Combine research: Cornerbacks

Dre Kirkpatrick (Matthew Emmons/USP)

Vikings GM Rick Spielman called cornerback one of the deepest positions in the draft, and the Vikings certainly need one. They'll have a look at 37 of them at the NFL Scouting Combine, starting later this week. Bill Huber puts eight of research into this extended look at the cornerback crop.

  • Dwight Bentley, Louisiana-Lafayette (5-11, 179): Bentley was a first-team all-Sun Belt selection as a senior after posting 71 tackles, including five tackles for losses. He picked off three passes — with two pick-sixes, including one against Oklahoma State. He also forced two fumbles and broke up six passes. In 44 career starts, he grabbed seven interceptions. At Pahokee (Fla.) High School, he picked off six passes to help his team win a state championship.

  • R.J. Blanton, Notre Dame (6-1, 200): A part-time starter his first three seasons, Blanton tied for the team lead with two interceptions, was second with eight tackles for losses and third with 70 tackles. The first of those interceptions was a pick-six that iced an early-season win over Michigan State. As a youth football coach back home in North Carolina, he stresses the importance of a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.

  • Omar Bolden, Arizona State (5-10, 195): A hot recruit out of Colony High School in Ontario, Calif., Bolden started nine games as a true freshman. After missing most of 2009 with a knee injury, Bolden was one of only four unanimous selections to the all-Pac-10 first team in 2010. Bolden was slated to be a team captain but missed the entire season with a torn ACL sustained in spring practice. In 41 career games, he picked off seven passes and averaged 30.8 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns.

  • Brandon Boykin, Georgia (5-10, 183): Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player as a senior. He intercepted three passes and was named second-team all-SEC on defense. On special teams, he averaged 22.4 yards on kickoff returns and 12.9 yards with a touchdown on punt returns. He even was used on offense, with 103 rushing yards and two touchdown receptions. His 2,663 career kickoff return yards ranks second in SEC history, and he had nine career interceptions. He was MVP of the Outback Bowl against Michigan State — even though Georgia lost — with a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown, a 13-yard touchdown reception and seven tackles, one of which produced a safety. For his career, he's the only player with three plays of 100-plus yards and he had four touchdowns on kickoff returns. Last year's Hornung winner was the Packers' Randall Cobb, and one of Boykin's favorite players is the Packers' Charles Woodson.

  • Ron Brooks, LSU (6-0, 177): Brooks broke into the starting lineup as a senior and recorded two interceptions — both returned for touchdowns. Against Ole Miss, he was named the SEC's defensive player of the week with a pick-six and forced fumble and recovery. At MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, Brooks was a dual-threat quarterback with 28 combined touchdowns as a senior. He caught 13 passes as a junior receiver. His father, Anthony, had a brief stint with the Bears.

  • Charles Brown, North Carolina (5-10, 205): Brown got into the lineup immediately as a true freshman, either at cornerback or nickel, with his 92-yard touchdown on an interception being the third-longest in school history. In 2009, he had three interceptions and a team-high nine passes defensed. He sat out the 2010 season as part of a program-wide scandal involving agents and illegal benefits, though he was allowed to practice. Back on the field as a senior, he had two picks and six breakups.

  • Morris Claiborne, LSU (6-0, 185): LSU is "DBU," with Claiborne following Patrick Peterson into the NFL. Claiborne entered the draft following a junior season in which he was named a consensus first-team All-American and claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, an award Peterson won in 2010. In 2011, Claiborne intercepted six passes and led the SEC with a 25.1-yard average on kickoff returns. He scored twice: on a kickoff return against West Virginia and a pick-six against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. His 11 career interceptions rank sixth in school history. As a senior at Fair Park High School in Shreveport, La., Claiborne produced 30 touchdowns as a quarterback (and won the 400 meters), and he arrived at LSU as a receiver. Early in his first fall camp, in part on the urging of Peterson, Claiborne started playing offense and defense at practice. One day about a week into practice, he went stride for stride with Terrence Toliver and broke up the pass. From that day forward, Claiborne was a cornerback.

  • Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska (5-10, 205): Dennard got on scouts' radars when they came to see another Cornhuskers cornerback, Prince Amukamara. Dennard was second-team all-Big 12 as a junior with four interceptions and seven passes defensed. As a senior, he had no interceptions, but his six pass breakups gave him 21 during 32 career starts dating to his sophomore season. As a senior at Wilcox High School in Rochelle, Ga., Dennard had five interceptions and 17 total touchdowns as a receiver and returner. Dennard considered quitting as a freshman and returning to Rochelle — a town of 1,200 that Nebraska's secondary coach got lost trying to find while on a recruiting trip — but his half-brother and father-figure, Alonzo, told him, "Homesick? Boy, what you homesick for? We've got nothing here."

