Fall Camp Preview: Cornerback

The month of July brings us close to the beginning of another fall camp for Notre Dame football. With practices set to begin soon we are taking a look at each position group ahead of the workouts. It’s time to turn our attention toward the cornerbacks.

Where We Left Off in Spring

There was some moving and shaking at corner during the spring. The highly touted freshman Houston Griffith started out at corner and eventually moved back to safety. Nick Coleman–coming off his own corner-to-safety switch in 2017–technically remained at safety during spring but was featured more as a nickel corner as the practices progressed.

The biggest move was the development of Troy Pride making his way into a starting role (more or less as these things go in spring) and emerging as a reliable defender after decent but not overwhelming playing time last fall. This rise of Pride was (apparently, more on this below) at the expense of Nick Watkins who ended up transferring for a graduate season to Houston.

Number One Camp Storyline

How about depth? Notre Dame comes into the fall with 8 corners which is a little deceiving because half of them are true freshmen and there’s already reports one of them is being cross-trained at receiver. I mentioned this in our fall camp wideout preview that the coaching staff has always felt completely fine with a few walk-ons at corner playing prominent roles in practice while we might as well cancel workouts if there aren’t 5-a-side waiting for reps at wide receiver.

For better or worse, if you’re the 4th corner you are hard-pressed to find playing time at Notre Dame and the 5th corner (Vaughn last year accumulated 55 snaps!) might as well not dress most games. In that vein, depth far down the roster really isn’t that important at all and we’re really straining credibility to think any freshmen are going to make an impact in 2018. At the same time, there’s plenty of room for some juggling among the corners behind Julian Love, particularity if we count the nickel and dime sets.

Anticipation Level: 5/10

I’m consistently skeptical of the corners. It may not completely match reality but it always seems like it’s a position where guys peak before they graduate and our hopes are almost always dashed in their later years. Need evidence…since the turn of the century only FIVE corners have been drafted from Notre Dame–3 in the 6th round and 2 in the 3rd round. It’s a really sad list with virtually no NFL career presence.

So I am in show-me mode with this position group which has its own questions to answer this season. I’m focusing most on the following three players prior to camp:

1 Shaun Crawford – He may have had the play of the year in 2017 for Notre Dame and should get praise for making it through the season healthy. On the other hand, the word on the street was that he wore down quite a bit last year and his production certainly backs up that claim. Crawford also had a fairly uninspired spring. Do we know if he’s potentially a No. 2 corner for this team? During camp when the grind of the season is so far away I wonder if he can come back and look like a big-time playmaker again?

2 Donte Vaughn – Here’s a player who flat out disappeared last year. And still, he’s a huge beneficiary of the Watkins transfer because he’s a similar tall corner who goes into fall camp as the default 4th player in this unit. Last season he struggled with nagging injuries and we’ll see if he can put that behind him–the spring really didn’t move the needle. This could be the fall camp where Vaughn turns into a regular or the beginning of the a time when we’ll say, “Remember when he was really good in limited reps as a freshman?” after he transfers somewhere.

3 Troy Pride – You could argue Pride had the best spring out of anyone on the roster. He performed really well with the track team and then built off a strong finish in 2017 with a very impressive spring. With his speed he’s an ideal breakout star candidate on the team. To be more critical though, he only played in just over a third of the snaps last season and is still largely unproven as a steady, starting corner. And while I was no huge fan of Watkins I think it’s fair to say his transfer was partly personal choice than being forced to the bench due to Pride’s ascendancy. We could have an excellent corner on our hands but I’ll pump the brakes on that just a little bit prior to camp.

By |2018-07-10T22:35:06+00:00July 10th, 2018|Football|7 Comments

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Michael Bryan

I’m a Shaun Crawford believer – I wish he hadn’t worn down last year, but not totally unexpected coming off the torn ACL and achilles in back to back years. Even late last year, it felt like he was rarely out of position, just maybe had lost a step which in turn led to the drop off in disruption we saw in the first quarter of the year. He and Pride will be tested early on and can’t wait to see them both in action, tons of athletic potential there to add to Love’s instincts / consistency.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

Me too. What a beast game against Sparty.

Hitman
Hitman

“it always seems like it’s a position where guys peak before they graduate and our hopes are almost always dashed in their later years” This.

Any theories on why CB and/or S don’t seem to improve over their careers? I know the BVG system was overly complex, but this seems to be a trend even before and after him.

spider-man
spider-man

My guess is that there is more variability and potentially noticeable errors for the CB position in general. They work in areas of the field where it is not uncommon for them to be 1-on-1 with a WR. One small misstep or one second delay of reaction can be problematic if the pass is on time and on target. If a LB has a delayed reaction, there is another LB, a CB to the outside, or a S deep to make up for it. Also, I’m sure that CB’s performance is greatly affected by the quality of the QB and WR on the opposing team.

juicebox
juicebox

Gary has no idea what you are talking about.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Dangit what a gut shot. Didn’t want to give that upvote but had to

MikeyB
MikeyB

I think this group as a whole is going to benefit more from the 4-game rule for freshmen more than any other position group. If it’s true that Crawford wore down over the year, the staff should be working hard to get him out as early as possible against teams like Ball State.

I believe that other than QB, there’s no position that’s more difficult to simulate game atmosphere for than Cornerback. You can throws guys out there in practice over and over, but actually stepping on the field is a whole different animal for a CB. So I hope all the freshmen get as much time as possible this year, even if it’s just in blowouts against the bums.