Texas Tech came out of spring practice with four sophomores manning the cornerback slots in the two-deep. If the Red Raiders thought they were young at the position then, take a look now.
On Monday, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said he expects Tevin Madison and Jah’Shawn Johnson to be in the two-deep based on how they’ve looked this summer and in the first two weeks of preseason practice. Both are first-semester freshmen.
Each of the last two weeks, Madison’s has been the first name off Wallerstedt’s tongue when he discussed cornerbacks.
“Tevin continues to have a good camp,” Wallerstedt said. “Jah’Shawn Johnson’s having a good camp, so those guys are battling it out.”
That two freshmen might walk in the door and play speaks well of them, but makes the position no less of a question mark, which Wallerstedt seemed to acknowledge.
“The corner play’s got to come on,” he said. “If we do a good job up front, then that’ll ease it in the back half.”
Based on Wallerstedt’s comments, sophomore Justis Nelson remains the number-one corner, and sophomores La’Darius Newbold and Thierry Nguema and the two freshmen might be competing for three spots in the two-deep.
“I think Justis Nelson continues to be solid for us,” Wallerstedt said. “He had an interception in the scrimmage (Saturday). La’Darius is hot and cold at times. (He) still needs to come on, still young. Thierry’s been solid for us. So I think there’s some good depth, some guys that are capable.”
Tech’s cornerback ranks thinned after the spring semester. Dee Paul, struggling academically and with the transition from a small town to a major university, transferred to Tarleton State. Junior Jeremy Reynolds, who didn’t practice in the spring, left the program.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury moved junior Tyler Middleton to wide receiver to address a numbers shortage when Derreck Edwards and Dominique Wheeler departed, though Wheeler has since rejoined the team.
And Nigel Bethel, the most touted of the freshmen signees, was suspended for the first three games for an altercation with a women’s basketball player during a pickup game.
Madison, in particular, seems to be seizing the opportunity. The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder from Fayette County, Alabama, made some waves even before practice started with his tenacity in summer 7-on-7s.
The day before practice commenced, Wallerstedt said, “You look at him and you think maybe redshirt him because of his lack of size right now, but I think he’s got a little swagger, a guy that competes.”
That squares with what Madison showed last season, when he played his senior year with a brace to protect a torn triceps and a chipped bone in his left elbow. He still caught 49 passes for 1,053 yards and intercepted five passes. The year before, he caught 62 passes for 1,166 yards and 17 TDs for a state-finals team.
The defensive staff initially projected Johnson at safety, then switched him to corner in the wake of Bethel’s suspension. The 5-10, 170-pound Ennis graduate, a son of former Dallas Cowboy Keith Davis, made 114 tackles, seven interceptions and 11 pass breakups last year.
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