  • Antonio Fenelus, Wisconsin (5-9, 190): Fenelus — a lowly two-star recruit out of Boca Raton, Fla. — was all-Big Ten in each of his final two seasons, with four interceptions apiece as a junior and senior, and a three-time academic selection. He's not fazed by facing taller receivers — not after going up against 6-foot-3 teammate Nick Toon every day at practice.

  • Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma (5-11, 191): Fleming, who was first-team all-Big 12 as a senior, finished with seven interceptions and 24 pass breakups, all coming during his two seasons as a starter. He was named the Bronko Nagurski Player of the Week with 13 tackles and a 56-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery against Texas this season. In 2011, he turned in strong performances against top receivers Justin Blackmon and Marvin McNutt, and in 2010, he had a pick-six against Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. He missed spring practices in 2009 and 2011 because of academic issues.

  • Terrence Frederick, Texas A&M (5-10, 187): Frederick had one interception and 13 passes defensed as a senior. He broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and finished with three interceptions. Frederick was on his way to Louisville when safety Trent Hunter gave some film of former high school teammate Frederick to coach Mike Sherman. What Sherman saw was a player who set a school record with nine interceptions as a senior at Katy (Texas) High School.

  • Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (6-1, 188): Gilmore started 40 games in three seasons and turned pro a year early. As a junior, he had four interceptions, and he was a third-team All-American in 2010 with three picks. He finished his career with eight interceptions, four forced fumbles and four recoveries. Gilmore was South Carolina's Mr. Football as a senior, when he led South Pointe High School to a state championship by accounting for 37 touchdowns at quarterback. He also was all-state in basketball. He was never a full-time cornerback until his freshman season at South Carolina.

  • Cliff Harris, Oregon: Harris, an All-American in 2010, turned pro after a less-than-banner junior season. He was suspended and eventually thrown off the team, causing him to miss the Ducks' final seven games of 2011 for driving on a suspended license in October and possession of marijuana in November. Those offenses came on top of him being pulled over while driving 118 mph, leading to a suspension for the opener against LSU. As a sophomore, Harris broke up an NCAA-high 23 passes, led the Pac-10 with six interceptions and averaged 18.8 yards per punt return with four touchdowns.

  • Mike Harris, Florida State (5-11, 195): The junior-college transfer intercepted five passes, broke up 14 and forced two fumbles in his two seasons with FSU. Harris is about "handling his business." That's what him mom used to tell him. When his mom died in 2010, Harris stayed in class and got ready to play Oklahoma the following weekend.


    Casey Hayward
    Don McPeak/US Presswire

  • Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (5-11, 188): The three-year starter is tied with a school-record 15 interceptions. He earned All-American honors as a senior with a career-high seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. In the bowl game against Cincinnati, he had two interceptions — including a 50-yard pick-six. As a senior at Perry (Ga.) High School, he tallied 39 touchdowns as a dual-threat quarterback. He played cornerback for his final five games at Perry yet was named first-team all-state, anyway.

  • Jayron Mosley, Virginia Tech (5-10, 171): Mosley is a talker. And he can back it up. Mosley was a backup as a freshman but predicted he'd get 10 interceptions as a sophomore. He got nine to lead the nation, and he followed that up with three as a junior before turning pro. He started two seasons and produced 32 passes defensed. Plus, he boasts a career average of 12.0 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns. Mosley played at the same high school (Atlantic in Delray Beach, Fla.) and college) as Chiefs standout corner Brandon Flowers.

  • Asa Jackson, Cal Poly (5-11, 190): As a dual-threat quarterback, Jackson was lightly recruited out of Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. He had no big-time offers, though Notre Dame wanted him to run track. An FCS All-American, Jackson was a four-time all-Great West Conference team and was selected to the conference's all-time team. He finished his career with eight interceptions — two each season. Both of this year's interceptions were pick-sixes, including a 100-yarder against South Dakota State. Plus, he averaged 18.0 yards with a touchdown on punt returns this season.

  • Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama (5-10, 191): Jenkins, who transferred from Florida after getting kicked off the team on two marijuana charges in a span of three months, was a second-team All-American with two interceptions, four passes defenses and two fumble recoveries. He was one of Division II's best punt returners, ranking first with three touchdowns and second with a 21.7-yard average. While at Florida, Jenkins was an all-SEC performer who posted eight interceptions and 25 pass breakups in 36 career starts.

  • Leonard Johnson, Iowa State (5-10, 202): Johnson, a two-time all-Big 12 selection, ended his career with 43 starts, six interceptions, six forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and 26 passes defensed. One of those interceptions came while covering Justin Blackmon in a shocking upset of Oklahoma State. He'll be the first Cyclones cornerback drafted since Ellis Hobbs by New England in 2005. At the urging of his mom, Johnson is active in the community. He helped put together a free youth football camp in his hometown of North Greenwood, Fla., that had a heavy emphasis on staying out of trouble.

