RSP contributor David Igono, a former West Virginia and AFL defensive back, breaks down the technique and processing smarts of Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
Many years ago I had the great opportunity to talk to current Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck about the mindset that had seen him rise from an undrafted free agent with the San Franciso 49ers to head football coach at Western Michigan University in less than nine years. In short, Fleck’s father told him at a young age he would be smaller and slower than most of the kids he would be up against. His only chance would be to outwork everybody and become a technician at wide receiver. He could become uniquely qualified to overcome every obstacle because he could decide to defy the odds and hone his craft.
Playing cornerback at a high level is about compounding technique with high football IQ. Trayvon Mullen of Clemson is a cornerback prospect that understands that his feet are the platform for any success in coverage.
The first clip shows Mullen bite on a route but then peel off when he correctly identifies a wheel route that would expose his responsibility in Cover Four. At first glance, this play may seem irrelevant. The truth is that this sequence illustrates Mullens ability to maintain his coverage integrity in an athletic position when he should have been fooled.
Mullen is able to redirect to pick up the wheel route because his eyes aren’t just on the quarterback—he’s scanning the formation looking for oncoming routes as he backpedals in coverage. He keeps himself in an attack position where he can attack downhill if need be or turn on the jets and cover the deep ball.
In basketball height and length reign supreme. Height and length can be negated if you employ positioning and technique.
Stephen Curry successfully boxes out Dwight Howard right underneath the basket in this next exposure because he wanted the rebound more and he had textbook technique. On paper, there’s an eight-inch gap in these two player’s heights.
A closer look reveals Curry was proactive and expecting contact. Similar to Mullen in the first clip he keeps his eyes up tracking the ball while also being keen to the spacing of help around him. Any initial advantage is erased due to technique and desire.
To have speed and ball skills as a corner is somewhat of a prerequisite. Consistent technique and footwork are what turns a potential disaster of a play into an afterthought.
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