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Indiana football position preview: Cornerbacks

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Congrats to Shaun Wade on being named the Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Did you see the recent news that reigning Shaun Wade, the Big Ten’s reigning Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year* and a fifth-round draft pick, was already traded by the Baltimore Ravens before having ever played a snap in the league?

*This award is not, and has never been, acknowledged in this household, as of December 2020.

However, the award’s spiritual recipient, Indiana’s Tiawan Mullen, is back in Bloomington after becoming the first Hoosiers cornerback to earn first-team All-America honors. He’ll headline an Indiana cornerback room that, along with linebacker, quarterback and wide receiver, is a position group that has experience and All-America-caliber talent.

The depth chart

Here’s what IU’s depth chart at cornerback looked like when the Hoosiers released their first two-deep of the season:

CB

23 Jaylin Williams, 6-0, 182, Sr.

2 Reese Taylor, 5-11, 185, Sr.

CB

3 Tiawan Mullen, 5-10, 180, Jr.

7 Christopher Keys, 6-0, 185, Fr.

Returning production

Indiana cornerbacks Mullen, Jaylin Williams and Reese Taylor ranked fourth, sixth and seventh on the team in tackles last season, respectively, which, in a vacuum, may not be a good sign because it suggests opposing offenses made it that far into the defensive backfield. But given how aggressive IU’s defense was under former defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, who loved dialing up a good corner blitz, those tackling numbers are arguably as much of a sign of the Hoosiers being proactive, as they are the team’s defense being reactive.

Tiawan Mullen: 37 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT, 4 PD
Jaylin Williams: 30 total tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 4 INT, 1 PD
Reese Taylor: 24 total tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 7 PD

This trio combined for 5.5 sacks in eight games. (Once again, they’re cornerbacks!)

They picked off a combined eight passes, or roughly half of the team’s 17 interceptions, which ranked second nationally. Indiana’s interceptions-per-game average of 2.13 per game, which, holy shit, that’s an exhilarating number to write, ranked first nationally by almost half an interception per game. (Ohio ranked second at 1.67 per game).

Based on the law of averages, the Hoosiers are likely due for a (at least a relative) step back in terms of their turnover margin, particularly in regards to the number of interceptions forced, and we’ll have to see how sustainable IU’s frequent corner blitzing is, especially with a front four that has to replace the production of first-team All-Big Ten defensive tackle Jerome Johnson (18 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks).

But the Hoosiers have an All-American corner on one side of the field and a pair of seniors who will share time lining up on the opposite hash mark, so even if IU’s per-game sack and interception numbers at the position take a bit of a year-over-year nose dive in 2021, it might just be because of the natural order of the universe and not for a lack of talent or experience.