Return to Glory

Return to Glory

Friday, April 13, 2012

Analyzing Depth at Cornerback

After a brief hiatus due to a calendar full of work and family obligations, it is time to dive back into detailed analysis of the Gophers roster. Next up is the cornerback position. Gone is senior Kyle Henderson who played in all 12 games and registered 67 tackles with 5 passes defended. The other key departure is the result of a position change, as Brock Vereen is making the transition from cornerback to saftey this spring. Brock proved to be a bright spot at corner last year, but with the influx of JUCO corners it is not surprising that Jerry is seeking to plug a big hole at saftey due to the graduation of Kim Royston. The great news is that Troy Stoudermire was rewarded an extra year of eligibility as a result of a broken arm that derailed his season. After Stoudermire went down last year, the Gophers simply lacked consistent playmakers at the cornerback position. Gophers corners accumulated 3 interceptions last year and 2 of those were by Stoudermire, who only started 5 games! It is tough to put all the blame on the secondary as we have already discussed how the lack of pressure generated by the front four. As a result, the corners were simply called upon to cover for too long. Who will the corners roaming the Gophers secondary be in the upcoming years?

Troy Stoudermire: A fifth year senior that was given a medical hardship waiver that allows him to suit up for the Gophers again in 2012. Troy hails from Dallas, Texas and weighs in at 5'10" 200 lbs. Troy transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback during his junior season in 2010. He started the final 6 games of his junior season at cornerback and played well. Troy carried that over with a fast start in his senior season, but a broken arm ended his season. In his 4 full games of the 2011 season he registered 24 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. There is no doubt he will be starting at cornerback and generally matching up with the opponent's best wide receiver. I believe Troy has an opportunity to be an All Big 10 cornerback this year.

Michael Carter: a senior from Pompano Beach, Florida and weighs in at 5'11" 185 lbs. He is actually the cousin of Gophers two time All America safety Tyrone Carter. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, which ESPN ranked the #17 cornerback in the country. However, he has been an enigma as a Gopher. Despite his talent, Michael only saw the field in 5 games last year while recording 9 tackles. As a sophomore he had played in 7 games and started 4 games. As a true freshman he appeared in all 12 games. Clearly, his playing time has dwindled with every passing year. By all accounts Michael has often been in Jerry Kill's doghouse. The good news is he may have finally matured and turned a corner this spring. This article from the Star Tribune highlights that sentiment Michael has always had the talent to be a Big 10 caliber cornerback and he is finally flashing those skills this spring. I look for Michael to carry that over to the fall and end his Gophers career on a high note.

Jeremy Baltazar: is one of the incoming JUCO corners that arrives after spending two years with Blinn Community College. Jeremy was first team All Conference and Honorable Mention All American at Blinn. Jeremy will be a junior for the Gophers in 2012. He hails from Corona, California and measures 6'0" 195 lbs. According to Jerry Kill, "He benches 390 lbs...squatted 455 lbs and verticals over 33 inches." Clearly, he is a big and strong cornerback that helps provide a physical presence to the secondary. It is always tough to project from JUCO to Big 10 play, but from an athletic standpoint he injects some athleticism and experience that is seriously lacking behind Stoudermire and Carter.

Martez Shabazz: is another incoming JUCO corner that arrived on campus this spring after spending two years with Trinity Valley Community College where he earned all conference honors. Martez is from DeSoto, Texas and measures 5'11" 165 lbs. He will be a junior this year for the Gophers. By all accounts, Martez is an absolute burner who will immediately be one of, if not the, fastest players on the team. Martez is a perfect example of the commitment Jerry Kill has to injecting speed into the Gophers defense. At 165 lbs, Martez risks being unable to handle some of the bigger and physical receivers in the conference, but there is no doubt his speed can help this defense. He should be able to run with anyone the opposition has on the roster.

Briean Boddy: is the remaining JUCO corner that Jerry Kill brought in with the 2012 recruiting class and weighs in at 5'11 185 lbs. The great news is even though he is a JUCO, Briean will actually have 3 years of eligibility with the Gophers. Briean hails from Wilmington, Delaware and spent the previous season playing for Coffeyville Community College. I think it should be pointed out he academically qualified directly out of high school, but due to playing on a bad high school team in Delaware he really never generated any recruiting traction. As a result, he went the JUCO route to raise his athletic profile. He was named second team all conference cornerback after recording 40 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. Based on those stats, it seems Briean has a knack for being around the ball and making good things happen. The scouting reports are that while he isn't a flashy player, Briean is a smart and polished player that demonstrates strong anticipation and the ability to be in the proper position. I look for Briean to be a true diamond in the rough that will turn some heads in the years ahead.

Steven Montgomery: is a redshirt freshmen from Miramar, Florida. Steven measures 5'10" 205 lbs. Steven is a bit of a hybrid player that could see time at safety or corner. Coming out of high school ESPN ranked him the #76 safety prospect in the nation. Since he redshirted last year there is minimal evaluation that can be done. His high school evaluation is that he has good speed and range combined with a hitter's mentality. The key weakness was a need to work on his tackling technique and breaking down in space to wrap up ball carriers. Unfortunately, Steven tore a pectoral muscle this off season, but he is back to being a regular participant in spring practice. With the influx of JUCO's highlighted above I don't anticipate Steven to see the field a lot this year.
Eric Murray: is a true freshman that will arrive on campus this fall as a member of the 2012 recruiting class. He hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and measures 6'0" 178 lbs. He helped lead his high school team to an 11-2 season this year and won the city championship. Eric was a first team all state selection and ranked the #4 recruit in Wisconsin by Rivals. He displays a good combination of athleticism and coverage skills. He also is not afraid of contact and displayed a willingness to come up in run support.  Eric has an intriguing blend of natural athletic ability and a 6'0" frame that should get stronger and faster after hitting the weight room. Eric will undoubtedly redshirt this year, but should have opportunities to play in the years ahead.

Conclusion: A healthy Troy Stoudermire is the key to rejuvenating the secondary in 2012. He has the athletic ability to match up with elite wide receivers and has already shown the ability to make game changing plays. The other exciting development is that Michael Carter is suddenly poised to conclude his Gophers career by perhaps being the elite corner many hoped he would be when he signed his letter of intent. Michael has seemingly been making big plays every day of spring practice. Troy and Michael could help anchor our secondary and give us our best cover corners since 2008 when we had Traye Simmons and Tramaine Brock. Unfortunately, they are both seniors so while they are the present, they will not be the future. Baltazar and Shabazz are both juniors, so they will be around this year and next. They will help provide stability after the departure of Troy and Michael. I also look for Boddy to be heavily involved in upcoming years. The concern is that the pipeline only has redshirt freshman Steven Montgomery and true freshman Eric Murray. I actually feel very good about the cornerback position in 2012 & 2013, but worry about where the Gophers go from there. I am hopeful Keelon Brookins ultimately makes good on his verbal commitment to the Gophers, as he will inject another dynamic cornerback into the Gophers secondary.

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