Moving away from the defensive front and into the backfield, the cornerback position will be the focus of today's positional preview. Kansas has had a great deal of success in turning corners into stars of late with both Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib gaining national attention before taking their games to the next level in the NFL.
This has led to a bit of a recruiting boon as the Jayhawks sit in the position of having a lot of players that can fill this roll, while not quite being certain who is the one to fill it.
Last year was an interesting one at the position as an assortment of young players took a stab at things and unfortunately almost all were eaten alive by Big12 offenses. The result wasn't terribly unexpected when you are asking a freshman or redshirt freshman to cover the likes of Michael Crabtree and Jordan Shipley among others, but it still leaves a little bit of concern that there wasn't really anyone at the position capable of ultimately locking down a starting role.
One year later the staff has addressed the position through a variety of means. Position changes, additional recruiting as well as the overall development of those already in the position should lead to some stiffer competition this year.
Full Positional Preview After the Jump...
The starting role at the corner position, like many positions appears only partially resolved at this point. Daymond Patterson who joined the team as a true freshman was slated as a receiver at the beginning of the fall of 2008. A lack of success in filling the role of corner through other means led the Kansas staff to make a change with Patterson and try his quick feet out on the defensive side of the ball. Now after a full offseason in the training program and gaining experience at the position it appears Patterson has made some pretty big strides and could be a breakthrough player in the secondary this fall. A year removed from a 21 tackle, 2 pass breakup performance Patterson has improved himself physically and ideally prepared himself more mentally for being a solid corner in the pass happy Big 12.
The other corner position is a little more up in the air with last year's starter by the end of the season Justin Thornton running second team. Thornton broke into the Kansas lineup at safety in 2007 as part of the Orange Bowl championship team and actually finished tied for the team lead in interceptions with first round draft pick Aqib Talib. It was those ball skills and the lack of anyone else stepping into the role that ultimately led to his move to corner in the middle of 2008. At 6'1" 213 pound Thornton brings excellent size and strength to the position along with the ability to provide run support when needed. Thornton finished 2008 with 63 tackles for the team, 1 int and 11 pass breakups. The biggest hindrance to his success this year may well be his late season suspension from the insight bowl as the Mangino doghouse is not a place you want to be.
The player to date that has stepped into the first team role in place of Thornton is a 6' 195 pound sophomore in Anthony Davis. Davis arrived at Kansas with a pretty solid reputation as a player but one who might need some development in terms of the speed of the game in college. He was a 2 time all state player in high school and was known as a player with the physical tools and athleticism to make plays in coverage. In his now third season with the Jayhawks it appears the switch may have been flipped and the kid out of Tulsa with untapped potential, might finally be realizing it and ready to contribute.
After those three there are two other players who saw action last year but were clearly not quite ready. The first is 5'10" sophomore out of Lawrence Free State in Ryan Murphy. Murphy came to Kansas as a 4* athlete and had a lot of folks excited because he was a player people were familiar with. He's been tested at receiver and corner but appears to have found a home in the defensive backfield. While he has yet to see significant minutes on gameday he has done fairly well as a scout team player and he may still contribute down the line for the Jayhawks.
Another player the Jayhawks tested last year was true freshman at the time Corrigan Powell. Unfortunately for Powell, he was tested during the Texas Tech game and we all know how that ended up. I guess my feeling on Powell is this, as a true freshman he played in a total of 9 games and if nothing else that means he showed something during practice that the coaches felt could contribute. Maybe last year he wasn't quite ready but I would say that he certainly has to be up there on the depth chart this year if he continues to develop.
Another player that came in with Powell in 2008 is 5'11" 180 pound Greg Brown. Brown has been referenced more than once as a player that has made strides in the offseason and while it's hard to say where he'll land on the depth chart, he definitely could provide good depth at the position. Brown comes from a solid high school program in Cedar Hill out of Texas and was considered a Texas top 100 player out of high school.
Now it's time for a look at the newbies at the corner position and as I said Kansas added a lot in terms of recruiting at this position. Calvin Rubles, Tyler Patmon, DJ Beshears and Taylor Lee all joined the program in the offseason.
Starting off with Rubles, Calvin is the former teammate of a familiar Jayhawk corner Aqib Talib. At 6'3" 200 pounds the junior college transfer bring great size to the position after transferring in from Tyler Junior College in Texas. Last season Rubles was an all conference first team selection at Tyler after recording 45 tackles and three interceptions on the year.
Tyler Patmon is a guy that we interviewed here as part of our Rock Chalk Talk series last season and while he was relatively unheralded in last year's class he has apparently turned some heads in the preseason and wouldn't surprise anyone if he were to see minutes this season as a true freshman. Patmon measures 5'10" 180 and the staff was very complimentary of his footwork and hips during the recruiting process. It seems those strengths have translated well to coverage against the Kansas receivers so they might just get tested on gameday at some point.
DJ Beshears is a player in the similar mold of a Daymond Patterson. In fact when he initially committed to Kansas I think many saw him as an addition to the receiving corps because nearly all the film that existed of him showed the 5'9" speedster catching the ball on a bubble screen and scrambling for the end zone. He finished his senior season with 88 receptions for over 1400 yards and 21 touchdowns. Who knows he may jump back over to that side of the ball but with the way Pattersons quickness and speed have translated to a successful corner, it appears that's where Beshears will begin his career.
The last name on the list is a 6'1" walk on freshman in Taylor Lee. Very little is known about Lee but he is on the roster and working with the cornerbacks at this point.
So there you have it, 9 guys that are on scholarship and slated at the cornerback position. Obviously the need for good quality coverage corners in a league like the Big 12 is huge and the Jayhawk staff has filled the pipeline with athletes who will have to compete for time from day one. This trend will likely continue and hopefully so too will Kansas' tradition of producing NFL caliber corners.