Pictured: Current BYU CB Dayan Ghanwoloku intercepts a pass against Mississippi State, via lawlessrepublic.com
Out of all the positions in football, no other position has received less fanfare at BYU than the Cornerback (CB) position. This is so despite the essential role it plays in the game. Consider the dynamic playmakers that exist on all levels. When you think of dynamic CBs, you think of Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, Darrell Green, and Deion Sanders – players who can alter the game by themselves; players that offenses don’t dare test. When they’re on the field, their entire section of the field is off-limits to the offense.
While there exists a stigma upon the CBs of BYU, there are actually a good number of names that BYU fans will remember who all contributed to the team from the position. Of those whose stories are told in BYU lore, there are All-American honorable mentions Omarr Morgan, Tom Holmoe, Derwin Gray (who had 3 interceptions (INT) against New Mexico and 22 tackles against Penn State,) Dana Wilgar, and Bill Schoepflin as well as All-Americans Jason Coloma and Kyle Morrell. More recently fans will remember All-MWC Brian Gray, All-MWC Jernaro Gilford (the current CB coach,) and All-American honorable mention Brian Logan – considered perhaps the last great CB for BYU.
However, the stigma is beginning to be removed since Kalani Sitake took over as Head Coach. His efforts have been buoyed by two young superstars, namely Dayan Ghanwoloku (formerly Dayan Lake) and Troy Warner, who have been entrenched as starters since joining the program as true Freshmen. Between the two of them, it’s possible that no other position group has seen more consistency in the past two years. In 2016, the combination started 10 out of the 13 games. In 2017, the combo started 8 out of the 13 games. The only reason they didn’t play all 13 together is because of injury. As a group, the position did see a dip in turnovers, as they accounted for only 3 turnovers (all INTs) compared to their 2016 campaign where Ghanwoloku snagged 3 INTs by himself to add to the position’s total 6 turnovers.
Pictured: Former BYU CB Derwin Gray, via deseretnews.com
Going along with the story of consistency, there are only two position groups in either offense or defense who will have retained their position coach for all three years of the Sitake era. The first, we have discussed, is Steve Clark who coaches Tight Ends. The second is Jernaro Gilford, who coaches the CBs. Every other position has seen some turnover.
Because of the consistency, I don’t expect much to change in how the CBs play or perform, other than the improvement one can expect with age, maturity, and experience. With a few new faces sprinkled into the mix, the top half of the depth chart won’t surprise anyone, but it will be interesting to see if any newcomers will be able to make their mark and see significant playing time before 2020, assuming everyone stays healthy (knock on wood.)
Pictured: Current BYU DB Coach Jernaro Gilford coaches up during a BYU practice, via KSL.com
Dayan Ghanwoloku (JR.) Ghanwoloku (formerly Lake) led the CBs in basically all defensive statistics for the second year in a row, and was the sixth leading tackler for the team in 2017. Also for the second year in a row, Ghanwoloku has played all 13 games both seasons. Last year he tied with Safety Zayne Anderson in leading the team in INTs, even though his turnover numbers dipped a bit from 2016. He has established himself as the clear-cut #1 CB, and could possibly be the best CB BYU has had in decades if he continues to improve. In tackles, Ghanwoloku’s best game was against LSU, where he racked up 7 total tackles. For turnovers, Ghanwoloku got all 2 of his INTs against possibly the best QB the Cougars faced all year in Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State. A 4-star recruit out of high school, Ghanwoloku was also recruited by Nevada, Oregon, Oregon State, UNLV, Utah, and Utah State.
Troy Warner (JR.) Originally recruited as a Safety, Warner’s athletisicm earned him a starting role as a CB his Freshman year. Unfortunately, he has not yet been able to make it through all 13 games in a season yet, but has shown tremendous talent and ability while healthy. After only playing in 8 games last year, Warner was still #9 on the team in tackles, with his best games coming against LSU and Mississippi State where he earned 16 total tackles between the two games. An INT has so far eluded Warner, though he has had a number of chances to make a big play and showed off his ability by doing so. A 4-star recruit out of high school, the younger brother of Fred Warner was also recruited by Arizona, Boston College, Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, and USC.
