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Michigan State Football Unit Preview: Cornerbacks

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Profiled previously: Special Teams, Safeties, and the Offensive Line.

With football in five days, it's time to finish up  some most of our position previews.  Up now - the cornerbacks.  As of now, MSU has one definite starter, one starter for the time being, and two who could start later in the season.  Who are they?  Find out after the jump.

 

The Definite Starter

Chris L. Rucker (6'2", 195 lbs, Jr.)

The definition of an impact freshman, CLR started about halfway through his freshman season in 2007 before detaching not one, but both his retinas.  He came back for his sophomore year to start nine games (but still did not see action in two contests) to make 45 tackles (tied for seventh on the team), four pass breakups and two interceptions.  In the past two years, he's established himself as the best cornerback on the team, and has been selected to Athlon's preseason All-Big Ten second team, and Phil Steele's preseason All-Big Ten fourth team.  He's got the size to cover almost any receiver Michigan State will see this season, and unless a freak injury pops up again, he'll start every game.

The First Game Starter

Jeremy Ware (5'11", 188 lbs, R-Sr.)

It was a bit of a surprise to hear Ware announced as the other starter last week.  He sat out the 2006 season after transferring from South Carolina, and only appeared in one game in 2007.  In 2008 though, he appeared in 12 games.  He started in four of those games all towards the end of the season, and put up decent numbers as well: he had 31 tackles and six pass breakups.  He was behind Ross Weaver on the depth chart coming into camp, but pulled ahead of the competition, according to secondary coach Harlon Barnett:

On when he edged ahead of the rest of the cornerbacks... "After the second scrimmage. He has had very consistent play, not just at the scrimmage, but over the course of camp. He was doing a good job consistently where other guys may have not been as steady."

Cornerback, for the first time that I can recall in a long time, is a loaded position on a Spartan team, and Ware's promotion attests to that fact.  That said, I can see one of two other cornerbacks on the team possibly getting Ware's starting spot later in the season.

The Backups...For Now

Ross Weaver (6'1", 203 lbs, R-Sr.)

As I mentioned earlier, Weaver was one of the starters heading into camp, but not so much upon its conclusion.  He's the secondary's leader in experience, having started in 16 of his 28 appearances.  His 28 tackles were behind both Ware and CLR, but he tied for the team lead in pass breakups with seven.  I would've thought he'd have more than one career interception, but his only pick came against Indiana last year.  What might be Weaver's biggest problem?  Apparently he thinks too much on the field:

Confidence is the key. Anyone who majors in engineering and plays college football is going to do a lot of thinking, but sometimes a lot of thinking isn't beneficial on the field.

The "overanalyzing" is under control, Barnett said. And while Weaver remains one of the fun-loving guys on the team - and the self-proclaimed best dancer - he has learned to put a snarl on with his helmet.

"When we cross those lines," Barnett said, "that's when I try to tell him, 'You've got to go from David Banner to The Incredible Hulk.' "

Despite these quibbles, Weaver remains a team leader as one of its four captains, and I would not be surprised in the least to find Weaver in the starting lineup in a few games this season.

Johnny Adams (5'11", 172 lbs, Soph.)

Johnny Adams has the least experience of any of the four cornerbacks in the two deep, but he arguably had the biggest play out of all them last season - an interception return for a touchdown to put MSU up by 14 going into halftime against Purdue.  Adams also received a considerable amount of playing time as a freshman, appearing in 11 games and starting in two.  He'll definitely start next year, but for now, he's entrenched as the fourth best corner on this team.

The Depth

Ashton Henderson (5'11", 189 lbs, Sr.) will be the first Spartan called upon if the aforementioned four need a break or get injured.  Patrick White (5'11", 180 lbs, Fr.) spent all spring adjusting to playing corner from wide receiver in high school.  I'd guess he'd only play in case of serious depth issues, and will most likely redshirt this year.  Second-year walk-on Chase Parker (5'9", 170 lbs, Soph.) will only see time on special teams,  and only play as a cornerback in case of emergency or blowout.