2013 Position Previews: Cornerbacks

Sarah Glenn

Led by a solid group of seniors, cornerback is another position where Baylor fans rightfully and reasonably expect improvement going into 2013. What happens when those seniors leave, is anyone's guess.

If you listened to the podcast this week, you probably remember hearing us talk about the role experience plays in rankings and projections, since most players typically improve the longer time they have both in a program and on a field. Bryce Petty's inexperience is one of the major questions facing our team this coming season; he's never started a game and has 14 pass attempts in his entire career. But if experience is so important, almost to the point that we defer to experience (or the lack thereof) in spite of evidence to the contrary, why, then, are so many questioning our corners? We are, after all, returning both starters from 2011, as well as all three players who, barring injury, would have started the entirety of 2012.

If experience is the only thing that matters, we should be set. (It's not.)

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position Starts 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
3 Demetri Goodson
SR 6-0/200 CB 3
27 Tyler Stephenson
SR 5-11/170 CB 5
38 K.J. Morton
SR 5-11/200 CB 17
22 Joe Williams
SR
5-11/190 CB 19
7 Darius Jones
SR 5-11/190 CB --
37 Josh Benenoch
SO 5-10/205 CB --
47 Kevin Mitchell
SO 6-0/175 CB --
24
Terrance Singleton
RS-FR 5-11/195 CB --
19 Ryan Reid
RS-FR 5-9/195 CB --
18 Xavien Howard
RS-FR 6-2/200 CB --
17
Austin Jupe
FR 6-0/185 CB --

To illustrate the point I'm trying to make, I've added a column to the chart here that probably should have been included already-- the number of career starts each player has at Baylor. It's only really relevant to the top few players, but I think you get what I'm saying: Baylor has one of the most experienced set of corners in the league, and that's probably the second time you've heard that idea. The first was in this morning's Waco Trib.

Before we go further into that, there are a few things that jump out at me from this chart. First, it is in no way ideal to have 5 seniors and zero scholarship juniors or sophomores on a roster. That's not how you'd draw it up, if you could. But that's where we are, and here's the best I can do for why -- we took 2 CBs in 2010 (T.C. Robinson and Tyler Stephenson), with the former either never making it to campus or leaving quickly and the latter inexplicably never redshirting while also not starting. Partly as a result, we took 5 corners in 2011 (Morton, Williams, David Whitmore, Josh Wilson, and Anthony Webb), 4 of whom were JUCOs with shortened eligibility. The fifth, Webb, is now a backup safety in his sophomore year. Of the four JUCOs, Whitmore never made it, as far as I'm aware, and Wilson never started after moving to safety. So we're left with Stephenson, Morton, and Williams as our only corners from 2010 and 2011, and all are seniors. Jemarcus Johnson, another 2011 recruit that could have potentially been a corner, has since left the school. It's almost amazing.

For this year, the group of seniors that will receive most of the playing time at CB has been responsible for, as a whole, 40 of the 52 starts by a Baylor CB in the last two seasons (Stephenson started the first game of 2011, was injured, and hasn't started since). Williams has the largest share with 19, having started the entire year last year as a junior and half of the season before, his first on campus. Morton would have a similar (or higher) number had he not been injured last season after starting the last 11 games of 2011. Goodson would have been the starter for all of last year had he not broken his arm against WVU. Chance Casey is the only player to start a game at CB for Baylor in 2012 and not return this year.

Demetri Goodson -- SR -- #3 -- 6-0, 200 pounds

After transferring from Gonzaga, where he played basketball, Goodson was injured and missed almost all of his first year, 2011. He then entered last season as a starter before breaking his arm against WVU and again missing most of the year. I have a sneaking suspicion that he could have possibly returned late last season and didn't in order to get an eventual medical redshirt to play the entirety of this year. The only thing keeping me from really buying that theory is that medical redshirts are hardly a given, especially when you play 3 full games before getting hurt. But he got one, and he's back. He's been working with the first team defense so far, and Coach Bennett has raved about his progress in his third full year playing football again.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2011 Baylor Big 12 JR DB 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2012 Baylor Big 12 SR DB 15 1 16 2.0 0.0 1 14 14.0 0 3 0 0 0 0
Career Baylor 16 1 17 2.0 0.0 1 14 14.0 0 3 0 0 0 0

Before he was injured, I liked what I saw from the former PG in terms of coverage ability. He's got great speed and body control, and decent size to go along with it. If he can show improvement in his ball skills this year and stay healthy, we could be looking at a future NFL player.

Tyler Stephenson -- SR -- #27 -- 5-11, 170 pounds

Somewhat of a cautionary tale about expecting too much from lofty recruiting rankings, Stephenson, one of our 4* recruits from the DB class of 2010, started 4 games his true freshman year and then only one since. Sadly, most of that is probably due to injuries and personal issues; Tyler looked primed for a big year in 2011 before getting hurt in the opener against TCU and missing half the season. He then sat for almost all of last season for reasons that have never been fully explained.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2010 Baylor Big 12 FR DB 13 8 21 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
*2011 Baylor Big 12 SO DB 0 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career Baylor 13 9 22 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0

Contributing to Tyler's situation is the fact that he is, for lack of a better word, tiny. That's fine when you're Tevin Reese and your job is to run away from people who want to tackle you. It's less fine when your job is to tackle people like Antwan Goodley who would really like you not to do that. It's really hard, as Stephenson has found out, to play Big 12 football at 170 pounds. Speed can only carry you so far.

