April 14, 2008

Another option at cornerback emerging?

In the sweepstakes for the starting cornerback position opposite Jamar Wall, very few observers considered Taylor Charbonnet to be anything more than a number on the roster. The conventional wisdom was that he was a long-term project who needed more time in the weight room to develop physically in order to compete at the Big 12 level.

Surely veterans such as Brent Nickerson, Pete Richardson and DeShon Sanders would be far more advanced than Charbonnet? Surely fleet physical specimens like LaRon Moore and Jarrel Routt would have a major leg up on the slight freshman from greater Houston?

How quickly we forget that size is not everything at the cornerback position. Joselio Hanson, the only ex-Red Raider cornerback currently plying his skills in the NFL, is about the same size as Charbonnet. And Eric Everett, another sub-170 Texas Tech corner, played five seasons in the NFL from 1988 through 1992. So there most definitely is a precedent for smallish corners making the prime time…if they have talent.

And Taylor Charbonnet has talent.

That talent, incidentally, has truly come to the fore over the course of the last few practices. And Charbonnet has a ready explanation as to why.

"I feel real good about it [his spring performance], I mean, when we first started those first few days I learned a lot and got the whole scheme down, but these last few days it's become natural and I've just been able to play exactly like it was when I was in high school when I learned all my stuff."

In other words, it has clicked. And the results have been quite dramatic. Early in the spring Charbonnet was fairly invisible. He was not disgracing himself, mind you, but neither was he making many plays. More recently, however, he has been as impressive as any corner on the team.

Part of the reason for Charbonnet's rapid maturation is the presence of another Charbonnet in the secondary. Taylor's older brother Daniel is a senior who's currently battling for a starting position at safety. Moreover, Daniel began his career at Tech as a corner. He knows, therefore, whereof he speaks when it comes to the cornerback position. And Daniel has spoken to Taylor.

"It [the transition from high school to college] was real easy. It [Daniel's presence] made it so much easier. 'Cause stepping in here in the summer, I had already talked to him about everything, so basically it was a real smooth transition, just because I had him here the whole time."

Chances are, however, that the younger Charbonnet rarely encountered backs as physical as Aaron Crawford and Baron Batch while playing high school ball in The Woodlands. And given his slender physique, one wonders how Charbonnet summons the resolve to come up and put a stick on one of Tech's freight trains. For Charbonnet the Younger, it's a case of matter over mind.

"You know, you just don't really think about it. You know, I think once you start thinking about it, that's when you get nervous and scared or something. You don't think about it, you come in aggressively and just take it on, and most of the time if you hit 'em low enough they'll go down," Charbonnet states.

Whatever the technique, it has worked. Charbonnet, despite his lack of heft, has been a solid tackler.

Which brings up the question of just how much he may actually contribute to the team during his freshman season. Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, for one, likes what he's seen to this point, "Taylor is progressing very well so far this spring. He still needs to continue learning and assimilating within the scheme. Physically, he has all the tools to make a fine corner. Special teams for sure, and if he's the best corner, he will start."

To Charbonnet's mind, starting or not starting, any contribution is a good contribution.

"I want to be able to play wherever it is, like wherever, I just want to get on the field wherever that is, wherever coach feels like I belong. And whether it's starting corner or third-team corner or whatever, special teams, I just want to make it to the field somewhere."

As of this juncture, the odds are that Charbonnet's wishes will be granted. And the Red Raiders may just have themselves one whale of a cornerback for four years to come.

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