2012 Spring Football Position Outlook: Cornerback
by Chris Bains on April 2, 2012
For the first time in years the cornerback position will be the strongest and most experienced unit on the team. This hasn’t been the case since Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith graduated after the 2008 season and took their boatloads of interceptions with them. In 2012, though, Cincinnati can boast that they have on paper one of the best secondaries in the Big East. Now if they pan out remains to be seen but there is a lot to like about this unit starting with the cornerbacks.
Deven Drane and Dominique Battle split time last season at the boundary corner position because, for whatever reason, the coaching staff couldn’t settle on a starter when Drane was clearly so far ahead of Battle. I understand what they were doing using the veteran Battle to ease Drane into the position but by the Akron game it was obvious the sophomore was ready for more playing time. Changes came against South Florida when Battle again injured his knee and was lost for the season. I hate seeing a player get injured but Dominique has been fighting injuries since after the 2009 season and hasn’t been the same since. The silver lining is that Drane was able to take over on a full-time basis and made a name for himself by intercepting BJ Daniels in that same USF game. He’s been one of my favorite Bearcats on this team since.
On thing’s for sure, there will be no shortage of dreadlocks among the CBs in 2012:
: Deven Drane
Drane is the best defensive back UC has on the roster. Like I mentioned the junior gained consistent playtime last season due to Dominique Battle’s injury and wound up tying Camerron Cheatham and J.K. Schaffer for the most interceptions on the Bearcats in 2011. This despite playing a significantly smaller amount of reps. It’s also not outrageous to claim that Drane will become a Mike Mickens-like shutdown corner. Mickens was incredibly gifted at sticking to wide receivers like glue but what made him really special was his soft hands and nose for the football. You could plug him into the offense and he wouldn’t miss a beat. That’s what Butch Jones is getting with Drane and I can’t wait to see him frustrate some opposing quarterbacks this season.
: Dominique Battle
The senior was granted a medical redshirt last season after reinjuring his knee against South Florida. With a renewed lease on life, Battle will somewhat push Drane at BC. However his ability to get back on the field will be driven by his ability to get back up to game speed. When a player is given the green light to take live snaps after knee surgery, this is always their biggest challenge. That is what Battle will be facing this Spring but unfortunately I think it’s too late for him to overtake Drane at this point. The senior will serve as an experienced backup, though.
: Camerron Cheatham
The senior has been handling the field corner position for the better part of two seasons and will not be supplanted here. Cheatham wound up with the second most tackles among the DBs in 2011. That means a couple of things. First of all, quarterbacks threw in his direction quite a bit which indicates he was letting receivers run free in 2012. But it also means he made quite a bit of plays last season on those receivers. Don’t get me wrong he needs to improve his coverage skills but Cheatham also snagged a three interceptions (tied with Schaffer, Drane) and took one back for a touchdown. With added experience he should have a good year.
: Trenier Orr
The redshirt freshman was listed as a backup last year when Dominique Battle was lost for the season. Coaches have been raving about his speed in practice and he’ll finally get his shot for playing time in 2012 in preparation to replacing Cheatham in 2013 and beyond. Orr isn’t going to overtake Cheatham this season unless the senior is injured. But there should be plenty of opportunities for him to get his feet wet on special teams and against FCS opponents Fordham and Delaware State, both of which Cincinnati should obliterate.
DARK HORSES AT CB
Pending injury, there shouldn’t be much shuffling other than the four players I mentioned above. Cornerback is definitely one of those positions with the highest learning curve because defensive schemes and wide receiver routes, which DBs have to understand, are much more complicated in college. Therefore the dark horses in this group won’t come from the fresh crop of freshman DBs in the 2012 recruiting class but from the more experienced players on the team.
Aaron Roberson – Senior; Maple Heights, Ohio – Could push Orr as the back up field corner.
Demitri Beal – Redshirt sophomore; Pembroke Park, Florida