A prevailing football notion has it that the Big 12 doesn’t play much defense. That can be debated ad naseum, but one thing that can’t really be debated is that it’s the toughest place to defend the pass. The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in college football and it shouldn’t be debated. There’s the two-time Heisman finalist calling plays in norman. A potential number one overall draft pick heaving it down the field in Stillwater. Don’t forget about first rounder Pat Mahomes last year.
This year it’s quarterback talent is actually down despite having likely two of the top five best in the country. Outside of them, it’s a bit less of a sure thing. Having these elite talents however means that in order to beat them, you must be able to defend the pass. This is where most Big 12 teams have an issue and begins that prevailing notion of a lack of defense.
It’s fitting that this is where OSU’s major concerns lie as they head into their perhaps most highly touted season ever. Their ability to cover the pass will be the difference between a playoff appearance and a third straight year of second place in the conference. While they have two-three starting caliber safeties, they have one such cornerback. The rest is a bunch of young talent. With incumbent starter Ramon Richards now a strong safety, the only sure thing is Clemson graduate transfer Adrian Baker. The rest is just young talent that has yet to prove anything. They will be what makes the team special or simply good.
Adrian Baker (GR-TR.)
Baker is the only cornerback currently on the roster with starting experience, excluding Ramon Richards. Where he started? Clemson. The team that won the national championship last year. Baker figured to start last year but an injury kept him out for the entire season. In the spring he decided he’d spend his final year of eligibility competing for a title at OSU.
With good instincts, agility and pass coverage skills, he’s exactly what the Pokes need in a no.1 corner. Outside of him it’s unknown what to expect. Having one corner that you can stick on their best receiver and know he’ll do a good job however, is priceless. If he can be the shutdown corner he was on his way to becoming at Clemson, he could be a major key to fulfilling OSU’s lofty expectations.
A.J. Green (SO.)
No, not that A.J. Green. This one plays corner and was good enough at it to see the field as a true freshmen in 2016. This year Gundy is hoping he can get even better and start at a high level. He served as a decent backup last year but this year the onus is on him to step it up a level and become a starter. With a year in the system and his physical talent, it’s not ludicrous to think he can.
Rodarius Williams (R-FR.)
Known for his track-star ‘twitch’, Williams has a lot of tools required to become an elite corner. To realize his potential however, he must become much more technically sound. If he can figure out how to use those abilities while still maintaining proper footwork and technique, he could become an All-Big 12 slot corner. After a full redshirt year in the system, it’s time to see if he’s improved enough for a big year. If Williams has begun to realize his potential it could be a huge boost to the depth of this position.
Madre Harper (SO.)
Harper had eight tackles and a fumble recover for touchdown in his freshmen year. Now it remains to be seen if the talented sophomore can improve and seize a starting job. While he doesn’t possess the twitchy athleticism of Williams or the pristine technique of Green, Harper has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Say what you will about the cornerback position, but that’s arguably the most important quality in a player. Ramon Richards has made a career out of it. It now remains to be seen if Harper can let his game catch up to his instincts. If he can, he should serve a large role on this team.