College coaches and recruiters are smart. While they've been upgrading the size at wide receiver, they've also been looking to biggie-size the cornerbacks who cover them.
Demand for size has become a huge factor, largely because of the red zone. Big wide receivers will take advantage of short corners, and although coverage may be good, the wide receiver will outjump him at the goal line.
While size is the new trend, what every cornerback must always have is speed. He must be able to turn and run and go deep while matching up with wide receivers. However, it is just as important to have the ability to backpedal, plant and turn in pass coverage situations.
Some defensive corners with great speed lose a lot of time in their transition as they turn to run with the wide receiver, and that's how the receiver separates. The corner must have great hips and flexibility and also show a quick burst and explosion to the ball. The ability to stop and start quickly without wasted motion is a must.
A complete cornerback also possesses good ball skills. He knows how to read routes, key the quarterback and get a great jump on the ball. This type of player will always be a part of a lot of pass breakups and will have a high number of interceptions. He must be somewhat physical and at least adequate at coming up and tackling. However, if forced to make a choice, college coaches will always choose cover skills over tackling ability. A player who can do both is that much more valuable.
A corner must also be confident, even cocky. No matter how good he is, he will be beaten on occasion and everyone is going to see it. He must be able to bounce back from adversity and stay competitive. Aside from quarterbacks, cornerbacks require the most mental toughness of any player on the field.
Many high school athletes who excel at either running back or wide receiver are often converted to the defensive side of the football in college because of the characteristics listed above.
Defensive Back Grading System
Scouts Inc. will evaluate the cornerbacks on the following criteria:
1. Man-to-man coverage: How flexible are their hips and smooth are their turns? Do they have a good backpedal? How fast can they accelerate?
2. Zone coverage: Do they show good range? Do they cover a lot of ground? How are they in the deep half? How is their overall awareness and instinct?
3. Closing quickness: Do they plant and drive well? Do they close and get to the ball in the air?
4. Key and diagnose: How well do they read the QB? Do they anticipate well? Do they seem to be in the right spot?
5. Lateral pursuit: Can they get over trash? How is the movement in their hips? Can they chase sideline to sideline?
6. Tackling: Do they wrap up well? Do they tackle low or high? Are they able to drag down? Do they tackle with power and are they punishing?
7. Pass drop: How flexible are their hips and how smooth are their turns? Do they get adequate depth? Do they show awareness in zone coverage?
8. Pass coverage/hands: Can they cover man to man? Can they match up in the red zone? Do they have good ball skills?