DAY 10 REPORT: Position Look at Cornerbacks
Aug. 11, 2014
Blankenship commented after Saturday's scrimmage that the offense was moving the ball, but lacked the big plays. Today, the Tulsa offense turned in some big plays during the scrimmage situation.
"We did make some big plays offensively. Keyarris had a big play. He should be a guy that is hard to tackle, so to break a tackle and get up field was good. We got big plays from Josh Atkinson and then Nigel Carter in our overtime period," said Blankenship. "This offense needs to have more of those kinds of playmakers, and I think we're starting to identify those guys. They're certainly playing with more confidence."
Blankenship was pleased for the most part with the way that the Hurricane returned to the practice field on Monday.
"We hit really hard on Saturday and that was our 10th practice without a break, so we gave them yesterday afternoon off feeling like they just needed a break. Then today we had a scrimmage situation, for a little less than half the practice, wanting to see how we'd respond," said Blankenship. "I thought most of our guys came back, but had a few that seemed to just be surviving. That happens this time in fall camp, and you have to really push through and thrive. We'll have one more big hitting day scrimmage on Wednesday, and that will be pretty much be it as far as just a raw scrimmage."
Tulsa will practice in the afternoon on Tuesday.
Tulsa came out of spring practice knowing that the cornerback position would return good depth. Through the first 11 practices of preseason camp, Blankenship is pleased with the performance at corner and excited about the quality depth that the position brings to the Hurricane defensive unit.
Tulsa has five returning lettermen at the cornerback position, including four that started at least one game last season.
"The thing that's exciting, when you look at five of the six corners that have all played in games, Kerwin Thomas is the only rookie out of the first six, so that gives us some flexibility and being able to keep guys fresh," said Blankenship.
"I really like the athleticism. We're smart and we're fast. None of them have played as much as (Dwight) Dobbins has, and Will (Barrow) saw all that playing time at safety last year. Then you get the savvy of an Austin McDaniel, who's a fifth year guy, and the athleticism you see from Kerwin, Darrell Williams and Johnell (Celistan). The young guys are very athletic and that's what we're excited about," said Blankenship.
Senior Dwight Dobbins (5-9, 180) is a returning starter, who has made some big plays throughout his career scoring two defensive touchdowns. He has 75 tackles, 10 pass break-ups and three interceptions in his first three seasons. The other starting corner appears to be sophomore Will Barrow (5-9, 170). He moved back to his natural position during the spring after filling in at free safety a year ago as a true freshman. Barrow was credited with 54 tackles and had two fumble returns for 134 yards and two interceptions for 76 yards. Barrow returned both fumbles for touchdowns.
Senior Austin McDaniel (5-11, 192) and sophomore Johnell Celistan (6-2, 185) each started games a year ago when the injury bug hit. McDaniel had 34 stops and seven pass break-ups, while Celistan compiled 13 tackles and two pass break-ups.
Darrell Williams (5-10, 193), who was pushing for a starting spot last year before his season ended in preseason camp with a knee injury, appears to be near full speed and is pushing for playing time, while red-shirt freshman speedster Kerwin Thomas (5-10, 160) is also in the mix at corner.
"Darrell is looking like he's back," added Blankenship. "I wouldn't say he's a 100-percent of where he was before the injury, but he's very much post-injury rehab to where I think he's playing at full speed. He may not have everything back, but at least he's able to go full speed. He doesn't seem to be limping and doesn't seem to be concerned about it at all.
This quartet of corners has played with the No. 1 and 2's during preseason camp and should make a solid rotation for the Hurricane this season.
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