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Baylor Football 2014 Position Previews: Cornerbacks

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Phil Bennett's defense has a grand total of 0 career cornerback starts. Problem? Only for the weak.

Christian Petersen

Looking back over last year's cornerback preview, it is immediately apparent why many are questioning our secondary going into 2014: where last year, our three primary rotation players had a combined total of 39 career starts at the cornerback position, this year we have a grand total of zero for the entire team.  That was the primary benefit of bringing back K.J. Morton and Joe Williams; each of them had been here for a significant period of time and gained experience to offset their relative lack of size and pure talent.  Demetri Goodson, another of last year's seniors, had both of those things, but after missing most of 2012 due to a broken arm, lacked experience.  Now, I'd argue that where we don't have the same experience, we've upgraded significantly in other areas.  You'll see what I mean.

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position Starts 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
47 Kevin Mitchell
SR 5-11/185 CB --
1
Chris Sanders
JR 6-0/185 CB --
25 Miles Johnson
JR
6-0/180 CB --
24
Terrence Singleton
SO 5-11/195 CB --
4 Xavien Howard
SO 6-2/200 CB --
9 Ryan Reid
SO 5-11/190 CB --
3 Tion Wright
SO 5-9/160 CB --
37
Tyler Jaynes
RS-FR 6-1/190 CB --
7
Jourdan Blake
FR 6-0/185 CB --
27
Verkedric Vaughns
FR 5-9/170 CB --

Of all the Position Previews I've done so far, this one had by far the most complicated chart to remake this year.  Gone are 5 seniors from a year ago (the aforementioned Williams, Morton, and Goodson plus Tyler Stephenson, who technically redshirted but transferred out to play his last year elsewhere, and Darius Jones), would-be junior Josh Benenoch (graduated early, I guess), and would-be redshirt freshman Austin Jupe (moved to NB before transferring).  That's 7 guys out of 11 listed on last year's chart, replaced now by two JUCO transfers (Sanders and Wright), two walk-ons (Johnson and Jaynes), and two true freshmen from the 2014 class (Blake and Vaughns).   Only three of these guys (Howard, Singleton, and Reid) have ever played defense for Baylor before, and all are sophomores now.

Yet, in the face of all that, I'm still very confident in our cornerback situation.  I must be crazy.

Instead of doing this the normal way where I list the players by seniority, I'm going to group them up by the way the depth chart looks at this point in the hopes of giving us a better look at what we have at a position of tremendous uncertainty.  We'll begin with the starters.

Terrance Singleton -- SO -- #20 -- 5-11, 195 pounds

Xavien Howard -- SO -- #4 -- 6-2, 200 pounds

As of the end of the spring and our latest information from this fall, Singleton and Howard are your two starters at cornerback in a typical defensive alignment.  Should we move to 3 CBs, it sounds like Reid would be the choice to cover the slot or extra receiver.

In Singleton and Howard, Baylor finally has what I'd call NFL size.  Gone (for now, at least) are the days when we'd throw a 5-8 Joe Williams or 5-9 K.J. Morton at the other team's best receiver, hoping that their ball skills and leaping ability could make up the difference.  Now we have two starters with above-average or excellent size, respectively, as well as the obvious ability to run like a gazelle.  Nobody plays in the Baylor secondary these days that isn't fast.  Both guys have the size to both challenge receivers and assist in the running game, a place where the now-gone Morton actually excelled a year ago.

The obvious concern here is that "e" word again: experience.  Though both played in all 13 games last year, neither has ever started a game, and the pair has a combined total of 10 career tackles (5 each, incidentally).  I'd have to be crazy not to look at that, think on it even a minute, and not be concerned.  It's hardly ideal to go into the Big 12 as reigning champions with so little experience at such a pivotal position.

Still, every time I think about it for longer than a minute, I come back to the fact that this is not the Baylor defense of old.  Though we've lost a tremendous amount of experience, we will (hopefully) replace it with a tremendous amount more talent.  Briles and Bennett, men who don't talk just to hear the sound of their own voices, have spent nearly a half a year now telling us that they believe in these guys as future NFL players.  That future has to start somewhere.

