The current landscape of college and pro football puts a tremendous amount of pressure on cornerbacks. Every team knows that in order to compete for a win game in and game out, one of your top priorities has to be defending the pass, especially the deep pass. That is why, in some ways, cornerback is one of the most important positions on the defensive side of the ball.
The 2013 Fighting Illini know this all too well, as the team begins to develop young cornerbacks that they hope can carry this defense to some wins. Gone is stud corner Terry Hawthorne, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was one of the best in the Big Ten. Instead, the Fighting Illini lists six on the depth chart playing corner: V’Angelo Bentley, Darius Mosely, Eaton Spence, Javaris Little, Dillan Cazley, and Nick North.
Bentley, a sophomore out of Cleveland, Ohio, played all twelve games last season as a true freshman, forcing a fumble and blocking a kick in Big Ten play.
At 5’10” and 180 pounds, he may appear a little undersized to make the big jumps against tall receivers, but do not let that fool you. Bentley has tremendous speed and great athletic ability, giving him all the tools he needs to be successful in the defensive scheme at Illinois. His awareness is improving, as well as his field vision, helping him to be on the verge of what could be a starting role for the Illini in 2013.
Darius Mosely, a true freshman, was ranked as a four star recruit out of O’Fallon, IL. At 5’11’ and 185 pounds, his potential is up there with any of the other cornerbacks on the squad this season.
Playing wide receiver in high school has helped him with his ability to pick off passes as well as his ability to anticipate what the receiver he is defending may try to do. As a scholar student, being on the honor roll all four years of high school, Mosely has shown dedication not only to the sport he plays, but also the studies he pursues. Mosely could, with improvements that every freshman has to make, see himself in a starting role late in the year.
2013 will give fans their first look at Jevaris Little, who redshirted in 2012. A three star recruit and first team Tampa Bay Times All-Pinellas County selection, Little comes in at 6’1” and 180 pounds.
He has the ability to cover some of the faster guys in college football, as you can see from videos online that Little is very quick on his feet and he has soft hands to grab that ball out of the air. Little is a bit of a question mark, as he has not played in an actual game for the Illini. However, if he is able to compete, he could make big strides toward his future in Champaign.
Another corner for the Illini who is returning from playing all twelve games last season is Eaton Spence. With 16 tackles, a sack, and a pass break up in 2012, Spence has shown a knack for getting to the ball and ball carrier, as well as the ability to put pressure on the quarterback.
Coming in at 6’0” and 180 pounds, the sophomore Spence is one of those players who could really be a big part of the defensive system. One of the best things about Eaton is his speed, as he ran track in high school. He needs to improve his open field tackling, as well as his vision for the ball in reference to the receiver. Spence, with some polishing, could be a solid contributor in 2013 for the Illini.
Dillan Cazley, a true freshman from Charleston, IL, is someone who could be a big time player for the Illini at the corner in 2013. First team all conference in his junior and senior years, he logged 70 tackles and three picks while missing four games. He is a little light at 175 pounds, but has the ability to blanket receivers. His 5’10” frame has him right there with the rest of the corners on the squad, and his skill set makes him a potentially valuable piece to the Illinois defense in 2013.
Nick North, a 6’1″ 195 pound Cornerback out of Hollywood, FL logged one game last season. A highly regarded recruit at three stars, North has the potential to get even more playing time this season with the Illini.
Last year, being a freshman and having a lot more talent ahead of him hurt him for playing time. Now, in 2013, North is looking to shine with the Illini, as he attempts to grab a starting role with the defense. He has good speed, clocking a 4.5 40, and had a great high school career.
That, however, has not translated to immediate success in his college career. The talent and ability are there, even without the big numbers. Look for North to make some waves this year as he attempts to carve out a role with this corp of cornerbacks.
It is no secret that the Illini are thin at corner this year. That being said, do not be surprised if some of these athletes come in and play like big time recruits. They all have the talent and ability to be a big part of this offense, and the starting spots are still up for grabs. If the Illini defense, especially the cornerbacks, can make things happen on the defensive side of the ball, there is no telling what could be in store for 2013.
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