Air supremacy: five cornerbacks to watch in 2016
Under Todd Orlando, a first-year defensive coordinator, the Cougars defense was great at stuffing the run, finishing in the top 10 in the NCAA in rushing yards allowed. However, the Cougars gave up nearly 275 yards per game through the air, even though they had multiple award winners like William Jackson III, Trevon Stewart and Adrian McDonald.
Entering this year, the most questionable positional group heading into the 2016 season is the Cougars secondary.
Although this year’s cornerbacks are not as talented as last year’s, Orlando and Jason Washington, the cornerbacks coach, will maximize their potential. Below are the five to watch for this season.
Senior Brandon Wilson
Wilson is the only senior in the secondary and the only returning starter.
He was the Cougars’ most versatile player last year as he played on offense, defense and special teams. The Cougars have more depth at running back this year, so there should be no reason for Wilson to line up in the backfield, although he is capable.
Despite missing plays on defense to play running back, Wilson still had the second-most tackles last year of all returning defensive players.
He is a speedy corner who has great lateral quickness, which makes it easier for him to recover on defense. Although he only had one interception last year, Wilson broke up eight passes, which led the team.
Sophomore Howard Wilson
After having a productive freshman season in 2014, Wilson was shelved for the season with an injury just three games into the 2015 campaign.
Fortunately, Wilson was granted a medical hardship. His sophomore season was restored and made him eligible for three more years.
Despite not playing most of last year, Wilson is the second-most experienced corner on the roster and will likely start alongside Brandon Wilson.
He has great play-making ability, and at 6 feet 1 inches tall, he can cover any spot on the field, especially near the end zone.
Sophomore Jeremy Winchester
After the top two picks, it gets a little blurry because of the lack of playing time by the rest of the corners.
After starting in two games and playing in many more last year, Winchester has the size and tools to be an effective rotation player.
In limited playing time in 11 of 13 games, Winchester recorded 17 total tackles, with 13 coming unassisted. He is a hard hitter and is an exceptional open-field tackler.
Sophomore Joeal Williams
Similar to Winchester, Williams, has not played a lot as a Cougar. That should change this year.
He appeared in seven games last season, but mostly on special teams.
Coming out of high school, Williams ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and had a 35-inch vertical, so he has the speed and ability to go up after balls. Williams was a safety in high school, so his man-to-man coverage will likely need some work to see more minutes.
Freshman Patrick Rosette
Rosette is a three-star recruit from this year’s class and should be able to come in and contribute immediately — even if it’s just on special teams.
At Foster High School in Richmond, Texas, Rosette was a hard-hitting safety, who had the ability to play man coverage. He was a ball hawk on the field in high school and showed excellent vision.
Rosette already has a solid build for a collegiate corner and this will make him game-ready.