- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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.