April 17, 2014
Cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith makes a point during spring practice (Lauren Barnard photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Chris Davis is gone, headed for the NFL. Auburn cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith says Davis will be missed, but he has a good feeling about those still around and those to come.
Smith knows his players better heading into Saturday’s A-Day game than he did a year ago, when he saw them do their parts to help win an SEC championship. The focus now is on winning another one.
“You better always remember that the shelf life of a team is one year, and then that team is new again,” Smith said. “I feel better because I know more about my guys, but other people know more about us, too. I don’t know that we were on anybody’s mind last year. We might be right now.
“We’d better be chasing ourselves. We’d better be taking a good, close look at everything we do, and we definitely do that.”
Senior Jonathon Mincy has moved from field corner position to the boundary position vacated by Davis. Junior Jonathan Jones, plagued by injuries much of last season, is running No. 1 at the field position. Next in line, Smith says, is senior Trovon Reed, a converted wide receiver.
Mincy goes into his third season as a fulltime starter. And he’ll be called on to be a leader.
“We moved him from the field to the boundary,” Smith said. “For the most part, he has responded to the challenge. He’s looked steady more times than not.”
Typically, the boundary position is played by the team’s best and most experienced corner.
“Things happen quicker to the boundary,” Smith said. “To the field, you are further from the ball. Very few people design their offenses to attack the field, because it’s a longer throw and more things can happen. Things happen faster when you are closer to the ball.”
Jones, with sprinter’s speed, will go into preseason practice as a starter for the first time. That comes as no surprise to his coach.
“Jonathan has not missed a practice,” Smith said. He’s performed well. I had a lot of trust and belief in Jonathan anyway. Last year he had a lot of bad luck - broke his ankle in a freak way, hurt his knee. I recruited Jonathan (for Mississippi State) out of high school, so I knew about his skill set.
“He’s been steady. He’s worked at it. He knows there will be unanswered questions until he actually does it in a consistent basis in a game, but as far as the skill set we need, he has it.”
Even Smith has been surprised by Reed’s rapid progress since moving from wide receiver.
“I’ve been impressed,” Smith said. “He’s been a really good student. He’s done some really good things. He’s probably our third corner right now. I feel comfortable saying that. I wouldn’t have a problem putting him in a game. He has really done well.”
Sophomores Kamryn Melton and T.J. Davis, Smith says, are pushing hard from behind and shouldn’t be counted out. And then there is junior Josh Holsey, who can and has played every position in the secondary. Holsey, who has had no contact in spring practice, started the first six games of last season at safety before undergoing knee surgery. He was a starting cornerback as a freshman in 2012.
“We know Holsey can play the boundary corner,” Smith said. “We know Holsey can play dime. We know he can play safety. You can’t put a price tag on having a guy that has the skill set to do a lot of different things. That gives us flexibility.”
True freshman Kalvarez Bessent and Nick Ruffin will arrive in the summer. Smith says they will get immediate attention.
“We signed them to play,” Smith said. “We are going to hit the ground running with them. I feel like we have a better feel for the guys we have here. Moving forward, we are going to have a lot of options.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: