DB Spring Preview Part 2: Cornerbacks

DB Spring Preview Part 2: Cornerbacks

Cory Grimes
Manny Diaz is not bashful about blitzing the house on defense, but that can’t be done unless there are guys on the outside who can be trusted to consistently win 1-on-1 battles. Even though the secondary stepped up in big way in 2017, that wasn’t always the case. This crew is by far the youngest on the defense but is not lacking in talent. Coach Rumph’s group is going to be the one to watch during spring practice, as the competition should be heated throughout the depth chart. Welcome to Part 2 of the DB preview: the cornerbacks. Who is going to emerge as the next great Canes’ pass defender?

The corner position is headlined by 2nd team All-ACC Michael Jackson, and 2017 team Defensive Newcomer of the year, Trajan Bandy. Beyond that, the majority of the group hasn’t played a down of college football. The unfortunate loss of Malek Young to career-ending injury and departure of Dee Delaney leaves the cornerback position with some serious holes to fill. With a group of highly touted freshman corners coming on campus, one thing is for sure: freshmen are going to play a substantial role in the Canes’ secondary in 2018.

2017’s most improved player on defense, Michael Jackson, decided to return for his senior year. Tied for the team lead with 4 INT’s and only allowing one pass over 26 yards, Jackson showed he’s capable of being left on an island and coming out on top. Easily the most polished cover guy on the roster, Jackson looks to take his game to an even higher level and ultimately improve his draft stock. One of the only knocks on Jackson is that he seemed less than eager to make a tackle at times; look for him to work on that and his overall physicality in 2018. Jackson is poised for a big time 2018.

JUCO transfer and only other senior at corner, Jhavonte Dean had a quiet 2017 with 11 tackles and 1 PBU in 2017. At 6’2 around 190 with good speed, he has the measurables to be a solid corner. He just hasn’t put it all together yet. Due to the circumstances, Dean has the opportunity to find his way on the field often, but if the effort matches that of 2017, Dean can expect this group of freshmen to pass him by. This spring will be key for Dean. He needs a lot of work on his technique. Major progression from Dean could be a big boost for the corners this spring.

Trajan Bandy came onto the scene strong in 2017 with a stellar freshman campaign. Bandy showed he has the physicality, speed, ball skills and IQ to be a mainstay in the Canes’ secondary. Most importantly for a DB, the hometown kid has an unwavering confidence that’s hard to ignore. Logging 25 tackles and one memorable pick six, Bandy looked very comfortable in the slot corner/nickel position last year. While he is a bit undersized, he is more than capable of playing on the outside as well and will probably have to while the young freshmen continue to develop. This will be something to watch in the spring. Look for Bandy to line up everywhere on the field; at corner, in the slot, blitzing off the edge, etc. While he is only a sophomore, for the Canes’ corners, he is an elder statesman. Bandy is going to have to grow up in a hurry. Look for him to take a leadership role in the secondary. With a year of playing time, film study and weights under his belt, there’s no reason Trajan Bandy shouldn’t continue his path to stardom in 2018.

Early enrollee and South Dade alum DJ Ivey is a pure cover corner. His footwork, active hands and route recognition are well beyond his years. He also has good size and length at 6’1”. Ivey is going to push for major playing time this spring and quite possibly could be the next shut down corner for the Canes.

Fellow early enrollee and cousin of Canes’ legend Frank Gore, Gilbert Frierson is a physical specimen at DB standing at about 6’2” 190 with long arms. Whether he may be a safety or corner when it’s all said and done is up for debate, but out of necessity, Frierson will play a lot of corner this spring. With his size and athleticism, he could be a serious problem for opposing receivers.

Side note: Freshman Gurvan Hall is listed at safety, but as mentioned in part 1, he will likely see time at corner as well this spring because the safety position is deeper than corner. At 5’11, he could fit well in the slot.

Freshmen Al Blades and Nigel Bethel will touch down in Coral Gables this summer and will look to add even more youth and depth to the Canes’ secondary.

At one of the toughest, most high-impact positions on the field, relying on such a young group is a scary proposition. A strong spring practice will be huge for this group moving forward. To say the learning curve is going to be steep would be an understatement. Which freshman are going to step up and have a Bandy-like impact in 2018?

Comments (8)

Dean will step up with frierson and Ivey providing solid depth! Blades and Bethel will be solid too! The only issue I have with STA recruitment is the stupid rule of not being able to graduate early. If we are going after three of their LBs for 2019, they need spring training because shaq and Pinckney may declare early.
Yeah our Front7 is going to have to step the **** up this year, which is kinda scary to need since we lost 5 major snap guys along the DL, and have like no depth at DE. Its going to be an interesting season defensively.

And at least while our CBs will be pretty young on average, we do still have 2 Senior CBs that could end up being our starters (depends on Dean, as Jackson will start), and most importantly we have two senior Safeties. Having Jaquan and Redwine will be huge for these guys, because they will need to serve as the eraser, that fixes all the mistakes these young CBs will make. However, while these young guys will have to play a lot, at least they are extremely talented. Ivey and Frierson have amazing length, and a dude like Frierson is a home run threat. We need to do everything possible to keep that turnover margin going strong. And with two senior safeties that will hopefully eliminate any big mistakes that happen by our young Cbs, I think it really frees them up to go make plays on the ball and take the risks that are necessary to make big impact plays.
I'm hearing about talent in the blitz scheme that Manny likes to use. But how are our new DBs awareness's the and I and catch up speed is what I'm interested in.
We will be fine at corner. Trajan Bandy arguably ended up being our second best corner last year, and he was a true freshman. Even more worth noting, Trajan was not an early enrollee; he didn't arrive until the end of May.

I expect Ivey and Frierson to have a similar or greater impact as Bandy, during their freshman campaigns. They are both early enrollees and early reports are they are killing it on campus already. I really think Ivey can have a Freshman All-American type season.

When Jeff Thomas came down to Florida for a 7v7 tournament, he murdered DB that he went up against, except for one....DJ Ivey! DJ was only a junior in high school at the time.
Great write up. I'm hoping Dean takes the next step to make it easier on the freshman. We need Dean and Jackson to be lockdown this year and with the schedule of WRs we're facing, there's no reason for them not to.
Dean is going to be the guy who shocks people this year. It's a contract year, and he has all the physical skills to be very good.
With super talented WR's & DB's it's starting to remind me of the days where practice is the hard part and the games are the easy part.
IVEY showing out from the twitter pics.