  • Trumaine Johnson, Montana (6-3, 210): Johnson was a two-time first-team FCS All-American. A four-year starter, Johnson had a school-record 36 career pass deflections and is tied for fourth in school history with 15 career interceptions. Johnson accounted for 2,300 yards and 22 total touchdowns as a senior at Edison High School in Stockton, Calif. He arrived at Montana as a receiver but was switched to defense during the second day of his first fall camp and was an immediate starter.

  • Jeremy Jones, Wayne State (5-10, 189): Jones was a Division II All-American with nine interceptions as a senior along with 12.5 tackles for losses and a team-high 6.5 sacks. He ranks fourth in school history with 17 interceptions and first with 406 yards on interception returns, and finished with 40 passes defensed and three pick-sixes. Jones didn't plan on playing college football but his mom wanted him to go to college and Wayne State's recruiting coordinator called to offer a scholarship.

  • Coryell Judie, Texas A&M (5-11, 190): Injuries have been the story. Judie missed the 2009 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He was dogged throughout his senior campaign by an injured hamstring, limiting him to seven games (two starts), no interceptions and five passes defensed. He picked off four passes as a junior, plus returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Oklahoma and Baylor. Before playing at A&M, he was a junior college All-American at Fort Scott Community College.

  • Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (6-3, 192): Kirkpatrick declared for the draft after being named a first-team All-American as a junior. Kirkpatrick tied for second on the team with nine passes defensed and tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles. All three of his interceptions came in 2010. Kirkpatrick was the best player in the state while at Gadsden (Ala.) High School and a good student, as well, all while taking care of Dre Jr., who was born during his sophomore year. He thought all of his hopes and dreams were gone. Instead, his son helped turn his life around. "We tell him everything happens for a reason," his mother, Kim, told The Birmingham News in a lengthy profile written in 2008. "What reason there was for my son to have a child when he was still a child, I didn't know at the time. But I see now there was good out of this having to happen." He's had shoulder surgery during his freshman year and during the spring before his sophomore season.

  • D'Anton Lynn, Penn State (6-1, 208): Lynn was a three-year starter and a three-time honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. As a senior, he had one interception and eight passes defensed. His father, Anthony Lynn, was an all-conference running back at Texas Tech and won two Super Bowl rings with Denver. He just completed his third season as the Jets' running backs coach. The elder Lynn had five knee surgeries, two ankle surgeries and shoulder surgery, so he tried to push D'Anton into baseball and golf. It was working until Anthony was hired by the Cowboys and D'Anton moved to football-crazy Texas.

  • DeQuan Menzie, Alabama (6-0, 198): Lost in Kirkpatrick's massive shadow, Menzie was largely ignored for postseason honors but was named first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. He had one interception (a pick-six against Arkansas) and a team-high 11 passes defensed. Before arriving at Alabama, Menzie played at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mass. In February 2010, between the end of his sophomore season there and his arrival at Alabama, he tore his Achilles during a pickup basketball game after feeling some pain while working out with the football team. He planned on redshirting but played in 12 games with seven starts, anyway.


    Chase Minnifield
    Phil Sears/US Presswire

  • Chase Minnifield, Virginia (6-0, 185): Minnifield was Virginia's first two-time all-ACC first-team selection since D'Brickashaw Ferguson in 2004 and 2005. For his career, he picked off 13 passes. Minnifield's father is Frank Minnifield, a four-time Pro Bowl corner for Cleveland from 1984 through 1992. Chase had a ridiculous senior season at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky. The all-state performer caught nine touchdown passes, ran for eight touchdowns, threw for three scores, returned four kickoffs for touchdowns and booted 41 extra points. When he arrived at Virginia, coach Al Groh gave Minnifield the choice between receiver and cornerback. He decided to follow in his dad's footsteps, with his dad helping provide analysis of the film. As a senior, he won the Pop Warner National College Football Award given to an alumnus of Pop Warner football who "has made a difference on the field, in the classroom and in his community." Oh, and his full name is Chase Onassis Minnifield. "We named him after Chase Manhattan Bank," Frank Minnifield told Kentucky.com. "And we figured putting the shipping tycoon's name (Aristotle Onassis, the Greek business mogul and second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy) wasn't going to hurt anything."

  • Joshua Norman, Coastal Carolina (6-2, 190): A starter for most of his four seasons, Norman finished with 13 interceptions — including a school-record eight in 2009. He was a first-team All-American as a senior, when he intercepted two passes and posted team highs of 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 62 tackles. He also has a school-record four blocked kicks.