There will be growing pains and plays missed.  There always are when you're dealing with young, relatively inexperienced players finding their way.  But there will also be plays made by these two, Reid, Sanders, and Wright, that simply wouldn't have happened before.  I'm confident that by the time our schedule gets tough, the latter will outnumber the former, and our increased talent and depth will make a huge difference.

Chris Sanders -- JR -- #1 -- 6-0, 185 pounds

Ryan Reid -- SO -- #9 -- 5-11, 190 pounds

Tion Wright -- SO -- #3 -- 5-9, 160 pounds

In the post-spring depth chart, Sanders was listed as a co-starter with Howard, while Reid was listed as the backup to Singleton.  That was after Sanders missed most of spring practice due to a hamstring injury (I think).  Fast forward a few months, and those two guys, plus Wright, are all vying for time behind the starting pair.

Baylor fans who follow recruiting probably already knew about Reid, a member of Baylor's class of 2012 with Singleton and Howard that Bennett supposedly loved.  The unfamiliar names belong to Sanders and Wright, JUCO transfers in January who took wildly different paths to ultimately commit to Baylor on the same day last December.  Sanders, the former Georgia DB (in the same class as Nick Marshall, Auburn's starting QB, actually), is now a junior with two years to play two.  Wright, because he apparently qualified out of high school, is a sophomore with three to play three.  The last thing heard about any of them is that Sanders has apparently missed time this fall due to another injury while Wright and Reid duke it out with the 2s.

Our backup CB situation seems pretty fluid at the moment.  When Sanders returns, I'd expect his relative experience to win out and for him to receive a not insignificant amount of playing time.  We're going to need him going forward.  Reid and Wright are a bit harder to project, but Reid sounds to me like the prototypical slot corner, and we should probably expect to see him when they go to 3 corners in that situation.

Kevin Mitchell -- SR -- #47 -- 5-11, 185 pounds

Miles Johnson -- JR -- #25 -- 6-0, 180 pounds

Tyler Jaynes -- RS-FR -- #37 -- 6-1, 190 pounds

A trio of walk-ons of varying classifications about whom I know very little.  Mitchell, the only one of the three to make last year's chart, has clearly been here the longest.  Should something noteworthy occur involving one of these three guys going forward, I'll be sure to let you know.

Jourdan Blake -- FR -- #7 -- 6-0, 185 pounds

Verkedric Vaughns -- FR -- #27 -- 5-9, 170 pounds

These are our two freshman CBs from the 2014 class.  With only 5 "rotation" corners above them, I'll be watching to see if either of these guys get buzz to play.  I know Bennett has raved about both at different times, so it doesn't seem entirely far-fetched, especially if we have an injury.  You'd like to be able to red-shirt both, especially since our 2015 class is so small, but with our starters both being sophomores, it's not critical.  You can build behind them.  Since he played QB in high school and was recruited as an athlete, Blake probably needs the redshirt year more than Vaughns, who was a cornerback all the way.  I'd bet that Baylor tries to redshirt both this season, relying on the five above them unless injuries force their hand.

-----

After all this, it seems fairly obvious why so many in the media and elsewhere are predicting doom and gloom for Baylor's secondary.  To them, we have a ton of question marks, guys who have never played on this level before.  It's easier, and probably safer, to project that those guys will be bad than good.  But when you look closer, you see the same general trend here as everywhere else on the Baylor team; as our recruiting has improved over the last couple of years, so has our overall athleticism and talent.

With the type of offenses we face in the Big 12 on a weekly basis, the guys on this list could dictate our defensive performance as much or more than any other group on the team.  Thankfully, we know that the offense they'll face every day in practice is even better.  I am extremely confident that not only will they handle the load, they'll excel.  We just have to be patient while they tackle the learning curve.