Senior Travis Johnson and junior Trumaine McBride have a leg up on the starting cornerbacks slots this fall, but there are plenty of snaps available for a third corner, a nickel back and/or a dime back.
One of the prime candidates for those duties is sophomore CB Nate Banks, a 5-11, 180-pounder who saw action in all 11 games last year.
"Nate has the pure speed you are looking for in a corner," said DB Coach Chris Rippon. "We will just have to see how he progresses in fall after not being able to work a lot in the offseason."
Banks had to have offseason hernia surgery and is just now getting back to full speed, a fact that has shaken his confidence a bit.
"I was not able to run for two months and not able to lift for three months," said Banks. "Before the injury, my plans were to get stronger in the offseason so I could be a more physical player. Now, I'm trying to use what time I have left in the offseason to get back to where I was and gain my confidence back."
Nate's goals for 2005 are fairly simple and straight to the point.
"I was just feeling my way through last year. I got more comfortable toward the end of the season, but 2004, my redshirt freshman year, was more of a learning experience than anything," he continued. "The next step is to make more of an impact on the defense. I want to earn a bigger role and help the defense in a larger capacity.
"I'm not giving up on being the starter, and we all know how injuries can affect a position, but my realistic goal right now - because of the surgery and being a little behind where I thought I'd be - is being the third corner or the nickel guy."
In spring, the coaches worked Nate some at both corners, but mostly on the left side. He does not think playing both sides would be a major problem.
"If the team needs me to back up on both sides, I think I can handle it. There is some adjustment and there are some differences, but I've been exposed to both sides and feel comfortable I could get the job done," explained Banks.
In the spring, Nate was used as the nickel (fifth) DB on some calls and S B. Brown was used in the nickel on others.
For the next three weeks, Banks will be working hard in the weight room and on his conditioning. He has ground to make up.
"My speed is where it was before the surgery, but my conditioning and strength development is behind. I have time to catch up, but I've got to work hard to do it," he noted.
Nate is a fan of the new defensive system.
"Our techniques are easier to learn and, I think, more effective. We have more help than before. We never cover a post pattern without help. That, in itself, makes the corner's job easier," Banks added.
Nate feels good about 2005, if everything falls into place between now and the first game.
"I've got to work hard and stay healthy. I've got to pay attention and learn. All of that is doable," he closed. "I weigh 178 now. I want to get to 185 if possible. If I can do that, I will hit the practice field and game field with a lot of confidence and will help the defense."