The 2013 College Football Season is right around the corner and we here at SportSmasher.com cannot wait to get this preseason hype over with, call our bookies and finally get back to football. In the meantime our 2013 NCAA Football preview moves to the last line of defense, the secondary, as we break down the top cornerbacks in the nation. In what looks to be a deep NFL Draft Class in 2013, cornerback seems to be the deepest position in the country, which is excellent because the NFL is now a passing league and everyone needs cornerbacks. Let’s get to the list:
Loucheiz Purifoy – Junior (6’1 190lbs) Florida – The top cornerback in the best defensive conference in the country, Purifoy is a lanky corner, who excels at covering bigger receivers with his length. Purifoy is not a one trick pony however, he is also physical and is excellent against the run, and he plays with an attitude that you look for in a cornerback. Purifoy has excellent ball skills, so much so that he could see time at wide receiver this fall, also an excellent return man. Had 51 tackles, five passes broken up and three forced fumbles in 2013. For a long an lanky cornerback, Purifoy can deliver big hits, and is always ripping at the football trying to force fumbles on tackles. Based on his length and athleticism, I rank him slightly ahead of Bradley Roby as the top cornerback in the country, he will be able to matchup with the bigger receivers on the next level. Reminds me of Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, has all the talent in the world, lack of focus can cause him to occasionally get beat deep. Bradley Roby is a steadier player than Purifoy but does not have as much size or athletic upside. Character concerns are a wash as both players have rap sheets, Loucheiz Purifoy has been arrested for marijuana, more on Roby below.
Bradley Roby – (redshirt) Junior (5’11 195lbs) Ohio State – A likely top ten pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Roby is an excellent man-to-man coverage cornerback. Roby has incredible instincts, he is really comfortable playing on an island against the top wide receivers in the nation, and he is so talented that opposing cornerbacks often will not throw to his side of the field. Roby’s most impressive statistic, which is what sets him apart from the pack on this list, was an astounding 17 passes defended in 2012. He also contributed 63 tackles, 1.0 sacks and 2 interceptions while the opposing quarterback rarely challenged him. If Roby can turn some of those passes defended into interceptions in 2013, he could be in for a truly special season for an excellent Buckeyes team. I rank Bradley Roby just behind Loucheiz Purifoy as a prospect but its very close, Roby is steadier, has better technique and makes fewer mistakes, Purifoy is bigger and a better natural athlete so I gave him the nod based on potential upside.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – Junior (5’10 190lbs) Oregon – A breakout star for the Oregon Ducks in 2012, Ekpre-Olomu now becomes the leader of the Ducks defense, as their top returning defensive player. He totaled 63 tackles, four interceptions, six forced fumbles and 16 passes defended in his first year of a starter, showing excellent quickness and instincts in a very talented passing conference where he was challenged early and often. My biggest problem with Ekpre-Olomu is the fact that he plays soft, he needs to become a more physical defender against the run, and not be afraid to get his hands dirty. He is already an excellent cover corner, which makes him a top prospect, but he needs to play with a nasty streak in 2013.
Jason Verrett – Senior (5’10 180lbs) TCU – The top senior cornerback in the country, Verrett landed in the top ten in both passes defended and interceptions last season, the only player to accomplish that feat. Verrett has a reputation as a ballhawk, he had 63 tackles, six interceptions and 16 passes broken up in 2012 en route to being voted a First Team All-American. A former junior college transfer, Verrett is a little on the small side and could use some added bulk and strength before transitioning to the NFL, but the talent is all there.
Aaron Colvin – Senior (6′ 180lbs) Oklahoma – A versatile player who bring a unique skill set to the table, Colvin started the entire 2011 season as a safety, then the entire 2012 season as a cornerback for the Sooners, and excelled at both positions. On the next level I could see him playing the role that Antrel Rolle plays for the Giants, starts at safety, but in passing situations drops inside as a third cornerback to cover the slot. An excellent tackler who does not shy away from contact, Colvin had 61 tackles, four interceptions, 11 passes broken up and 2.0 sacks in 2012 and developed into a leader on defense. His versatility makes him an excellent prospect.
Justin Gilbert – Senior (6′ 195lbs) Oklahoma State – A player I love, because not only is Gilbert a physical and aggressive corner who plays with an attitude, he also doubles as a speedster who is one of the best return men in the country. Gilbert had 63 tackles and nine passes defended in 2012 while averaging an impressive 26 yards per kickoff return. Gilbert has elite speed and excellent size for the position, and as I mentioned in this same article last year, picked off Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck during the 2011 season. All three of these quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and all three are currently starting in the NFL.
Deshazor Everett – Junior (6′ 185lbs) Texas A&M – One of the better cornerbacks in the SEC in 2012 as a sophomore, Texas A&M lost a lot of leadership on defense this offseason, and Everett needs to step into a leadership role as the Aggies best returning defensive player. Everett had 56 tackles with seven passes broken up and two interceptions in 2012, while playing well week in and week out against the toughest competition in the country. Everett has an excellent combination of size and speed, he plays the run well, and has the tools to develop into one of the top cornerbacks in the country in 2013.
Marcus Roberson – Junior (6′ 185lbs) Florida – Our second Florida Gator on the list shows you how good their secondary should be in 2013, the Gators have the best cornerback tandem in the country in 2013, with both starters from 2012 returning for another season in Gainesville. Robertson was targeted a lot in 2012 and he made an impact, making 23 tackles with 12 passes broken up and two interceptions as a sophomore. He is an experienced player, in 2011 he beat out several other talented prospects for a starting job, and he has held onto it since. It is going to be tough to throw on the Florida Gators in 2013, with Robertson and Purifoy starting locking down the starting cornerback position, and if the defensive line is able to generate a pass rush their defense will be scary.
Quandre Diggs – Junior (5’10 200lbs) Texas – Once one of the top prospects in the country, Diggs enters the 2013 season as one of the more experienced juniors on this board, with 24 starts under his belt for the Longhorns. Diggs got off to a fast start in 2012, picking off three passes in the Longhorns first three games of the season, but then slowed down and finished the year with 52 tackles, seven passes broken up and four interceptions. Interesting fact, Quandre Diggs is the much younger brother of Quintin Jammer, a cornerback who played at Texas and was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Bennett Jackson – Senior (6’1 185lbs) Notre Dame – Playmaking should come easy for Bennett Jackson in 2013, Notre Dame’s excellent defensive line should apply major pressure week in and week out for the Fighting Irish, and quarterbacks will be forced to rush throws in the direction of the talented Jackson. Did not play much as a freshman or a sophomore in South Bend, but impressed as a junior, making 65 tackles and 4 interceptions during his first season as a starter. With a year of starting experience under his belt, Jackson should only get better in 2013.
Others To Watch:
Andre Hal, Senior (6’1 185lbs) Vanderbilt – Damian Swann, Junior (5’11 190) Georgia – Deion Belue, Senior (5’11 180) Alabama – Carrington Byndom – Senior (6′ 180lbs) Texas – Tre Boston, Senior (6’1 205lbs) North Carolina – Kyle Fuller, Senior (6′ 190lbs) Virginia Tech – Darqueze Dennard, Senior (5’11 190lbs) Michigan State – Merrill Noel, Junior (5’10 180lbs) Wake Forest – Demetrious Nicholson, Junior (5’11 175lbs) Virginia – Wayne Lyons, Junior (6’1 195lbs) Stanford – Ricardo Allen, Senior (5’9 185lbs) Purdue