  • Micah Pellerin, Hampton (6-1, 195): Pellerin was a first-team all-MEAC selection as a senior, with a league-high 15 passes defensed and a second-ranked four interceptions. As a junior, he had two picks and 16 passes defensed. Pellerin started his career at Southern Mississippi but transferred after playing sparingly as a freshman. His decision to leave had nothing to do with grades or off-the-field issues. Rather, while at Southern Miss, he represented the school at the National Student-Athlete Development Conference.

  • Chaz Powell, Penn State (6-1, 206): Powell played well despite never really having a home at Penn State. During his redshirt season in 2007, he played safety. He went to wide receiver in 2008, playing sparingly as a redshirt freshman but starting nine games as a sophomore and catching 28 passes. He started his junior season as a receiver but wound up starting five games at cornerback. As a senior, he intercepted two passes. Whatever the position, he always was a force as a kickoff returner. He had a 95-yard touchdown as a senior and a 100-yard touchdown as a junior. At Susquehannock High School in New Freedom, Pa., he blocked 16 kicks in his career.

  • Shaun Prater, Iowa (5-11, 185): Prater considered entering the draft last year but returned for his senior season. For his career, he posted seven interceptions. As a junior, he intercepted four passes and was named first-team all-Big Ten. As a senior, he ranked among the national leaders with four forced fumbles, had an 89-yard touchdown against Tennessee Tech on his lone interception and again was first-team all-conference. He has a twin brother, Shane, who is a receiver at Texas A&M Kingsville. His toughness (those four forced fumbles) comes from playing another brother, Nate, in basketball. Nate Prater was a 265-pound tight end for Kansas State several years ago.

  • De'Andre Presley, Appalachian State (5-11, 180): A look at his college biography says it all. Under "position," it says "quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back." Presley was the quarterback to start his senior season but sustained a shoulder injury that caused him to miss one contest before. He finished the season playing quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and kickoff and punt returner. He concluded the year with 812 passing yards and four touchdown passes, 163 rushing yards and four scores, five receptions for 66 yards, 204 yards on nine kickoff returns, one punt return for three yards, 17 tackles (12 solo), one-and-a-half tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed. Presley finished third in voting for the Walter Payton Award as the nation's top FCS player as a quarterback as in 2010. Replacing the electric Armanti Edwards, Presley became the fourth player in FCS history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season and accounted for 35 touchdowns.

  • Antwuan Reed, Pittsburgh (5-10 190): Reed, a two-year starter, was second-team all-Big East as a senior. The team captain finished with a team-high seven passes defensed and three fumble recoveries. He finished his career with two interceptions. At Greater Johnstown High School in Johnstown, Pa., he rushed for 4,276 yards and scored 55 total touchdowns.

  • Josh Robinson, Central Florida (5-10, 192): After garnering all-conference recognition in each of his first three season at UCF, Robinson elected to turn pro. As a junior, he finished with two interceptions (including a pick-six) and 16 passes defensed. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman with six interceptions, and he wound up with 10 for his career.

  • Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson (6-0, 185): In his first full season as a starter, Sensabaugh contributed one interception and 11 passes defensed as a senior. A friend of Sensabaugh's older brother asked Sensabaugh's mother where Coty was going to college. When she said Appalachian State, the friend encouraged the family to send a highlight tape to Clemson, which was short-handed at cornerback and had some open scholarships after a couple of recruits didn't meet academic standards.

  • Ryan Steed, Furman (5-11, 185): Steed was an FCS All-American following a senior season of four interceptions. He finished his career with 14 interceptions and 38 passes defensed, the fourth- and third-best totals in school history. He also had three pick-sixes, four forced fumbles and three blocked kicks. He was Furman's first Senior Bowl player since running back Stanford Jennings in 1994 and just the third since the all-star game started in 1950. Steed dreamed of playing professional basketball, not football. He led Pinewood Prep School in Summerville, S.C., to two state titles while averaging nearly 20 points per game. In fact, as a junior, Steed didn't even play football so he could pour his focus into basketball.

  • Trevin Wade, Arizona (5-11, 192): Wade, a three-year starter, was a second-team all-Pac-12 pick as a senior, when he had two interceptions. That pushed his career total to 12 interceptions, tied for 10th in school history and fourth-most among active players. He added 13 passes defensed as a senior, giving him 28 for his career. Wade calls himself "Two-Star," since he was merely a two-star recruit out of Round Rock, Texas. Wade is related to former baseball star Hubie Brooks.

  • Corey White, Samford (6-1, 210): As a senior, White tied for second in the Southern Conference in interceptions with four and was named first-team all-conference. For his career, he had seven interceptions and 18 pass break-ups. Samford is anything but a football factory. Until Cortland Finnegan broke through, the program didn't have anyone play in an NFL game since Red Keeling's one-game cameo with Cincinnati in 1968.


    Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. Discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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