When playing a more run-dominant offense like Cincinnati, perhaps UCF will utilize a traditional outside cornerback at nickel, or maybe the boundary cornerback moves to nickel. To help stop the run against the Bearcats, it’s something to consider. It also holds true for playing against teams that have a definitive offensive identity that’s more predicated on passing the football. Each game simply presents a different challenge for the UCF cornerbacks.

**Changing Positions altogether could also be a possibility. If the safety depth chart needs help, maybe one or more of the above cornerbacks converts to safety. This is common throughout college football. It’s also good that all the UCF cornerbacks are listed at 6’0” or above, so the transition to safety should be easier for any UCF cornerback that could potentially move to safety.

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