K.J. Morton -- SR -- #38 -- 5-11, 200 pounds

I talked a little bit about K.J.'s history above, and there's not much to add. Sometimes, he looks absolutely incredible at CB and you start to get a little excited about what he could do. Sometimes, he doesn't. After ending 2011 with 11 straight starts, including the Alamo Bowl, Morton was passed up by Goodson to begin last season before taking over for him and starting 6 more games. Because we angered a vengeful deity somewhere, he was then injured, with Chance Casey taking his place. He's back now for his senior year as Goodson's backup, again, and should be a valuable reserve corner, should he remain healthy.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2011 Baylor Big 12 SO DB 61 14 75 1.5 0.0 4 54 13.5 0 10 0 0 0 0
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR DB 29 3 32 1.0 0.0 1 27 27.0 0 2 0 0 0 2
Career Baylor 90 17 107 2.5 0.0 5 81 16.2 0 12 0 0 0 2


Joe Williams -- SR -- #22 -- 5-11, 190 pounds

In Joe Williams, you are looking at easily our most reliable and consistent corner over the last two years, as well as the man who almost singlehandedly derailed the "Collin Klein for Heisman" campaign with two interceptions in that nationally-televised drubbing. One of Bennett's favorites, he's slated to start this year, and to be completely honest, I have very little else to say about him. He's a capable corner, if a bit small (I'd bet a lot of money he's not 5-11), and I'm interested to see his development this coming season.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2011 Baylor Big 12 SO DB 34 9 43 1.5 0.0 1 90 90.0 1 13 0 0 0 3
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR DB 41 11 52 0.5 0.0 3 0 0.0 0 15 0 0 0 0
Career Baylor 75 20 95 2.0 0.0 4 90 22.5 1 28 0 0 0 3


Darius Jones -- SR -- #7 -- 5-11, 190 pounds

I'm about to blow your mind a bit-- we recruited Darius Jones in the same class (2009) as Ivory Wade, Danny Watkins, and Phillip Blake. That's how long he's been here. Now, granted, two of those three were JUCO recruits that I cherry-picked to make it seem like a long time, but the point remains. 2009 is a long time ago. Now he's a redshirt senior who has never started a game on defense for the Bears and probably won't. That doesn't mean he hasn't contributed-- he's been one of our primary kick returners each of the last two years-- I just remember how much promise he had when we flipped him from OU in 2009, and I get sad.

Josh Benenoch -- SO -- #37 -- 5-10, 205 pounds

Kevin Mitchell -- SO -- #47 -- 6-0, 175 pounds

Is it weird to anyone else that our walk-ons seem to come in pairs or trios? Maybe I've been doing this too long. Benenoch played with the threes in the scrimmage last Saturday, from what I could tell.

Terrance Singleton -- RS-FR -- #24 -- 5-11, 195 pounds

Ryan Reid -- RS-FR -- #19 -- 5-9, 195 pounds

Xavien Howard -- RS-FR -- #18 -- 6-2, 200 pounds

Full disclosure -- while I'm quite positive that Reid and Howard are cornerbacks (probably the leading candidates to start next year, actually), I'm not so sure about Singleton. He was a QB in high school and reportedly a safety for most of last year, but now I've heard he's playing corner. Howard is the most likely to see significant time this season, and is second on the depth chart behind Joe Williams.

The fact that we have zero scholarship juniors or sophomores at CB makes these three players, as well as the next on my list, incredibly important. If that season started today and everything else was the same, no scholarship CB on our roster would have played a down for us yet. That is both concerning and intriguing, since we're apparently not recruiting any JUCO corners who might help fill the gap (yet, anyway). I'm forced to assume that our coaches are either aware of this and feel comfortable with they have or are just going to wing it and see what happens. It's probably not the latter.

Austin Jupe -- FR -- #17 -- 6-0, 185 pounds

Redshirting this year to retain eligibility. We'll see what we have in Jupe starting in 2014, when I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him challenge for a spot. He was one of my favorite recruits in the 2013 class and is should be more than capable once he gets a bit of seasoning at this level.

-----

The point I was trying to make in all this, aside from simply looking at the players themselves, was probably lost, so here it is again: Baylor has a tremendous amount of returning experience at the cornerback position, probably the most we've had in a long time. I fully realize that's not the only goal, since you'd rather have experienced players that are talented than players who have just hung around, but you'll have to forgive me if I think we've got that, too. Ours is a group with 3 players who have started meaningful Big 12 games, and that's a lot more than we've been able to say in the past.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that there's a name missing from this list that you probably expected to see. Kyle Fulks, one of Baylor's premier recruits in the 2013 class, tweeted this afternoon that he would not be at Baylor this year, presumably because of Clearinghouse issues, and will look to join the program in 2014. He is rumored to be headed to Blinn for a year before enrolling at Baylor.

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