Coming into 2014, one of the most important holes for Nebraska to fill will be the departing cornerback, Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Last year, he led the team in passes broken up with 12 and in interceptions with four, and was No. 13 nationally in passes defended, via CFBStats.com. He was also a captain and a leader—not only of the defense, but of the entire 2013 Nebraska team.
So with Jean-Baptiste’s departure, who are the candidates to fill his shoes in 2014?
Mitchell is the obvious first candidate to replace Jean-Baptiste, as he is the only returning starting cornerback. Indeed, many depth charts last year had Mitchell or Jean-Baptiste listed as a starter opposite Ciante Evans.
So clearly Nebraska’s coaching staff has faith in Mitchell to do the job at corner. But Mitchell and Jean-Baptiste are two different players. The biggest difference between the two is size. Jean-Baptiste is 6’3” and 220 pounds, while Mitchell is 5’11” and 160 pounds. That size difference means Mitchell has to play corner in a different way, without relying on a size and length advantage of Jean-Baptiste to guard bigger receivers.
Many observers (including this dope) thought that Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose was primed for big things in 2013. After sitting his year out, Rose looked to bring SEC size and speed to a Blackshirt secondary that had suffered an unaccustomed wobble the year before.
Facts are pesky things, though, and 2013 didn't work out as planned for Rose. Congestion in the depth chart meant that Rose saw very little playing time, unable to unseat veterans like Jean-Baptiste, Evans and Andrew Green.
But now the depth chart is a lot clearer, and Rose has another year of experience in the program. It may sound like deja vu all over again, but Rose looks the best positioned in 2014 to play a major role in Nebraska’s secondary.
Between matured redshirts and junior college transfers, Nebraska has quite a bit of new talent coming into the secondary in 2014. But of that new talent, Boaz Joseph looks most likely to make an impact at cornerback.
Joseph was a cornerback in high school and considered the No. 89 cornerback prospect by 247Sports. At 6’1” and 190 pounds as a redshirt freshman, he has the size and the frame to play a similar type of game to Jean-Baptiste.
While Joseph will likely be looking up the depth chart as the season begins, look for him to make an impact as Nebraska attempts to fill a Jean-Baptiste-sized hole in its secondary.
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