CB class has serious size, attitude
Top three cover guys are uncommitted, but not for lack of big-time suitors
We would argue that at the high school level, cornerbacks are the toughest players to evaluate and project. More and more cornerbacks are transition players at the next level, meaning they are not playing much on defense. Instead, they are probably being utilized as Wildcat QBs or undersized running backs. Combine that with the fact that high school film of the secondary is very difficult to evaluate -- and that prospects who are actually playing corner rarely get challenged -- and you are left with a risky projection.
Also keep in mind that this is why so many prospects from the athlete category end up playing corner, especially if they are undersized.
This year's crop of corners is fairly impressive based on size alone. Six of the top 10 prospects are 5-foot-11 or taller, which is important to note when it comes to matching up with today's 6-2-and-taller wide receiver, especially in the red zone. Many cornerbacks in the 2012 class lacking ideal size are still very aggressive and productive in run support. Tough and feisty prospects such as Terry Richardson (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Bryson Echols (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) like to mix it up.
The top three corners in this class remain uncommitted, and it's one of the more coveted overall positions from a recruiting standpoint.
Speaking of coming up big in run support, Howard is a pesky and physical cornerback who plays with a safety mentality, and possesses the cover skills to match up on an island and shut down top opposing threats. He will pop you as a tackler, and get in your face to press. He is smooth and fluid through the hips, and can transition out of his pedal on vertical routes as well as anyone in the class. He shows a very competitive demeanor and the mental makeup to take calculated risks and recover from them when necessary.
Geno Smith (Atlanta/Saint Pius X Catholic)
This is a guy who puts himself into position to make plays with technique and savvy. Smith has size to match up, but will need to add bulk to outmuscle big, physical wideouts. He is the type of corner who thrives one-on-one, and almost baits quarterbacks into making wrong decisions. Runs the route for the receiver and is very balanced, fluid and capable of recovering if caught out of position. His ball skills are highly coveted, and he knows what to do with the rock in his hands.
Yuri Wright (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco Prep)
Wright is very reminiscent of Class of 2010 corner DeMarcus Milliner (Alabama) as he looks like a safety, and can not only cover, but also is very scheme-versatile. Corners with his height and hips are simply rare. He is long and rangy, and plays with a ball hawk's mentality. He covers a lot of ground, and runs extremely well. We feel he can hold up on an island, and also lock down in the red zone on the jump ball with his excellent measurables. Wright could play all secondary positions and match up very well inside as a nickel. On a very talented Don Bosco team, we feel Wright has the best college upside.
Richardson doesn't pass the eyeball test, but you can't measure this guy's heart and competitiveness. What he lacks in size he makes up for in speed, excellent feet and fluid hips. He welcomes a challenge, and will surprise you with his aggressive skill set in press man coverage and coming up assertively on perimeter run and pass support. Richardson has the lockdown skills that should help him contribute early in Ann Arbor.
Bryson Echols (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto)
When first watching Echols on tape earlier this spring, Greg Reid (FSU), the No. 2 rated corner in the 2009 class, came to mind. They have similar size and quickness, but it was the intangibles and football smarts we saw that drew the real comparison. Echols' ball-awareness skills are outstanding. He knows where he is on the field at all times, and also has a feel for breaking receivers and where the quarterback is going with the ball. Texas has a good one in Echols, a corner who is mentally prepared to play the position at the next level, which is exceptional out of high school.
Joshua Holsey (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside)
Holsey is a defender who flew under the national radar in the early going, but he didn't get by the Tigers, who were his first SEC offer. Hard to imagine that a corner with blazing speed and range could be considered an early sleeper. This guy is very explosive closing on the ball, making safety a possibility with his size. But he has already amassed close to 20 career interceptions, demonstrating the excellent ball skills coaches want on the perimeter. Holsey should offer DC Ted Roof great scheme versatility on the Plains.
NotesDevante Harris (Mesquite, Texas/Horn) could be the most underrated cornerback prospect in 2012. Committed to Oklahoma, Harris has excellent footwork and speed, and may have been passed on early in the process due to his lack of size. The height and athleticism of Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Central) may get him on the field early in South Bend because he matches up with today's taller college receivers. Miami pledge Amos Leggett (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) has all the attributes you look for in a nickel prospect. They don't come feistier and more competitive than Brian Poole (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) on the outside, a Will Muschamp type of defender. Wayne Morgan (Brooklyn/Erasmus Hall) is one of the better overall athletes in this group. Not a big drop-off in this deep corner class up top, as T.J. Davis (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) and Ishmael Adams (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) fall outside the top 10, but they have upper-tier footwork, speed and cover corner skill sets. Oklahoma State went into Texas and plucked what we feel is a high-end corner and athlete in four-star Kendall Sanders (Athens, Texas/Athens).
2012 POSITIONAL BREAKDOWNS
ESPN Recruiting will be breaking down every position throughout the month.