Kansas DC Clint Bowen knows value of patience in developing big cornerbacks
Some college football players who aren't ready to play the position at which they have the highest long-term ceilings don't ever get to play those positions because they are branded as "too this" or "not enough that" very early and moved based on what they can do for a team today, not what they can do in the future.
Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen doesn't want to be that coach who moves an athlete to a less demanding position. Specifically, he doesn't want to be the guy who turns a cornerback into a safety too quickly.
Freshman defensive back Robert Topps from Chicago is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. The issue isn't whether Topps can handle press coverage against Big 12 receivers today, rather whether he can develop into that player.
"We have him at corner right now. That’s one of those things that I read all the time," Bowen said. "As soon as you bring in a big DB, as soon you put him at corner, people say, ‘We’ve got to put him at safety.’ Then if you have a big safety, ‘Oh, we have to move him to linebacker.’ People say that all the time. At corner, you have to be patient with big corners. If you remember, we moved Aqib Talib to safety his first year because those kids, they don’t have their grown-man body yet. And they don’t have the strong hips and the quick feet and the things that take time to develop.”
Bowen is passionate on the subject.
“It’s my opinion, you take the Dexter McDonalds, the Aqib Talibs, even JaCorey Shepherd was a little bit bigger," Bowen said, "it takes them longer to develop and people give up on them so quickly. You can’t give up on them. They’re going to look worse when they’re younger. Some little 5-8 jitterbug corner will go out and look quick as heck and you think he’s good. The bigger guy’s getting beat. But you’ve got to hang in there with the bigger guy. You’ve got to hang in there and develop him.
"That’s how you get big corners and you have to have the them out there and people always want to give up on them. I’m going to give Robert as much time as he needs to stay out there and play corner. And if those guys develop, now you’ve got the special ones. There are a million 5-9 guys, but to get a 6-1 one is tough. We have to invest time in Robert.”
Junior college recruits Shakial Taylor and Hasan Defense, the projected starters, will be judged on what they can do today. KU needs them to produce immediately. A true freshman such as Topps will be given every chance to show he can play corner before being moved to safety.