After graduating key seniors from last year’s defensive backfield, the University of Toledo football team has a new group of cornerbacks who are taking advantage of the opportunity to show what they can do.
Under new cornerbacks coach Cory Robinson, the cornerback position has seen a four-man rotation, with junior Trevon Mathis and redshirt freshman Ka'dar Hollman starting the first three games. Junior Jordan Martin and redshirt freshman Aaron Covington have come off the bench and provided depth.
“It’s a next man-up mentality,” Robinson said.
“That’s what we are trying to develop here as a culture, starting with coach [Jason] Candle. It’s your time. Our deal has been chasing your purpose and kind of building a new legacy. If you give your guys ownership over their responsibilities and over this opportunity, it’s really exciting to see how they respond. That’s all we’ve done is just challenge them to respond.”
Mathis, playing behind Cheatham Norrils and Christian Dukes, played in 11 games last season, starting four. As the most experienced player at the position, he has taken on a leadership role this season.
“I’ve taken on that role after Cheatham Norrils and Christian Dukes left,” Mathis said. “They were great locker room guys, and I’m just doing what they taught me and trying to lead these guys and be a great example for them.”
So far, the results have been good for the group, as the defense has limited its first three opponents to 130.7 passing yards per game.
Mathis said, under the guidance of Robinson, the game has slowed down for him and he has been able to focus on his metal approach.
For Hollman, sitting out last year was tough, but he has welcomed the chance to start opposite Mathis.
“Last year was difficult,” Hollman said.
“At the same time, though, everybody on the team has a role and you have to just accept that and still be a team player. I was just getting better and perfecting my craft. It’s been a real good experience this year. I just have to have confidence in myself and not be nervous and just go out there and have fun and just enjoy the game I’ve been playing my whole life.”
Hollman said the depth and talent at the position has allowed him to stay focused and driven him to compete harder.
“The cornerback room is real good,” Hollman said. “It’s not just one person or two people, we’ve got like five or six. Any one of us could be the person that day, so I can’t afford to have a bad day.”
This season, Hollman has eight tackles and five pass breakups, while Mathis has six tackles and one pass breakup.
Martin is coming back from a redshirt season because of injury after he started eight games as a sophomore in 2014. Covington is seeing his first game action this season after a redshirt season.
Robinson, who was previously director of player personnel at Maryland, said he is impressed with the level of play at the position.
“It’s an awesome group of guys,” he said.
“These guys are a competitive group of dudes that want to go out and be successful. They have a lot of pride. I think a strong foundation was laid here in the cornerback room, and we’re just trying to build on the success that we’ve already had.”
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