Mississippi State’s back-ups and younger cornerbacks received plenty of reps this spring due to the graduation of Jamerson Love and the recovery of Taveze Calhoun from offseason surgery.
Love and Calhoun have been the Bulldogs starters for the last two years so it was interesting to see how some of the other corners handled the first team for a change.
Cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend had to be pleased with what he saw and with Calhoun coming back this fall, should have a solid and fairly deep group to work with.
It was no surprise to see rising senior Will Redmond make an easy adjustment to the starter’s role. Redmond tied for the team lead in interceptions last year, two of which preserved wins against LSU and Arkansas. The 6-foot, 186-pounder lost a year and a half of eligibility early in his career but has made up for lost time.
Redmond has come on with a flurry and will likely be one of the top corners taken in next year’s NFL Draft. MSU needs a lock down defender and Redmond proved this spring he’s capable of doing so. He coupled with Calhoun should make quite the tandem which will certainly help having young and inexperienced safeties.
Junior Tolando Cleveland filled in for Calhoun as the starter opposite Redmond this spring. Cleveland came into his own as a backup last fall and made two interceptions. The 6-foot, 190-pounder is a solid cornerback who will be battling fellow junior Cedric Jiles for the nickelback spot.
Jiles missed all of last year with a torn hamstring but battled back in time to participate in spring practices. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from Clinton has been injury prone thus far in his career but has shown some big play ability when he has been out on the field.
It will be interesting to see just where Jiles fits into the scheme of things when fall camp opens up.
The most intriguing position change made this spring was sophomore Jamoral Graham swapping sides from receiver to cornerback. Graham caught a touchdown and served as the Bulldogs primary punt returner for a time as a true freshman last fall.
Graham had an up-and-down spring at his new position. He struggled at the start of spring practice as he adjusted to his new responsibility but showed natural instincts when the ball was in the air. The 5-foot-10, 173-pounder took some gambles but most of them paid off in his favor.
If Graham continues to improve at the rate he did in the spring then he could have a fine career there.
Chris Rayford redshirted his true freshman season but interchanged with the second team most of the spring. Rayford played at a smaller high school (Byhalia) and was accustomed to doing it all at that level. Last year was a learning experience for him to just concentrate on one position and fine tuning his skills.
Rayford will have an opportunity to get his feet wet this fall and could contribute on special teams for State as well.
Walk-ons Brandon Davis and Boderick Oliver may not be household names but both had their moments this spring as well. Oliver even had an interception during the spring game.
The Bulldogs have a pair of cornerbacks – Chris Stamps and Maurice Smitherman – joining the fold this fall. If the current crop of corners can stay healthy then Mississippi State might be able to redshirt both which would help ease the loss of Calhoun and Redmond in 2016.