When MSU assistant coach Melvin Smith surveys his position group, he doesn't see those coveted four or five-star recruits that were near the top of recruiting rankings. But what he does see is a ton of work ethic and a wealth of experience.
Smith and the MSU defense saw that this spring. Back in the fold were the likes of juniors Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks as well as seniors Damein Anderson and Marvin Bure. Also getting their first real looks on 'the island' were redshirt freshmen Jay Hughes and Jamerson Love.
"The thing about it is that they are tough and they know this game and know this league," said Smith. "I like tough hard-nosed guys that are trained to play defensive back. They've all be trained to be db's and they are not five-star guys. They are all blue-collar guys and know the only way they can be successful is by working hard.
"They are just hard-nosed corners and I really like that about him."
Last year Broomfield had 52 tackles and shared the team lead with three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two fumble recoveries. Yet Broomfield's weakness last year was wrapping up on tackles in open space. That was definitely a point of emphasis this spring and Smith noted of Broomfield's improvements.
"One of the things we worked on was his tackling," said Smith of Broomfield. "I think his tackling has come a long way, a really long way. When Corey first got here he weighed 145 pounds and really struggled to make tackles. I've been blessed to coach him now coaching into his fourth year. He has come a long way and made some good tackles this spring.
"The guy I saw this spring go and tackle Chris Relf wasn't the guy last year that couldn't go and tackle the guys from Alabama and LSU."
Like Broomfield, Banks also had three picks and had a team-best 10 PBUs. Late in the spring, though, Banks began working primarily at free safety and the position he played at as a true freshman in 2009.
"Johnthan gives us the luxury to train him at safety," said Smith. "He showed us in two weeks that he can play corner and he is a really good player. We just kinda moved him to safety to continue his training there. He gives us a chance to where if someone gets injured at safety then we have a luxury with Banks."
Known mostly for his special teams play, Bure got his share of reps this spring with the first-team corners and also in different defensive packages. In 2010 Bure had six tackles with one fumble forced and one fumble recovery.
Also getting more reps at corner with Banks' move to safety was Anderson, who had 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries last season.
"One day Bure played first-team corner and then the nickel spot and dime out, too in the same day," said Smith. "So he didn't get many breaks and he gives us that flexability. And then D.A. (Anderson) can play the boundry corner, Bure can play the boundry in the field and Banks and Broomfield are our top two corners. So our depth situation gives us our best overall group we've had in a long, long time."
This spring also gave opportunities to give Hughes and Love their most practice reps to date in their college careers. Both redshirted as true freshmen last fall and Smith was pleased with their progress this spring. Hughes had a couple of interceptions during scrimmage settings while Love also helped in the return game before a broken finger haulted his availability in the last two days of spring.
"I really like them," said Smith of his two young corners. "They have really worked hard and they get better every day and finished off strong. They really now know what they are doing and they are showing confidence. I like the strides they made and that comes with getting even more experience."
All in all, the makeup of this group bodes well for a secondary that also possesses much experience at the safety slots.
"If we're not gonna be any good at corner this year then we're never gonna be at corner," said Smith. "I say that because we have an experienced group and they've played a lot of SEC football. I have some pretty expectations for these guys."