Pac-12 preseason position reviews: CBs

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
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Most Pac-12 teams will feel pretty good about their returning talent at cornerback, at least in terms of experience. Every team welcomes back at least one starter.

By the way, if you want to review previous position reviews, go here.

Great shape

California: The Bears depth here allowed Josh Hill to move to safety this spring. Marc Anthony, Steve Williams and Stefan McClure are a strong, experienced troika. The Bears ranked second in the conference in pass efficiency defense in 2011.

[+] EnlargeNickell Robey
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesNickell Robey leads a solid group of defensive backs at USC.
USC: The Trojans welcome back 2011 first-team All-Pac-12 cornerback Nickell Robey and fellow starter Isiah Wiley, though Wiley is battling Brian Baucham and Torin Harris for the starting job, according to the post-spring depth chart. That's a pretty good foursome.

Oregon: Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are a strong combination, and Troy Hill has significant experience. Dior Mathis also is in the mix.

Oregon State: Jordan Poyer was second-team All-Pac-12 last year and is a top NFL draft prospect. Rashaad Reynolds is a returning starter, and Sean Martin is solid. The poor pass efficiency defense in 2011 -- ninth in conference -- will give pause, but more blame can be given to poor play up front than the corners.

UCLA: Two senior starters is a good thing, and Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price are big, athletic guys who have plenty of ability. They, however, haven't always been consistent. Bruins were sixth in pass efficiency defense last year. It's worth nothing that an awful pass rush probably made life difficult for the CBs. While depth is a concern, there are some intriguing incoming freshmen who figure not to redshirt.

Good shape

Stanford: Terrence Brown and Barry Browning are back, but the intriguing player is sophomore Wayne Lyons, a certain starter who has drawn raves from his coaches. Touted incoming frosh Alex Carter also figures to be in the mix. It will be important that the Cardinal get more interceptions in 2012 -- they had just seven last fall -- and Lyons reportedly is the sort who can grab a handful himself.

Utah: The Utes lose Controy Black, but Ryan Lacy is a returning starter and Mo Lee saw plenty of action. Both are seniors. It's also worth noting that the Utes led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2012, yielding just 18 touchdown passes.

Arizona State: Both starters, Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr, are back. They've combined for 41 starts. Irabor, in particularly, could be an All-Conference candidate. But the problem is opponents completed 65.8 percent of their passes last season against the Sun Devils, who ranked eighth in the conference in passing efficiency defense.

Washington: Quinton Richardson is gone, but Desmond Trufant is an NFL prospect, and Greg Ducre, a five-game starter, has experience. In fact, just about everyone who played in the Huskies secondary is back. The Huskies ranked seventh in the conference in pass efficiency defense last year. There's reason to believe they will be better in 2012.

Arizona: The Wildcats might turn out to be sneaky good here. Shaquille Richardson is back, but the more critical measure will be a healthy return of Jonathan McKnight, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. He was the defense's best cover guy before the injury. Derrick Rainey also is in the mix. It's also a bit hard to measure Arizona here because in its new 3-3-5 scheme some defensive backs are hybrid safety/corners. Therefore promising sophomores Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Jourdon Grandon sort of count here, too. Some improvement for one of the nation's worst pass rushes would help the cornerbacks a bunch.

Washington State: The entire two-deep is back, including starters Damante Horton and Daniel Simmons. On the downside, the Cougars ranked 11th in the conference in pass efficiency defense. They surrendered 24 touchdown passes while grabbing just eight interceptions. But if the pass rush improves, the Cougs should be at least solid at corner.

We'll see

Colorado: Yes, Greg Henderson and Parker Orms are both back, but Orms has moved to safety. And, oh boy, those numbers. The Buffs were last in the Pac-12 and 115th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. They yielded 34 touchdown passes, which was six more than any other team. They grabbed just seven interceptions, which tied for last in the conference. Opponents completed nearly 66 percent of their passes. But the incoming freshman class is a major "maybe" to the "we'll see" ranking here. Colorado signed Yuri Wright and Kenny Crawley, both touted prospects. It's almost certain they will play and perhaps perk up the pass defense.

Ted Miller | email

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