STILLWATER — Jason Jones knew he would have his hands full this fall.
The Oklahoma State cornerbacks coach had three true freshman cornerbacks arriving on campus and was faced with replacing Perrish Cox and Terrance Anderson, OSU's starting cornerbacks in 2009.
So Jones came up with a plan. OSU's three returning cornerbacks (Andrew McGee, Brodrick Brown and Andrae May) would mentor the incoming cornerbacks (Devin Hedgepeth, Justin Gilbert and Larry Stephens). McGee took Hedgepeth, Brown took Gilbert and May took Stephens.
"Those are three older guys who have taken the younger guys and said that guy is a direct reflection of me," Jones said. "So he's going to know his business on and off the field."
From the time the newcomers stepped on campus, the older players have shown the freshmen everything it takes — from going to class, to spending time watching film, to taking every practice rep seriously.
"I thank Coach Jones for that (idea)," McGee said. "He set it up pretty nice."
McGee and Hedgepeth have bonded to the point McGee calls the freshman from Derby, Kan., "my little brother" and has taken the youngster on speaking engagements with him.
"When I'm going anywhere to speak, he's the first one I want to call," McGee said.
Brown and Gilbert have bonded thanks to similar interests.
"I pay close attention to him," Brown said. "I want him to do his job and be ready to play, to rise to the occasion if it comes his way. I want to give my knowledge to him so when I leave, he can be better than I was."
May and Stephens have known each other for years. They played together at Houston North Shore High School, so that pairing was a natural fit.
"We know each other very well," May said. "If he's wrong, I correct him and point him in the right direction to make plays. I make sure he's going to class, just stuff like that."
The mentorship plan is unique. The three veterans are actively pushing the freshman to get better — even if it means someday losing a starting job.
"That's true, but my dad always told me once you get on the field you don't have any friends," McGee said. "We're friends, he's like my little brother, but I know he's wanting to play more and I respect that."
Said Brown: "I don't think about that at all. I want him to be the best he can be and for me to be the best I can be."
It's already happened.
While May still sees plenty of playing time, he's already been surpassed by Hedgepeth and Gilbert on the depth chart. But he doesn't seem to mind. He's focused on the bigger picture.
"You could say it's tough (to mentor a guy who can take your job), but I don't look at it like that. I just want to have a better team," May said. "It's never about you, it's about how much you can help the team."
Guiding hand Oklahoma State's three true freshmen cornerbacks have been given a guiding hand by the Cowboys three veteran corners. Here's a closer look at the three mentors and students and their impacts through three games: Mentor: Andrew McGee, Sr., Magee, Miss. The overall leader of the cornerback group, McGee returned from a neck injury to become the foundation of the Cowboys cornerbacks. Student: Devin Hedgepeth, True Fr., Derby, Kan. Hedgepeth has been the Pokes' most impressive freshman cornerback and filled in for McGee against Troy to make key plays to help OSU win. Mentor: Brodrick Brown, Redshirt Soph., Houston Brown has been solid this season, his first as a full-time starter. He'll be the anchor of OSU's cornerbacks in 2011. Student: Justin Gilbert, True Fr., Huntsville, Texas One of the stars for fall camp, Gilbert has made a fairly smooth transition to cornerback after starring at quarterback in high school. He's already broken into the Cowboys' two-deep behind Brown. Mentor: Andrae May, Soph., Houston Was brought out of redshirt late in 2009 and brings good size and skills to the position. He recorded his first-career interception, against Tulsa, on Sept. 18. Student: Larry Stephens, True Fr., Houston From the same high school (North Shore) as May. Stephens is a contributor on special teams and has seen time on defense during the Pokes' two blowout wins. By Brandon Chatmon