Jason Oavid of the Indianapolis Colts lines up against the New England Patriots
Whither the "Small" Cornerback? By Forrest Foster, Head. Access Services Winston-Saieni (NC) State U.
ome people can adapt to change, Otliers try to avoid it. It is perhaps the only constant in life ... change. Needless to say, college foolball has gone through all kinds of changes over the years. The more tangible of them are the annual alterations of the itiles and regulations by the NCAA and NFL. The modifications of coach's schematics and suategic play<alling also occur frequently, but perhap.s, one of the most discernable changes in football remains the on-going physical transformation of the athletes. The miraculous physiques and athleticism of the modem athlete have broken new ground in America. In
the 198l)"s, we had few offensive linemen weighing over 300 lbs. on our college teams. By the early to midnineties, the offensive linemen began averaging over 300 lbs. and up. In the mid-80's, [amelle Holieway of Oklahoma and Bernie Kosar of Miami led their teams to national championships. They were extremely different. Holieway stood 5-foot-9 and weighed 175 pounds in leading the Oklahoma wishbone lo the National Championship in 1985. Kosar, 6-3 and 215, gave Miami an elusive, mobile QB who could run, make smart, decisions, and pass well enough from the pocket to keep the defense honest in 1987. We can now sprint 20 years into
time for a look at the "neo" QB; A fellow who has all the assets that Holieway and Kosar had, and ihen some. The combination of agility and size has to be noted. The size gives the "neo" QB the ability to stand tall in the pocket, see down the field and shmg off the defenders. This ability to stand tall and then run or scramble eflectively creates another element to their arsenal. In the collegiate game during the early '90s, Charlie Ward was an idealsized QB around (6-2 and 210) who presented Bobby Bowden and Florida Stale witb tbfii first national championship in 1993. The Seminoles ran a run-and-gun offense from which Charlie could effectively iiin and pass. From Charlie Ward to Donovan McNabb to Vince Young: Althotigh these QB's operated differetit types of offense, they orchestrated the ability to ihrow and nm. You can still see the necessity of having a double threat in today's game. At the QB position, coaches and recniilers are looking for tliat big specimen, preferably around 6-2 and abotit 200 lbs. and up. ,\n elusive QB with a strong and accurate arm doubles the ante and can cause migraines for opposing defenses and coordinators. With these continual changes within the "neo" athlete, are we also heading for a changing of the guard for the cornerback? Are we nearing the demise of tbe small cornerback? Classifications of the small corners: Small Corner: 5-9 and below. Mid Size: 5-10 lo 5-11, 185-190 lbs. Big Comer: fi-0, 190 lbs. and up. Jason David ly HUl Kelly Jennings PacMan Jones Ricky Manning Asand Samuel
5'8" 5'10" 5'10" 5'10'' 5'8" 5'10''
180 185 178 187 185 180
COACH AND ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
Whither the "Smaii" Cornerback? Since the conception of the game, the small corner has been a constant reliable defender against lhe pass. He has displayed adequate pass coverage ability, liis foile, bul his status as a runstop defender is not as comparable. The slrength of the small corner lies in his ability to maintain a natural low center of gravity and leverage to get in and out of breaks. He usually pnssesse.s quick feet in order to change direction thiidly and swiftly, plus good, flexible hips to open tip and maneuver to run or lo break back and close on the ball. The small corners who cannot live on their teeth-rattling tackling have lo do ii with their pass coverage, espet:ially against the opponents' No. 1 receiversâ€”the kind of coverage that can change tlie momentum of the game immediately. Players like, TerreU Buckley (FSU), Dre BIy (UNC). Donnell Wolford (Clrmson),Jamar Flethter (WIS) Antonio Winfield (OSU). Daylon McCutcheon USC and Aaron Glenn (Texas A&M) to name a few past collegiate cornerbacks. Check them out before answering the question: Does the smari small cornerback still exist? And if so, is be slill effective? The small corner does still exist but the new breed of receivers has questioned his effectiveness. Why? Ttie bigger receivers ran cause problems for the small corner becatise of the discrepancy in height and size. Take a play like tbe fade or streak, in which the ball is ihrown downfield to the receiver's outside shoulder and/or the ball is thrown short cm purpose, so that receivers can came back to it. Another element in this sitiiaiion is that lhe taller and bigger receiver makes it harder for a corner lo make a play on the ball if the receiver positions himself between lhe ball and the corner. The ability Lo block otit the corner due to bis sheer size make it lough on
Lhe small corner to make a play. The ctirl, post, and fade are good examples of situations where the receiver cati use his sheer size lo box or block out. a defender. Another possible dilemma for Lbe small corner is stalk blocking. The size of the new breed of receiver again creates a inismau:h for tbe small corner. Tlie ability for the teceiver to gain conuol of the smaller corner, whether his hands are inside or outside of the corner, possesses a problem becatise of Lhe corner's inability to gain control and defeat the block of the bigger receiver. Since the corner is taughl to attack the receiver, find the ball, get off the block atid replace himself, the likelihood of the receiver blocking Uie small corner, whether by holding, or tising a correct teclniique (or not), is still a high-percentage goal, ll is a high percentage goal just upon the theory that the receiver's size and stature will dominate. So, is it just the new breed of receivers that has questioned the effectiveness of the small cornerback? Whai about the recycled u.se of the wide-open offense? ! would say no, primarily because the offensive teams have used 3 and 4 receivers prior to this recycled surge of wide-open offenses and ihe small corners were productive during those times. It was not as abundant as il is now, but teams have relied on the wideopen offensives. Brigham Young IJniversily, Florida, Florida Stale, and Houston all used wide-open ollensives wiLh an aerial appendage. These leams ihroughotil the eighties and nineties used a lot of 3 and 4 receiver formations. It all starts and stems with the new breed of receivers. For example, the new surge of wide-open offenses can create problems for tbe small corners wiLh the new breed of receivers, just as it would if lhe new breed of receiver was implemented in an I pro
formalion. The new receiver has had an influence on schematics and strategic play calling on how a leam can approach a defense and especially the secondary. An offensive coordinator can now rely more hea\'ily on the fade ball, which at one time and to some extent, still is a low percentage throw. A lot of coaches would take iheir chances mote against a small corner because he increases, lbe possibility of completion. Coaches will also factor in the piobability of getting an interference call against the smaller corner or any corner for that matter. So what is next for lhe small coiner? In the midst of uncovering lhe next great latent, it would appear that the recruiters, scouts, and coaches are searching for the mid size to big corners. To be successful, ihe smaller corners have to be fundamentally soimd, quick, and fast, mentally smart and have that special knack for making plays, sometimes called "ititangibles." W^at arc intangibles? Something incapable of being perceived by the senses, therefore diificult to explain and show. A smalt corner who is competing against a bigger guy bul is similar and equal in speed and quickness, has to gain au advantage somewhere between the two. The small corner must be able to do something better, maybe, pUiy smarter, read quicker, and jinnp higherâ€”;just to gain an advantage over tbe bigger but equal opponent. The intangibles will separate the player from the playmaker. Whether ii stems from peripheral vision lo reading routes by body language, lhe small corner must have above-average altributes and characteristics, and possess the unexplainable intangibles when competing against the new breed of receivers. In short, the stnall corner has lo have the full package plus some of the intangibles lo counteraci his lack oi' sheer size and avoid exunciion. â€˘