What’s the ideal size for a cornerback?

Tag: Dior Mathis

12Nov 2010
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What’s the ideal size for a cornerback?

In response to a recent discussion over on MGoBlog about preferred heights for cornerbacks, I figured that I would do a little bit of research into the heights of cornerbacks.  In general, I am not a big fan of short cornerbacks.  That has factored into my assessments of several Michigan recruits or potential recruits, including Cass Tech Technicians Boubacar Cissoko, Dior Mathis, and Delonte Hollowell.

Presumably, Michigan coaches, players, and fans would like to see Michigan products have success at the NFL level.  Of course, not every Wolverine will make it to the NFL or have success there, and college production is separate from the impact on the professional game.  However, I think it’s relevant to look at Pro Bowl cornerback size.  After all, trends in the NFL generally trickle down to college and then high school.

On to the data . . .

I looked at the cornerbacks selected for the Pro Bowls over 10 seasons, from 2001-2010.  Overall, there were 69 cornerback selections for those Pro Bowls (3 per conference each year, plus injury replacements).

The tallest cornerback to make the Pro Bowl was Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bobby Taylor at 6’3″.

The shortest cornerbacks to make the Pro Bowl were the quartet of Aaron Glenn, Antoine Winfield, Cortland Finnegan, and Dre Bly, all of whom measured in at 5’9″.

Over 46% of the selections for the Pro Bowl came from players who were 5’10” or 5’11”.

I presume that most players who are 6’3″ or taller get steered away from the cornerback position; most are probably either steered toward safety or told to put on weight and become a linebacker.  Of course, there’s also a trend of tall wide receivers in football, so many skilled, tall athletes probably don’t play defense.  On the other hand, I would venture a guess that there is a much larger group of athletic kids who are 5’8″ or 5’9″ and get steered toward cornerback in college and the NFL.  For every 6’3″ wanna-be cornerback out there, one could probably find ten 5’9″ wanna-be corners.  So the pool of taller players is likely much smaller than that of short corners.

In summary, NFL Pro Bowl selections over the last decade support the idea that diminutive cornerbacks don’t have great success at the NFL level.  That doesn’t mean that shorter players are precluded from being successful in college or even the NFL, but the ideal height for cornerbacks tends to be anywhere from 5’10” to 6’1″.

22Jan 2010
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Delonte Hollowell, Wolverine

Munchkinland High School cornerback Delonte Hollowell
Cornerback Delonte Hollowell, a Class of 2011 recruit from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, MI, committed to the University of Michigan two weekends ago. He had been hinting at an impending commitment to Michigan for a few weeks, and he actually committed silently to the coaches a week before it became public.

Hollowell is listed at 5’8″ and 163 lbs., so he follows in the line of midget cornerbacks that Michigan has recruited out of Cass Tech. Class of 2008 cornerback Boubacar Cissoko, class of 2009 slot receiver/cornerback/slot receiver Teric Jones (who’s moving back to offense for the spring), and class of 2010 cornerback Dior Mathis (committed to Oregon) were all listed in that 5’8″ range. Their one Big Ten-worthy defensive back who hasn’t been offered by Michigan is Daniel Easterly, who’s 6’4″ and headed to Missouri this year.

Hollowell is Michigan’s second commit overall – and second cornerback commit – of the 2011 class. Greg Brown, from Fremont, OH, committed back in September. With at least three cornerbacks in the 2010 class and anywhere from 3-5 safeties, don’t expect Michigan to pursue many more defensive backs in 2011. They’ll probably go hard after safety Ron Tanner, from Columbus, and that might be it.

As with most short cornerbacks, I’m not a big fan of the Hollowell commitment. Short cornerbacks automatically have issues with bigger receivers, and Michigan seems to be recruiting a lot of them recently. I wasn’t enamored with either Cissoko or Mathis when they were coming out of high school (Teric Jones only played offense), but I’d take both of them over Hollowell. He lacks the elite athleticism and speed that the other two seemed to have. Hollowell does have excellent hands and adjusts well to the ball when it’s in the air. But I’m afraid that bigger and/or faster wide receivers will give him trouble at the next level.

TTB Rating: 58