INSIDE SLANTS ON THE PROGRAM
The Pirate Experience
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
By Kevin Monroe
Monroe, color analyst
for the Pirate ISP Sports
Radio Network, was a standout defensive back
for East Carolina from 1995-99.
Bookend corners corner foes
All Rights Reserved.
(Photos: ECU SID)
When the season began, the outlook for East
Carolina on the defensive side of the ball was very bright. The Pirates
returned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year C.J. Wilson and seven
other defensive starters.
ECU has encountered some bumps in the road
along the way. There have been injuries throughout the season that forced
the Pirates to play some backups that weren’t quite ready.
The two biggest injuries came to safety Levin
Neal and corner Emanuel Davis. ECU gave up multiple deep passes during the
time that Neal and Davis were missing. When they returned, the defense as a
whole was shored up and the play of the secondary led that surge.
The catalyst behind the Pirates' good
secondary play has been that of their two sophomore corners. Travis Simmons
and the aforementioned Davis have been a phenomenal twosome for the Pirates.
It’s been several years since the Pirates last
had two players with the talent of Simmons and Davis that have also
performed well on game day. You would have to go back at least as far as Travis
Williams and Kasey Ross to identify a similar dynamic duo, but those two didn’t play this well until later in
Any defensive coordinator will tell
you that if you don’t have corners that you trust to handle themselves in
one-on-one coverage then you can’t blitz. When you don’t have corners that
you can trust, then you have to protect them over the top with safeties and
underneath with linebackers.
In my opinion, cornerback is the most
difficult position on the field to play. Not only are corners usually among the best
athletes on the team, they also have to be tough kids with short memories.
Even the best corners get beaten for touchdowns from time to time, but being
able to put that out of your mind and line up for the next play is what
playing the position is all about.
Some might say that wide receivers are the
best athletes on the field — and they are great athletes — but corners don’t
run down the field for a deep pass play and then take themselves out the
next play because they are a little winded.
Receivers are getting bigger and stronger
every year and it’s getting tougher for corners that usually average 5’9" to
compete with the 6’5" receivers, but that is the name of the game.
I heard it said once that being a corner out
there all by yourself where everyone knows when you make a mistake is like
being on Gilligan’s Island without the pretty girls and all the jokes.
Each corner brings something different to the
table. Travis Simmons is Mr. Dependable. Being dependable doesn’t sell
tickets, but it does win ball games. At 5'10" and 177 pounds, he is tall
enough to deal with most receivers and small enough to have great agility,
quick feet and good hips.
When the football is thrown to Simmons' side
of the field, you know that he will not only be in position to make a play
on the ball, but you can be sure he will make the tackle if the ball is
caught. Through 11 games, Travis is 8th on the team in tackles.
He has played in every game this season and a
few of those were without starting free safety Levin Neal or his counterpart
Emanuel Davis. During those games when he was playing without his comrades
and in the games that they have played together, he has always shown up and
Simmons' instincts and discipline are some of
the best I have seen from an ECU corner in some time.
Emanuel Davis is very similar to Travis in a
lot of ways. He is also super quick and very dependable. At 5’11" and 190
pounds, he is the more physical of the two corners and has had several big
hits this year.
Davis is second on the team in interceptions
with 2 (1 for a touchdown) and second on the team in pass breakups with 8.
He is just ahead of Travis on the tackles list, ranking 7th overall with 47.
What makes Emanuel special is his
fearlessness. He often toys with opposing quarterbacks and receivers with
his alignment before the snap. He likes to sit on routes and take chances
that might normally lead to big plays for the other team, but in his case he makes
it work. His speed and instincts usually put him in the right spot.
These days it’s rare to have one corner with
all the tools to be a big-time player, but the 2009 Pirates are lucky enough
to have two. They are still young in their careers as sophomores, but their
talent speaks for itself.
With continued tutelage from defensive backs
coach Rick Smith, this tandem could become very special.
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11/25/2009 02:08:02 AM