By Conner Farrell–
The TLC football position breakdowns continue, this week we take a look at the cornerback position.
Defensive backs Coach Lorenzo Ward has his eyes on improving a group that had success in the prior season. This group brings back both starting corners and is arguably the deepest position on both sides of the ball.
The group gave themselves a nickname appropriate for what’s in store for the season. “The Tax Boys,” is what they dubbed themselves.
“We’re like the IRS, baby, we’re coming for all that money that’s in the air,” junior Jaire Alexander said in a recent interview with the Courier Journal.
Expected starters: Jaire Alexander, Cornelius Sturghill or Trumaine Washington
Currently only one side of the starting duo is set and that spot belongs to Alexander. A breakout sophomore year, Alexander has been honored with a host of spots on preseason award lists, including the watch list for the Paul Hornung award for the nation’s most versatile player.
The All-ACC second team performer led the Cardinals in interceptions a season ago with five. Alexander’s blazing speed and superior ball skills make him a premier defensive back. With another year under his belt, Alexander should be a leader on the defensive side ball and a lockdown corner in a potential All-American junior campaign.
Opposite of Alexander, the spot has come down to Washington, a senior, and Sturghill, a sophomore. Both are listed as starter on the football depth chart.
Washington, who is a two-year incumbent starter, has been a solid contributor for the Cardinal defense. Washington has six career interceptions and 11 pass break-ups. The 5-foot-10 senior has been consistent throughout his tenure with the Cards and is essential for the group to have success this season.
Sturghill missed the entire 2016 season following a gun shot wound in the foot during a trip home to Memphis, Tennessee. While not being as technically sound as an experienced corner like Washington, Sturghill makes up for it with unreal speed. He posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash on the track during the spring while supposedly coasting the last half as precaution. Before the injury, Sturghill reportedly ran an impressive 4.20-second dash in spring of 2016.
Between the freakish athletic nature of Alexander, the experience of Washington, and the speed of Sturghill, the starting cornerback spots look to be in good hands for the upcoming season.
Senior Ronald Walker and true Freshman Russ Yeast will provide added depth to the position group.
Walker, who played sparingly last season, is a player with a big frame. At 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, he is the Cards’ biggest player at the position. Coach Ward has praised Walker this offseason and has accredited his improvements to a better mental approach to the game.
Yeast has also received praise from Coach Ward, as well as some from Head Coach Bobby Petrino. Yeast was a 2016 Under Armor All-American and was one of the highly prized recruits of the 2017 signees. At 5-foot-11, 182-pounds with capabilities of playing multiple positions, it would not be a surprise if the true freshman saw the field in some capacity this season.
You can follow Conner Farrell on Twitter @ConnerFarrell9.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal