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, weve got to make those plays. Thats why were cornerbacks. Thats why were isolated in one-on-one situations. Weve got to be able to cover that man and make sure he doesnt catch the ball, Boise State sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon said.
Deayon wont accept that, at 5-foot-9 and 151 pounds, he may lose some battles against receivers 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.
He cant. As soon as he does, hes done.
Until you find me a 6-6 corner, which I dont think has existed in college or the NFL, receivers are always going to be taller than defensive backs. Thats just the way it is, said Boise State defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who spent five seasons coaching in the NFL. Weve 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 games 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.
Weve got to be more physical than their receiver. He wanted the ball more than (Douglas) did at that point, Lake said.
Three minutes later, BYUs 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 wasnt too big. He wasnt too strong. Ive got to make those plays.
The scores extended BYUs edge from a manageable 10-3 to a dominant 24-3.
One game youre the hero. The next, a goat.
It comes with the position, especially when youre in man coverage, as Boise States 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.
Its 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 theyd be the first to tell you, theyve got more to them. Well keep improving there.
The young corners will be tested. Again. And again. Bring it on, they say. Theyre cornerbacks, after all. They wouldnt want it any other way.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph