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Sooner cornerbacks face challenging role filled with criticism

By John Helsley Published: August 24, 2008
NORMAN — Island life conjures up dreamy images.

Surf and sun. Palm trees and pina coladas. A cool breeze at sunset.

No such paradise exists for football cornerbacks.

Being ‘on an island' is the worst part of a cornerbacks' job. That means you're left alone to defend against a receiver, far from any of your teammates. Succeed on the island and you're doing your job. Fail and you're the goat.

"When you're out there, sometimes you're by yourself,” said Sooner junior Brian Jackson, pegged to fill one of the vacancies created by the loss of last year's starters, Reggie Smith and Marcus Walker.

And even in a stadium filled with 84,000 people, life as a corner can be mighty lonely.

"It's all eyes on you,” said sophomore Dominique Franks, who's also in the mix at corner. "If a big play happens, everyone knows where it came from.

"If it's in the passing game, it's the cornerback's fault.”

Cornerbacks are graded on a rigid curve. They can own their piece of turf for 71 plays, controlling passing lanes and shutting off scoring plays, yet if No. 72 goes over their head...

"Trust me, I know,” said current safety Nic Harris. "Oregon. 2005. At Oregon.”

Harris was in at nickelback when the Ducks used some help from the officials and a late flurry to stun the Sooners 34-33. Harris allowed Oregon receiver Brian Paysinger to streak past him for the winning touchdown catch in the final minute.

Squeezing the Sooner secondary even more is the players who have come before them.

Continue reading this story on the...

Oklahoma cornerbacks Dominique Franks, left and Brian Jackson know all too well the lonely feeling of playing "on an island.” By Chris Lansberger, The Oklahoman

How I do what I do

Brian Jackson explains what it's really like when you're working the dirty job of being a cornerback:

"My job is to completely shut down the receiver I'm guarding. In man-to-man, it's my job to keep him from catching the ball.

"Zone coverage or deep coverage, you've got one-third of the field to cover. And I might be in run support.

"It's 11-on-11 every down. You've got to have one for one. Every play, you're going to have something to take care of. The way you approach it is key.

"You're either going to catch the ball, or you're not going to catch it. And it's my job to keep you from catching it.”

By John Helsley


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