Chris Wilcox (JR.) Wilcox saw time in 12 out of the 13 games last year, and stood in for Warner after his injury. In fact, he came in at #10 in total tackles on the team, directly behind Warner. His best game was against Fresno State where, while filling in for Warner, Wilcox gained 6 total tackles. Only a 2-star recruit out of high school, Wilcox was spotted by Ed Lamb, and was also recruited by Southern Utah.
Pictured: Current BYU CB Dayan Ghanwoloku returns an INT against Boise State, via KSL.com
Michael Shelton (SR.) Use primarily as a kick returner, Shelton saw playing time in all 13 games in 2017. As a CB, Shelton’s best game came against Hawaii, where he gained 5 tackles and a TFL. Shelton also nabbed an INT against San Jose State. A 3-star recruit out of high school, Shelton was also a track star and was also recruited by Auburn.
Trevion Greene (JR) A junior college transfer, Greene saw playing time in 10 games last year, with his most productive game coming against East Carolina, where he gained 3 tackles. Greene played at the same high school as BYU Running Back Squally Canada, and was also recruited by Arizona State, California, and Iowa State.
Austin McChesney (RS SO.) After a promising Freshman year was cut short, McChesney’s Sophomore year ended before the season. Back in 2016, McChesney played in 9 games and replaced Troy Warner after he went down with injury. He had 1 INT against Cincinnati that year. Another previous Ed Lamb recruit, McChesney was also recruited by Southern Utah and Utah State.
Pictured: Current BYU CB Michael Shelton swats passes with a smile against Utah State, via sltrib.com
Max Tooley (RM FR.) A 3-star recruit in 2016, Tooley was recruited as a Safety and will likely redshirt in 2018, but if he does see time it will be at CB. Tooley received scholarship offers from Cal, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon State, Utah, Utah State, and Washington State.
Drew Jensen (RM FR.) 3-star recruit in 2016, Jensen was also recruited as a Safety and will likely redshirt in 2018. He will likely practice as a CB during his redshirt year. Jensen received scholarship offers from Oregon State, Utah, Utah State and interest from Army and Navy.
Isaiah Herron (New recruit) 2-star recruit
Branch Davis (New recruit) 2-star recruit
Malik Moore (New recruit) Not rated
For more information about the newest recruits, I encourage you to visit:
Kamel Green (special teams)
- There have been rumors that Troy Warner will be moved to Safety, the position he was originally recruited for.
Pictured: Current BYU CB Troy Warner defends a pass against Cincinnatti, via bluecougarfootball.blogspot.com
Projected depth chart:
(compare to https://www.loyalcougars.com/football-roster/depth-chart/)
Right – CB 1 – Dayan Ghanwoloku
RCB 2 – Michael Shelton
Left – CB 1 – Troy Warner
LCB 2 – Trevion Greene
Slot – CB 1 – Chris Wilcox
SCB 2 – Austin McChesney
Translation/Final thoughts: If Troy Warner is moved to Safety, which would be a smart move in my opinion, the CB position would still see a lot of their same consistency. Dayan Ghanwoloku is the golden goose of the position group, and I expect Wilcox would then move over to the LCB position with Michael Shelton taking over the Slot and acting as the primary backup, similar to the role Wilcox had in 2017.
If this is the case, then more than likely either Max Tooley or Drew Jensen would follow in Troy Warner’s footsteps and not be redshirted and instead compete at CB for their first two years.
More than any other position on the entire team, the CBs have been steady and reliable and if they lose Warner to the Safeties I don’t expect a huge drop-off in efficiency. They are a well-coached group that will not be caught unprepared. Dayan Ghanwoloku, in particular, has the opportunity to truly make his mark this year as perhaps the most capable star returning player on the defense in 2018.
Pictured: Current BYU CB Dayan Ghanwoloku, formerly Dayan Lake, intercepts a pass against Wyoming, via deseretnews.com
Offensive Position Previews:
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- Wide Receivers Preview
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