Both of Indiana’s 2022 starters at cornerback made NFL practice squads this week. And IU’s third cornerback from a year ago is playing in the SEC.
So what’s the state of the Hoosiers’ cornerback room as they get ready to welcome one of the best receiver groups in the country to Bloomington on Saturday?
Below we look at the roster turnover, projected depth chart, quotes and notes for the cornerbacks on the 2023 IU squad.
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S GONE
- Tiawan Mullen- CB (opted to not use extra year),
- Jaylin Williams- CB (out of eligibility),
- Brylan Lanier – CB (transfer portal),
- Chris Keys – CB (transfer — Mississippi State),
- Lem Watley-Neely – CB (transfer — Kent State),
- Trevell Mullen – CB (transfer — James Madison)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S BACK
- James Monds III – CB (redshirt freshman),
- Jamari Sharpe – CB (redshirt freshman)
ROSTER TURNOVER — WHO’S NEW
- Jamier Johnson – CB (transfer — Texas),
- Nicolas Toomer – CB (transfer — Stanford),
- Kobee Minor – CB (transfer — Texas Tech),
- JoJo Johnson – CB (transfer — Iowa Western),
- Jordan Shaw – CB (3-star, Downey, Calif.)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Indiana only has seven scholarship cornerbacks on the roster, and we expect six of them will see snaps in the season opener on Saturday.
Predicting who starts is challenging, but it looks like some combination of veteran Stanford transfer Nicolas Toomer (6-foot-2, 190), veteran Texas Tech transfer Kobee Minor (6-foot, 185), and veteran Texas transfer Jamier Johnson (6-foot, 180). Toomer and Johnson may have the slight edge. While none of the three have been season long starters at the Power Five level, they all have meaningful experience — Toomer has played 21 games with five starts, Minor appeared in 23 games, and Johnson has seen 17 games with a start.
Pushing those three in August have been Jamari Sharpe (6-foot-1, 190), James Monds (5-foot-11, 180), and JoJo Johnson (5-foot-11, 180). All three should play in week one, with Sharpe the furthest along. He’s just a redshirt freshman and IU coach Tom Allen has said the high school wide receiver has ascended the depth chart in August. Johnson is an Indiana native (Merrillville) who started his career at Notre Dame. He just arrived on campus a month ago but he’s already impressed with his athleticism.
The odd man out may be true freshman Jordan Shaw (6-foot, 170), although he’ll likely play this year too, at least up to four games to preserve a redshirt season.
Everyone in this position room seems like a wildcard. There’s talent, but that’s different than showing up on gameday and delivering when it counts.
The question heading into week one — who will prove they are ready to play on a big stage against elite talent?
This feels like a competition that extends into week one.
Cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby on the inexperience in the room —
“Nobody in that room has actually started a game. So I had to start back at ground zero in teaching those guys and getting them ready to play.”
Allen on the emergence of Jamari Sharpe —
“He’s got length. He’s extremely fast. He was an elite sprinter in high school. We are encouraged by his progress. He’s right there. He’s one of our top two to three corners. He will play a lot and might even be a starter. He has those traits you’re looking for. He will have a chance to be tested at a high level on Week 1. It will be an opportunity for him to prove who he is.”
Toomer on what he brings to the position at IU —
“It’s obviously a big thing in the league right now and in every level to have long corners guarding bigger receivers. So just bringing length and physicality to the outside and experience on defense. I’m the oldest in the room right now, so just bringing experience and just knowing the game and bringing a different sense of intelligence to the DB unit.”
WHY IT WILL WORK
Shelby is a major reason why. Indiana’s longest tenured assistant (13 years) has helped to produce some standouts for IU, going back to Tim Bennett and Rashard Fant, and more recently Mullen and Williams. Indiana is lacking in experience at corner when it comes to starters, but they aren’t short on talent. Shelby will learn a lot against Ohio State, and it won’t come as a surprise if he’s got a couple reliable starters and a strong overall supporting cast as the season rolls on.
WHY IT WON’T
Talk about getting thrown into the fire. This inexperienced group gets to face perhaps the best wide receiver group in the nation in week one. If they get torched, it could damage their confidence. But even if they emerge relatively unscathed, this is simply a group with much to prove, and far more questions than answers. Shelby might need a full season with them before they’re ready.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
- Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
- You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
- Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no cost to you.