August 22, 2018

Football position breakdown: Cornerbacks

By Weston Payne —

It’s time for the cornerback position in our breakdowns. Brian Van Gorder doesn’t have an easy job with this unit after losing all starters, one of which was a defensive leader in Jaire Alexander (18th overall pick in NFL Draft). While this does open the door for new talent, it creates uncertainty entering the season.

Luckily for Van Gorder, the tandem of P. J. Mbanasor, Russ Yeast and Adjay Burns all have prior cornerback experience at Louisville and other schools. It will be interesting to watch as this group learns and grows together.

Expected Starters:

PJ Mbanasor, R-Jr.

Mbanasor has yet to play as a Louisville Cardinal after redshirting the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The Oklahoma transfer played in 10 games, two of which were starts, as a Sooner in 2015. He was also a consensus four-star prospect whilst being recruited out of high school. With the ideal size for a defensive back, he looks to set a tone for this secondary.

Russ Yeast, So.

While it was unsure what position Yeast would play coming to Louisville, he has certainly settled into his role at cornerback. After 12 games, Yeast racked up 23 total tackles and two pass breakups. While a smaller prospect than Mbanasor, Yeast has the speed and quickness to keep up with shifty receivers.

Key Backups:

Rodjay Burns, R-So.

Highly recruited from Trinity high school in Louisville, Burns committed to Ohio State in 2016. He transferred to U of L after only one year as a Buckeye, resulting in a redshirt 2017 season.

A former receiver in high school, Burns does an excellent job of finding the ball while it’s in the air. He proved this at Ohio State when he returned an interception for a touchdown versus Bowling Green. Overall, Burns will be a vital rotation piece in the youthful Cardinal’s secondary.

Cornelius Sturghill, R-Sr.

Sturghill has been splitting reps at wide receiver and cornerback during his time as a Cardinal. While he primarily played on special teams in 2017, Van Gorder looks to use Sturghill on the defensive side of the ball this year.

The redshirt sophomore has good hands, but we’ll have to watch and see how Sturghill develops with his coverage abilities. Much remains to be proven, but many players have made the same switch in the past successfully (49er’s cornerback Richard Sherman).

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal

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