Brian Murphy: Boise State corners small on size, large on confidence

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comNovember 2, 2013 

They are often the smallest players on a football field, and they are tasked with defending the tallest. To cope with their high-profile position, cornerbacks, at least the good ones, have adopted several defense mechanisms — a super short memory, irrational confidence in their own abilities and an unshakable belief that size does not matter.

“No matter how big the receiver is, how tall, how strong, we’ve got to make those plays. That’s why we’re cornerbacks. That’s why we’re isolated in one-on-one situations. We’ve got to be able to cover that man and make sure he doesn’t catch the ball,” Boise State sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon said.

Deayon won’t accept that, at 5-foot-9 and 151 pounds, he may lose some battles against receivers 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.

He can’t. As soon as he does, he’s done.

“Until you find me a 6-6 corner, which I don’t think has existed in college or the NFL, receivers are always going to be taller than defensive backs. That’s just the way it is,” said Boise State defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who spent five seasons coaching in the NFL. “We’ve got to go up and make a play on the football.”

Deayon and fellow starter Bryan Douglas have done that. In the final seconds of the first half against Utah State, the 5-9, 178-pound Douglas knocked down back-to-back high pass attempts in the end zone. Both passes were intended for much taller receivers. As a result, the Aggies were forced to attempt a field goal, which was blocked.

It was the game’s turning point.

In the final minutes of the first half against BYU, Douglas and Deayon were beaten on man coverage for touchdowns. Douglas was pushed off stride by Ross Apo (6-3, 207), who hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass.

“We’ve got to be more physical than their receiver. He wanted the ball more than (Douglas) did at that point,” Lake said.

Three minutes later, BYU’s Cody Hoffman (6-4, 210) snatched a ball away from Deayon in the end zone for another touchdown. Deayon went up, but Hoffman won the battle for the ball.

“Those are plays I have to make,” Deayon said. “There are no excuses. He wasn’t too big. He wasn’t too strong. I’ve got to make those plays.”

The scores extended BYU’s edge from a manageable 10-3 to a dominant 24-3.

One game you’re the hero. The next, a goat.

It comes with the position, especially when you’re in man coverage, as Boise State’s corners often are. The cornerbacks have struggled in losses at Washington, Fresno State and BYU — teams with big receivers. They have six interceptions between them (four by Douglas), but consistency is still elusive.

Douglas, Deayon and emerging No. 3 cornerback Mercy Maston (5-11, 196) will be tested again Saturday against Colorado State. The Rams, a run-first team, will take shots down the field in the passing game and feature tight ends Crockett Gillmore (6-6, 255) and Kivon Cartwright (6-4, 245).

Cornerback has been one of the Broncos’ consistently productive positions in recent years, with current NFL players Orlando Scandrick, Kyle Wilson and Jamar Taylor manning the spot alongside former NFL player Brandyn Thompson and Jerrell Gavins.

Douglas and Deayon are in their first seasons as full-time starters — and it is a steep learning curve.

“It’s nice to have two experienced guys that have seen a lot of things,” coach Chris Petersen said. “BYU has some pretty big receivers, some big guys that made some big plays. But they’d be the first to tell you, they’ve got more to them. We’ll keep improving there.”

The young corners will be tested. Again. And again. Bring it on, they say. They’re cornerbacks, after all. They wouldn’t want it any other way.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph

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