No, I’m not talking about Dallas Baptist University or the Danish Football Union (Dansk Boldspil-Union in Danish). I’m talking about a school that is renowned for producing defensive backs, Defensive Back University. Many colleges have competed for the title. LSU makes a strong case with Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, and Tre’Davious White, to name just a few.
Of course, Ohio State has produced cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore, and Jeff Okudah in recent years. Then there is Alabama with Marlon Humphrey, Trevon Diggs, and Landon Collins. They all have legitimate claims, but this year may be different.
There are two schools that each have a pair of cornerbacks entering the 2023 NFL Draft who could be making a case to be 2023’s DBU. Both Maryland and South Carolina have a pair of great athletes at corner that fit exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals need to secure their secondary of the future.
Maryland has Deonte Banks and Jakorian Bennett, while South Carolina has Cam Smith and Darius Rush. All four are excellent athletes and extremely physical.
Let’s take a look.
South Carolina and Maryland— Not NOT Zac Taylor (@CoachMinich) April 2, 2023
Lock Down and Shut Down pic.twitter.com/gavoPXhAjF
Maryland cornerback Banks lit up the NFL Combine, scoring a perfect ten RAS (Relative Athletic Score), and his film is equally impressive.
In the clip above, Banks shows smooth hips, as he transitions from a press alignment to run with the fade. You have to earn the right to look back for the ball in man coverage, and he certainly did here. His position in phase with the wide receiver created the opportunity for this interception.
Some of Deonte Banks reps in press coverage are hilarious lol pic.twitter.com/sJIUD9gDZb— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 25, 2023
Of course, Banks can be extremely physical as a press corner as well, and this clip above demonstrates that. Yes, this is a pass play, believe it or not. Banks doesn’t allow the receiver to even release from the line of scrimmage and drives him five yards deep.
Maybe Banks can play guard.
DEONTE BANKS CRAVES VIOLENCE.— Dalton Miller, Same as on Tik Tok ️ (@DaltonBMiller) February 28, 2023
I might like him too much. pic.twitter.com/7F1MKCFx41
His physicality is not limited to press coverage. Here, we see Banks on the edge. The tight end comes around from the other side to kick him out. Banks takes on the block, holds the edge, and constricts the running lane.
This is a fantastic play and one that would certainly get the attention of Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.
Banks is in red, at the top of the screen on the 39-yard line.
In this clip, Banks inserts into the gap to make the run stop. Filling like a linebacker, Banks gets the tackle for a loss inside the box.
He definitely fits the mold of cornerback the Bengals have been looking to acquire.
On the other side of the Terps defense is Bennett, and he is no slouch either.
In this clip, he is defending a hitch-n-go. As the receiver lowers his hips, indicating that he is breaking off his route, Bennett does the same, but he stays disciplined with his eyes. The receiver never turns his hips back to the quarterback, so Bennett does not break on the route. The receiver gets a step on him as he goes vertical once again, but Bennett has the speed to get back in his hip as the receiver looks for the ball. Again, more eye discipline. If Bennett looked back for the ball while he was out of phase, the receiver would have maintained his cushion.
JAKORIAN BENNETT ENDS HIS CAREER IN STYLE pic.twitter.com/QtJXq9EgzQ— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) December 30, 2022
Bennett also has excellent ball skills, which he demonstrates on the play above. He’s in good position between the quarterback and the receiver. He goes up and brings the ball down for the game-sealing interception.
Bennett is in white, on the bottom of the screen at the 14-yard line.
Of course, the Bengals expect their cornerbacks to come up in run support, and Bennett does a good job in this area as well.
On this play, he shows an excellent understanding of his role in the defense. The run play is designed to go away from him. He does not fly to the other side of the formation like a madman. He stays disciplined. Knowing that he is responsible for the cutback, he shuffles into the box. When the running back cuts back, Bennett is there to make the tackle for a short gain,
This is an excellent play.
Bennett is in white, lined up over the receiver to the far left of the screen.
Oddly enough, he does the exact opposite thing on this play, but he’s still correct according to his assignment. He is coming on a blitz and the offense runs the ball away from him. Bennett keeps coming and runs the back down from behind.
A fantastic effort!
Love the reactiveness by South Carolina DB Darius Rush pic.twitter.com/3X17c8soHx— Joe DeLeone (@joedeleone) February 3, 2023
And that brings us to the Gamecocks.
Here is a closeup look at Darius Rush in press coverage. He does a great job of locking his eyes on the receiver’s hips. When the receiver breaks off his route, Rush matches. He breaks underneath and gets the interception.
Love how smoothly Darius Rush flips his hips to get back in phase with the receiver after he crosses face. Have no doubts that the #Cowboys will be big fans of the South Carolina CB. pic.twitter.com/E2T5TgrVer— John Owning (@JohnOwning) February 5, 2023
The clip above was from a one-on-one drill. This play is basically the exact same thing but in live game action.
This time, the receiver stems his route to the inside. When Rush turns in, the receiver takes his route back outside. Rush demonstrates very smooth hips, as he flips back to the outside to stay on top of the route. When the ball comes, Rush breaks under the route with great speed and makes the pick. He nearly takes it to the house before getting knocked out of bounds.
Rush is a playmaker.
Even though it wasn’t an interception, this play on the fade ball is even more impressive.
The receiver had a step on Rush, but he was still able to get his hand in there and swat the ball away. This was a great effort to make the play.
Watch Darius Rush #28 put on some effort and pursuit to grab a wild TFL on future high draft pick Barion Brown pic.twitter.com/XYi1JTdIbu— Andrew Marro (@jungleboi_DM) February 10, 2023
And speaking of effort, take a look at this play.
Rush is out of the screen, but he is lined up over the slot to the left side. The play is intended to go wide to that side, but the ball carrier cuts it all the way back to the right. Rush stays with it and makes the tackle for a loss.
Opposite of Rush is Cam Smith, who also fits the Bengals profile.
In this clip, he demonstrates excellent footwork as he transitions from a backpedal to run with the vertical route. He is in excellent position and shows great ball skills, bringing in the interception.
Smith excels in both man and zone coverages. On this play, he makes a great read and breaks with speed for another interception.
Smith is in white, at the 26-yard line on the bottom of the screen.
Smith is also a strong tackler.
Here, the receiver goes inside to crack block the safety. The offense throws a swing pass to the running back. Smith is unblocked and the ball carrier is expected to make him miss. That doesn’t happen. Smith squares him up and makes a good high tackle for a short gain.
If it’s tackles you like, check out this one. It’s not often you see a cornerback stop someone cold on the goal line, but Smith does just that on this play. Smith is exactly the type of physical player that Lou Anarumo loves.
This year’s draft features a number of talented cornerbacks, but none of them fit the Bengals better than the pair from Maryland and the duo from South Carolina.