By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
If there was one area of concern Stillwater football coach Tucker Barnard had heading into the season, it was how his corners would perform.
After losing Davyn Thompson and Chuck Neal to graduation, Barnard may have finally got the answer he was looking for after Friday night’s scrimmage at Pioneer Stadium.
“They played well at times,” Barnard said. “There were a couple of times that they gave up some big plays, but we’re really proud of the way all our kids played.”
True, the cornerbacks didn’t do it all by themselves. They had plenty of help, with guys like C.J. Citizen flying to the ball and making plays. But after only feeling pressure to perform in practice, Barnard said he was pleased with the progress the cornerbacks have made since practice began.
“We had some highs and some lows,” Barnard said. “We had a couple of guys come out with injuries here and there, and obviously that hurts us. But we were very pleased with the progress everybody has made. Early on we were able to create turnovers and while we did struggle late, a lot of that was just us wearing down.”
Throughout practice it’s been a battle at the cornerback position. And it shows in practice. Each day it seems like the hits have become bigger and the risk-reward gambles become greater.
But it’s through that competition Stillwater senior safety King Williams has seen an vast improvement in the Pioneer secondary.
“The guys that are out there right now are out there because the coaches know they can handle their own business,” Williams said. “We do have some backups that can fill those spots two- and three-deep and do just as good as they can do.”
And when it comes to guys like Brandon Prather — who is expected to play both offense and defense this season — that kind of depth certainly comes in handy.
“It helps having guys that can come in and fill in like that,” Williams said. “With guys like me, Brandon and Spencer playing both ways, we need to have some depth because we are going to need a break every once in a while.”
By no means were the cornerbacks perfect against Tulsa Edison or Broken Arrow — far from it, actually. But just the fact that they are learning and improving on the fly is something Barnard hopes to build on as the Pioneers get ready for their season opener against McAlester in two weeks.
“We had a couple things we need to work on,” Barnard said. “There were a couple of times that maybe we didn’t take some great angles and probably underestimated (Broken Arrow running back Devon Thomas’) speed at times and took a bad angle that way. You have to adjust to that. We haven’t seen a runner like that in practice, so it was a whole new deal for us and it should help make us better having seen him.”