2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Cornerbacks

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team Cornerbacks:

Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida

Even though Purifoy had an excellent 2012 season, he was overshadowed by teammates like Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd. Purifoy figures to be the star of a talented Gators defense this year with those two now in the NFL.

Purifoy broke out last year, making large impacts on defense and special teams. Florida surprisingly won 11 games with its tough defense leading the way. He was a key cog as the team’s top cover corner. Purifoy recorded 51 tackles, five passes broken up and three forced fumbles in 2012. The Gators’ defensive scheme largely left him on an island in man coverage, yet he maintained good defense.

The sophomore was also excellent on special teams, too. All three of his forced fumbles came on special teams and he blocked two kicks. One of the blocked punts was scooped by teammate Jelani Jenkins and returned for a touchdown in the final seconds of a 27-20 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Purifoy was a tremendous gunner on punt coverage in 2012.

The 6-foot-1, 189-pounder will be the Gators’ top cornerback in 2013. He also will be a core special teams player. Purifoy has the size to match up against big receivers and his tremendous speed allows him to run with speed receivers. Florida is working him at wide receiver as well due that speed and athleticism.

It could be hard for Purifoy to handle his heavy workload, but the Gators have said that cornerback is his top priority. Purifoy looks poised for a monster season and could be one of the best cornerbacks in college football since he now has a year of experience.

Bradley Roby, Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes ran the table to an undefeated season last year and Roby was a big reason why. The Buckeyes had a talented stop unit and Roby was the play-maker in their secondary. He was fantastic in coverage throughout 2012, totaling 63 tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, 17 passes broken up and two interceptions. Roby showed excellent instincts seemed to always work his way around the ball even when plays didn’t go directly to him.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder is very fast and has a knack for big plays. Even though he only had two interceptions last year, he has good ball skills and does an impressive job of defending the ball. It was difficult for offenses to get completions going against Roby. He broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, totaling 47 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble.

Ohio State has huge expectations for the 2013 season and play-makers like Roby are one of the reasons why the Buckeyes are legitiamte contenders for the National Championship. He has an easy slate of receivers on the schedule so the third-year starter should be poised for a dominant season.

Second-Team Cornerbacks:

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

The Ducks are known for having a prolific offense that lights up the scoreboard on a weekly basis, but they also had a tough stop unit last year that did a good job of limiting opponents. Oregon had a lot of second half of leads and its pass defense was to the challenge of closing the door. The coverage of Ekpre-Olomu was a big reason why the Ducks had a tough pass defense.

Ekpre-Olomu totaled 63 tackles with four interceptions, six forced fumbles and 16 passes defensed last year. He showed good instincts, ball skills and coverage ability. Against USC and star receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, Ekpre-Olomu had some good and bad moments. He played a lot of press man and held his own with an interception and a few passes broken up in the end zone, but he also was beaten for a score and was called for a few pass interference penalties.

Ekpre-Olomu needs to improve his strength, physicality and run defense. He also has a tendency to grab too much on receivers. However, now that Ekpre-Olomu has experience, he should be better. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder is being counted on to provide big plays as Oregon’s defense tries to make up for the loss of some highly talented pass-defenders like Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso. Ekpre-Olomu could have a big season in the pass-happy Pac-12 and should challenge for First-Team All-American honors.

Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma

The Sooners disappointed in 2012, but Colvin was one of the players who stepped up with an impressive season. He stood out against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. Colvin has nice man-coverage ability with the quickness and flexibility to turn and run with receivers downfield. He also does a nice job of playing the ball.

Colvin had four interceptions, 11 passes broken up, 61 tackles and two sacks last year. The 6-foot, 180-pounder plays in a pass-happy conference that is the Arena league of college football. Colvin is one of the top defensive prospects in the Big XII and should see plenty of opportunity to impress this fall.

The Sooners lost Demontre Hurst and Tony Jefferson from their secondary, so Colvin will be counted on to provide a big impact. It wouldn’t be surprising if the junior has a big eason and is one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

Third-Team Cornerbacks:

Jason Verrett, TCU

If Verrett can match or impove on his interception total from 2012, he could easily be much higher and a First-Team All-American. Voters have a tendency to emphasis players with big interception totals and Verrett broke out with six picks last season. While the 5-foot-10, 176-pounder is undersized, he is very fast with good athletic ability to go with tremendous ball skills.

Verrett also had 16 passes broken up, 63 tackles and a blocked kick last year. Numerous publications listed the junior as a First-Team All-American. He started 10 games in 2011 and had a solid debut, totaling 58 tackles with one interception and four passes broken up.

It wouldn’t be surprising if teams try to avoid Verrett this fall, but playing in the Big XII should still afford him with enough opportunities to impress.

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Gilbert was impressive last year in the pass-happy Big XII. The junior held up well in man coverage and was very solid against Baylor’s Terrance Williams. Gilbert was one of the few defensive backs who was able to hold Williams in check during 2012.

Gilbert recorded 63 tackles, nine passes defensed and averaged 26 yards per kick return last season. He had an excellent 2011 campaign with 59 tackles, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions. Gilbert has size and ball skills. He had interceptions against the top three quarterbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft; Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill.

The 6-foot, 194-pound senior, but he figures to draw the No. 1 receiver every Saturday this year. If Gilbert can produce similar numbers as last season with a nice interception total, he could be a candidate for First-Team All-American status.

Honorable Mentions: Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett, Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs, Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom, Georgia cornerback Damian Swann, Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson, Alabama cornerback Deion Blue, North Carolina cornerback Tre Boston, Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum, Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel, Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen, Virginia cornerback Demetrious Nicholson and Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons.

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