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Indiana football 2020 position preview: The cornerbacks

The Daily Hoosier is previewing each position group during the final days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2020 Indiana University football season on October 24 against Penn State in Bloomington.

Today we take a look at the cornerbacks.


Indiana’s defense is full of exciting young talent, and nowhere is that more evident than at the cornerback position, where there are no seniors and only two upperclassmen in a group that returns three players that started games last year.

WHO IS GONE

The biggest loss is long-time starter Andre Brown, Jr.  The Decatur, Ga., native finished his career with 114 tackles, 88 solo, six for loss, 13 pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 45 games (34 starts).  Brown, Jr. graduated and exhausted his eligibility in 2019.

Long-time contributor A-Shon Riggins also graduated and used his eligibility.

THE 2020 ROSTER

RETURNING WITH EXPERIENCE

As mentioned, the Hoosiers return starters out on the edge.

Both Taylor and Mullen worked their way to the top of the depth chart as the 2020 season progressed.

Mullen already led the Big Ten in pass breakups as a freshman with 13.  He projects to be Indiana’s lock-down corner and will likely take on each team’s top pass catcher.

Taylor, a former high school quarterback, has made big strides over the last year in learning his craft as evidenced by his rise up the depth chart.  He started against Purdue and Tennessee and made the game clinching interception against Maryland in 2019.

Also back is Jaylin Williams.  He started seven games and appeared in all 13 at cornerback, posting 19 tackles, 15 solo, with one interception and three pass breakups.  Williams has played in 25 games through two years.

NAMES ON THE RISE/IMPACT NEWCOMERS

It will be interesting to watch and see who emerges out of the next group.  At least one of the following underclassmen are likely to see a lot of action in 2020.

Josh Sanguinetti played as a true freshman at safety before suffering an injury.  He will give IU much needed size at corner.

Larry Tracy has caught cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby’s attention at fall camp.  “He keeps making plays,” Shelby said in September.

Look for Sanguinetti and Tracy as players that could see plenty of action behind the core group of veterans if they are ready.

Lem Watley-Neely and Christopher Keys are very athletic true freshman with a lot of longer term potential.  We’ll see if one or both of them can work their way through the normal first year developmental needs and carve out a role.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

via Jaylin Williams on Twitter

Tiawan Mullen on himself:

“What I did last year, it was great and everything,” Mullen said. “But with Coach Shelby behind me, I need to push harder.”

Shelby on Jaylin Williams:

“I’ve seen a change in him, in just the way he has matured,” Shelby said. “He comes to work. He takes coaching, as well. He’s in his playbook.  When you take that next step of being an upperclassman, not only is he holding himself to a different standard, he’s also holding young guys to a standard that started from the guys (like) Rashard Fant, Mike Hunter, Tim Bennett.”

Shelby on Reese Taylor:

“I think with a year of playing corner, he’s going to have a summer of learning the playbook and not just learning what corners do, but start to figure out what everybody is doing and where everybody goes,” Shelby said. “When you yell out a check, what does that mean to everybody else? I think he’s ready to take that step and I’m expecting him to.”

THE OUTLOOK

Pro Football Focus recently described Mullen as “one of the best true freshman cornerbacks we have ever seen.”

After that stellar freshman campaign, Mullen has the potential to have an All-Big Ten caliber season.  If Indiana can have a portion of the field that opposing quarterbacks are consciously avoiding, their fast, attacking defense will be all the more effective.

Mullen, along with Taylor and Williams gives IU one of the better cornerback groups in the league at the top of the depth chart.

If there are question marks, one concern is a lack of height.  Can big receivers be used to pick on the relatively undersized group?

The other question is who will rise up behind the veteran trio and become a reliable every week contributor on a defense that consistently plays at least two-deep on the depth chart.


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