Mississippi’s defensive backfields are loaded once again with a group of tenacious ball hawks who pose a major threat to offenses across the state.
Cornerback depth isn’t as deep as its been in previous seasons, but these six players are the ones to keep your eye on this fall.
Demetrius Market, senior, South Panola
The Tigers defense totaled 28 interceptions last season. Market was responsible for three in the 6A championship vs. Oak Grove. The 5-foot-9, 165 pound athlete committed to Southern Miss this summer as a cornerback after splitting time in the defensive backfield and at receiver in 2014. Market is one of those fast, athletic corners who excels when he drops back into pass coverage. His ability to turn his hips and run with receivers helps him change direction quickly.
Nigel Knott , senior, Germantown
The four-star cornerback also plays free safety for the Mavericks. The speedy athlete recorded a 4.38 40-yard dash this summer and excels in changing direction seamlessly with his twitchy hips and ability to break laterally on underthrown balls. Last season, Knott burst onto the scene with 12 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 4 interceptions for 106 yards, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked punt and 1 blocked field goal. He and teammate Taury Dixon are masters at disguising coverages. Prior to the ball being snapped, the two can appear to be in a Cover 3 and move back into a Cover 2 before the offense takes notice.
Taury Dixon, senior, Germantown
Like Knott, Dixon also plays some safety but excels as a physical, fast cornerback. The two form one of the strongest defensive backfields in Mississippi. A 5-foot-9, 160-pounder, Dixon is slightly undersized but has the speed to burst and jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. Last season he recorded 47 solo tackles and five interceptions for 133 yards. Dixon excels at stripping the ball away from players is strong presence in the Mavericks’ return game.
Sanchez Blake, senior, Olive Branch
Memphis got itself a steal in the Olive Branch standout. Blake is your typical lockdown corner who undercuts routes and excels in creating turnovers. In 2014, he tallied 79 total tackles, seven for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and an interception for 19 yards. His skill set is versatile. Once he adds more size to that 6-foot-1, 200 pound frame, watch out.
Isaiah Latham , junior, Louisville
The 6-foot, 165-pounder isn’t a well known commodity yet but expect his junior year to be where he breaks into the conversation. Latham plays the game physical and has the size and length to disrupt receivers off the line of scrimmage. His ability to recognize down and distance is improving and his heads-up plays on special teams, including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown last season, are what make him one of the state’s up-and-comers at this position.
Gus Nave, junior, Kemper County
Nave picked off eight passes for 130 yards and forced three fumbles last year. The 5-foot-10, 165 pound corner plays well in the flats in a Cover 2 and also excels in man-to-man coverage in other schemes. Kemper County recorded its best finish (11-4) in over 11 seasons, and much of that is due to its stingy secondary.
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or ccronin @ jackson.gannett.com . Follow @ CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.