There’s an art and a mentality that go with playing the cornerback position in football at a high level. Athleticism is obviously required and necessary, but the “island” position in my opinion is the most mentally demanding position in all of sports, other than the quarterback. After watching football all weekend, I’ve concluded something that I’ve known for a very long time, but is never stated enough: You have to be fearless of making mistakes on every single play and you have to be able to bring 100% focus to every play.
It’s nice to have size and speed and all of that, but it’s more important to carry some swagger and a “Can’t be beat. Won’t be beat” attitude. You simply can’t care if you make mistakes, you have to just play 100 miles an hour and be confident in your technique. The Cougar corners (and all of our secondary really) don’t have any of it. It’s a bad blend of bad position and no confidence in themselves. To me it’s very evident in the fact that they drop more interceptions than they catch. And the simple fact is that this group isn’t nearly as tough or gifted as we once thought they might become, or at least they haven’t proven it yet, which is disappointing.
Here’s the player by player breakdown for those that have been on the field:
CB Demante Horton: Was beginning to feel it last year, but he’s totally lost it in 2012. I don’t know if it’s the new scheme or a lack of preparation or what, but he doesn’t possess any type of confidence whatsoever right now. He’s a little slow for the position in general, which isn’t the worst thing, but he likes to play closer to the line in bump coverage and his anticipation is so far behind right now. He’s got the ability to be a playmaker, if he became the attacker instead of the attacked.
CB Nolan Washington: Has the most experience in on the edge, but he’s never been a good physicality guy. He can’t play bump coverage and so he plays way off the line 8-10 yards, regardless of time/score/field position. Washington gets burned because he doesn’t give himself a chance most of the time.
CB Daniel Simmons: Mr Simmons has been the best cornerback by far this season. At times he is the type of fearless that I’ve mentioned, but just like the rest of the secondary he falls prone to complete mental meltdown on certain plays. He’s athletic and loves to make plays though, so he will get better as the year continue.
SS Deone Bucannon: WSU’s best pass defender. The personal foul penalties this season were stupid, but they are a sign of a type of fearless play, which is a step in the right direction. The Junior safety is more often than not in the right position, but too often he is the only one. When the secondary is in position, this guy seems to make big plays in the pass game.
FS/SS Casey Locker: Is a player that defines everything about preparation, toughness and physicality, but isn’t very fast nor especially athletic. He’s getting more and more playing time due to productivity as the year goes along. Casey is a great 8th man in the box for this defense, but he causes mismatch possibilities for the other team in the down field passing game and edge run game.
FS Tyree Toomer: A veteran player that seems to be close to position but doesn’t seem to make very many plays. Seems like Tyree’s instincts and confidence fail him a majority of the time.
FS Taylor Taliulu: A promising young freshman who’s instincts and ball skills are evident, but hasn’t really seen the field a whole lot for various reasons that don’t include being beat out by anyone. I truly believe if this kid were on the field we would be a more athletic and play making type defense. He doesn’t lack for confidence or aggressiveness, but he is not always in the right place for the called defense, which has been a continuing issue among all of the secondary.
So as you can see, we don’t really have a “do it all” guy outside of Deone, who was recognized last year as an All Pac-12 performer. The other problem that this secondary is having revolves around their linebackers not always adapting to the play while in coverage, leaving their secondary to look awful and out of position when really it should be a linebacker. This is especially evident with backs out of the backfield. Anyways, there are an abudance of issues to fix, as we knew there would be coming into the season. Hopefully the Cougs can get some confidence going as they move into the second half of the season. Hopefully three picks against OSU last week will be the turning point in correcting these issues.