It's been four years since Arizona State broke in a pair of new starting cornerbacks together, but come fall, Todd Graham and his defensive staff will have to name starters on both sides of the field.
In 2010, both Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr received their first true crack at breaking into the starting lineup and though both had a difficult learning curve, each player developed into a multi-year starter at Arizona State.
Carr did start a few games during his freshman season in 2009, but Dennis Erickson's squad basically started fresh at the cornerback position with Carr and Irabor in 2010.
Fast forward to 2014, and for the first time since the Erickson era, the Sun Devils need to find new starting cornerbacks on opposite sidelines.
Carr graduated in 2013, while Irabor and fellow 2014 starter Robert Nelson saw their eligibility expire after this fall which leaves two vacant spots up for grabs.
Fortunately for the Sun Devils, Todd Graham has recruited the defensive side of the ball well during his tenure and he has many capable replacements to choose from. On Signing Day, Arizona State received letters of intent from two different corners, and both could see the field this fall.
The first signee was a longtime Arizona State verbal commitment who became one of the Sun Devils' most prized recruits. Chad Adams, an Allen High School senior and Texas native, had offers to play for prestigious Big 12 programs but instead chose to come to Tempe. Graham, a former head coach at Allen High School, loves the idea of bringing in recruits from Texas, especially ones with the speed that Adams possesses.
"Chad is a dynamic kick returner, again, team captain from a two‑time state champion, one of the most versatile players we're bringing in," Graham said.
Graham also gave Adams high praise, because he believes the high school senior could earn playing time right away in the fall.
"I think Chad can immediately be impactful for us at the boundary corner position as well as the bandit safety position," Graham said. "Again, another guy that's not very big but has tremendous versatility in being able to play every position in our secondary, and that's something that we're excited about."
Although the Sun Devils would entertain the idea of starting a true freshman at cornerback, Arizona State has a backup plan in case Adams needs time to adjust to the college level.
On Signing Day, the Sun Devils landed a commitment from Grossmont Community College cornerback Kweishi Brown. Brown was one of the highest-rated 3-star junior college recruits by Rivals, and his highlight film reveals outstanding closing speed and a knack for finding the football.
Brown was initially committed to Arkansas, but de-committed back in November and chose a Pac-12 institution over playing football in the SEC. Like Adams, Graham also wants Brown to stick to the boundary corner position held down by Irabor last season.
"I like that he's a big boundary corner, a guy that can play to the field on the tall receivers," Graham said. "We've got big receivers in the Pac‑12. He is a guy that was one of the top junior college players in the country, one of the top corners coming in."
Last season, Irabor excelled in blitzing off the edge from the short side of the field and wreaking havoc in opponents' backfields and Graham says Brown has the potential to bring the same type of physicality to the position this fall.
"One of the main reasons why he chose to come here is because of the discipline of our program, and all these guys are excited about the style of defense that we're playing, and this guy is a bump‑and‑run corner that's very physical at the line of scrimmage and wants to put his hands on people," Graham said.
With both signees expected to start their careers at the boundary corner spot, the Sun Devils didn't exactly fill the void at Robert Nelson's vacant field safety position with recruits.
Instead, the Sun Devils plan to let experienced players jockey for that position (although they will also compete at the boundary spot) this fall. One obvious choice to replace Nelson is Pittsburgh transfer Lloyd Carrington, who followed Graham to Arizona State and was listed as a co-starter at the field corner position on the initial 2013 depth chart.
Carrington saw limited playing time in the fall as part of Arizona State's nickel packages, but there are no doubts coming from the coaching staff about Carrington's ability to step in and start. He has the talent, the speed, and the experience in Graham's defensive scheme, and it would come as a major surprise if he isn't on the field for the first defensive series of the season.
Other possibilities at cornerback include Rashad Wadood, Solomon Means and William Earley. Means and Earley were part of the 2013 recruiting class while Wadood was involved in the competition for a starting spot last season. The field cornerback spot was one of the most hotly contested positions last year and all of the current Sun Devils have a realistic chance at earning playing time.
Another name that has been tossed around at the cornerback spot is Damarious Randall, last year's starting field safety who has the speed and agility to make the transition if the Sun Devils decide to switch his position. Still, Randall is a potential All-Pac-12 performer at safety, so Graham and his staff will want to make sure he can perform at the same level if the Sun Devils do decide to shake things up.
Regardless of who plays well in spring ball and who takes the reins in fall camp, the cornerback position should be much more fluid than in years past because Arizona State does not have the same stability and veteran leadership to lean on in 2014.