MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Kenneth Gilstrap has his work cut out for him in his second year as cornerbacks coach at Middle Tennessee, his alma mater.
The young, 28-year-old coach — he turns 29 on July 30 — has an equally young group of cornerbacks this year to work with. But, while they might not have much experience, he’s excited about their talent and willingness to push each other and compete.
“We have a really, really young group, and when you have a young group, that usually means they’re really competitive,” he said. “The best guys always rise to the occasion … and that’s where you really develop that competition, and everyone pushes each other so we can find the best two guys, then the next best two guys.”
His first cornerbacks group at MT last season featured three seniors, Desmond Anderson, Chris Stamps and Kamau Farrell-Burke, who are graduated and gone. Then, rising senior Justin Brown decided to enter the transfer portal, leaving the Blue Raiders with no senior cornerbacks this season and only one junior.
Gilstrap’s group might be young, with one junior, one sophomore, two redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen, but they’re both competitive and versatile. Most could switch over to safety if needed, and several players who are listed as safeties — Gregory Grate Jr. and Decorian Patterson, mainly — could move outside or into a nickel corner role.
That versatility is exactly what Gilstrap and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, also the safeties coach, are looking for.
“Now, you can cross-train some guys,” Gilstrap said. “You can make sure you get the best four guys on the field, and that’s the best thing for us. Each guy has something that they bring to the table.”
True freshmen Davon Martin and Deidrick Stanley II join the group this season as talented three-star recruits. They’ll fight for wide-open starting spots, with redshirt junior Raheme Fuller bringing back the most experience with two career starts.
Here are the cornerbacks on the roster:
Raheme Fuller, R-Jr.
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
• Played in 10 games with 2 starts in 2019
• Had 5 tackles and a pass breakup against WKU
Teldrick Ross, R-So.
Hometown: Macon, Georgia
• Played in 4 games with 1 start in 2019
• Missed 8 games in 2019 due to injury
• Played QB in high school at Jones County High School
Quincy Riley, R-Fr.
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina
• Played in 3 games in 2019 and took a redshirt; suffered an injury at Duke
• 3-star recruit by 247Sports (No. 16 recruit in South Carolina) out of A.C. Flora High School
• Won track and field state titles in the 100 and 200 meters
Jalen Jackson, R-Fr.
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
• Played in 4 games and took a redshirt in 2019
• Started every game on both offense and defense last 2 years at Bloomingdale High School
Davon Martin, Fr.
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
• Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports out of Edgewater High School
• Led team to the Class 7A state championship game in 2019
• Played receiver for three years before moving to cornerback his senior year
Deidrick Stanley II, Fr.
• Rated a 3-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals
• Lettered in football three years at Miami Central High School