By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
When spring practice begins on March 5, Clemson will have seven cornerbacks on its roster. However, what most fans don’t know is that only three of those players have actually played in a college football game and only one of those started a game in 2013.
Martin Jenkins started four games for the Tigers in 2013 and comes into spring practice as the veteran leader of this unit. Garry Peters, who started five games in 2012, is the other veteran in a unit that will have four redshirt freshmen on the field in 2014.
Rising sophomore Cordrea Tankersley is the other corner who saw action in 2013 as a reserve.
Bashaud Breeland’s jump to the NFL caught the Tigers off guard a little bit and now this spring it will be imperative for defensive backs coach Mike Reed to get up-and-coming stars like Mackensie Alexander and Adrian Baker ready to jump in and be major contributors or, better yet, starters in the fall.
Here is a look at the six candidates who will be battling it out for the two starting spots at cornerback in Clemson’s secondary.
Martin Jenkins, 5-9, 185, Sr. – Jenkins is a versatile player who has played on defense as a cornerback and a nickel back as well as on special teams. He is Clemson’s most experienced cornerback. He has 63 career tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and 10 pass breakups (PBUs) in 37 games, including seven starts. In 2013, Jenkins started four games and played in all 13 after missing the entire 2012 season due to a hernia injury in fall camp. This past season, he recorded 27 tackles and had one interception – a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown against S.C. State. He also added three PBUs. Jenkins spent most of last season as the backup to Breeland at the boundary corner position, and started the Maryland game there due to a suspension to Jenkins for one half and then started three games—Wake Forest, Syracuse and South Carolina—at the nickel back position.
Garry Peters, 6-0, 185, Sr. – Peters emerged as one of the team’s top cornerbacks in 2012, but an injury set him back last season and caused him to miss three games. When he did play, he was very productive as he recorded 28 tackles, had 4.5 tackles for loss, caused a fumble and had four PBUs. He also started six games on special teams. Peters was the back up to Darius Robinson last season at the field corner position. Peters has 54 tackles in career, 4.5 tackles for loss, 11 PBUs, one interception, one caused fumble and one recovered fumble in 32 games, including five starts.
Cordrea Tankersley, 6-0, 195, So. – Tankersley was the only true freshman cornerback that got to play in 2013, though most of his time was on special teams. However, he did play some as a reserve cornerback. He recorded 13 tackles while playing in 11 games. He also had one PBU and started nine games on special teams. He was named special teams player of the game following the Tigers win at Virginia on Nov. 2. He also recorded five tackles in that game as a reserve cornerback.
Mackensie Alexander, 5-11, 185, Fr. – A nagging groin injury crippled Alexander’s freshman season forcing Dabo Swinney to put a redshirt on his star recruit from the 2013 class. Alexander was supposed to compete for one of the starting positions at cornerback last fall, but he never got off the ground after suffering an injury early in fall camp. Every time he tried to comeback he pushed too hard and injured himself again. Finally, Swinney, along with Reed, the trainers and doctors decided it was best to let Alexander redshirt so he could completely heal and be ready to go in the spring. The freshman had surgery in October to repair some of the damage from the injury. Alexander received glowing reports from both Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables after junior varsity practices leading up to the Orange Bowl. Alexander—a five-star recruit—was rated as the No. 4 overall played in the nation by ESPN coming out of high school in Immokalee, Fla.
Adrian Baker, 6-1, 170, Fr. – Baker really came on early in fall camp, but he injured his knee midway through which caused him to miss the last part of camp. The coaches decided it was best to redshirt him and get him ready for the spring. He will compete for a starting spot this spring. The coaches want to see him get a little more wait and muscle on his 6-foot-1 frame. ESPN rated Baker as the No. 19 best athlete in the nation coming out of high school in Hallandale, Fla.
Marcus Edmond, 6-1, 180, Fr. – Edmond, who played high school football at Lower Richland High School in Columbia, was the lowest rated player of the four freshmen that came in last year, but he had the best fall camp. Swinney and Venables seriously considered him for playing time. But ultimately they decided it was best that Edmonds redshirt. A versatile athlete, Edmonds rushed for 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns as quarterback, but had 48 tackles and four interceptions his senior year as a defensive back.
Ryan Carter, 5-9, 175, Fr. – Carter was rated as the 31st best cornerback in the nation by ESPN coming out of high school in Grayson, Ga. A teammate of running back Wayne Gallman, Carter played wide receiver mostly in high school but the Clemson coaches like what they see in him as a cornerback. He had very good junior varsity practices leading up to the Orange Bowl and he will compete for playing time in the spring and fall.