Friendly Battles: Three players in the hunt at cornerback

STARKVILLE – Competition for starting jobs can often breed enmity between teammates, but Corey Broomfield has only gratitude for how crowded Mississippi State’s cornerback position has become.
This time last year, it was Broomfield and three others manning the two corner spots. Now, with August camp at its midway point, that number has increased greatly thanks to a little shuffling and some newcomers.
It’s made for more intense competition – and that’s fine with Broomfield, who tends to wear his joy on his sleeve.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It ain’t as tiring as it used to be.”
Broomfield, a third-year sophomore, led MSU last season with six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. That hasn’t guaranteed him a starting role this fall.
Sophomore Johnthan Banks, who had four picks at free safety, was moved to corner in the spring and is now going head-to-head with Broomfield.
Senior Maurice Langston, a junior college transfer who played in seven games last season for State, will likely start at the other corner. But experienced junior Damein Anderson will have a say in that.
“I don’t care about starting,” Banks said. “We’ve got nine or 10 people in our room that can play.”
It might seem unusual that the three primary candidates are so cordial with each other. Then you consider the backdrop of each.
Banks is a scrawny, quiet small-town kid who popped onto people’s radar with a 100-yard interception return for touchdown off Florida’s Tim Tebow. He’s admitted to having watched the tape of his feat dozens of times.
Broomfield is hungry but affable, realizing he’s still got much to learn.
Langston is just happy for the second chance. He missed all of August camp and the first five games of 2009 because of a marijuana arrest that previous February.
So all three are happy to play whenever and wherever they can.
“Anywhere I get on the field to help the team win, that’s fine,” said Broomfield. “If we win every game and I’ve got to hold the towel, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll be happy.”
Corner is Banks’ natural position, but he played safety last year out of necessity after Zach Smith went down with a concussion.
“He’s good on the line, jamming receivers, because of his length,” Langston said. “He gives receivers a lot of problems and a lot of trouble.”
Mixing it up
Banks also gives MSU versatility. In fact, he, Broomfield and Langston all have taken a few reps this summer at nickel safety, which means all three could be on the field at once on certain plays.
The depth at corner allowed coach Dan Mullen to move sophomore Arceto Clark to receiver during spring drills, and he’s stayed there. Mullen is looking for a little more polish on his corners now, with their experience augmenting their talent.
“So hopefully we can continue to make the big plays with the talent that we have there,” he said, “and erase the negative plays with the experience of them understanding and being more mature players back there, that they’re always going to be in the right place at the right time.”
There’s no telling how the cornerback rotation will play out, but they’ll all get a shot to contribute. And they all seem focused on the same goal.
“Everybody’s worried about winning,” Broomfield said, “winning the SEC West. That’s all we’re worried about.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.

Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal