AUBURN, Ala. — One of the cliches every coaching staff, irrespective of the sport, likes to trot out is the importance of "overcoming adversity" to persevere and thrive. Right now, Auburn's secondary is having to do just that — at cornerback, specifically. No unit is as thin right now.
According to defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, the Tigers are working with "four, maybe five corners" at the moment. In an ideal world, Robinson said they would like to have seven or eight corners "that can go out and can execute and play the way we play."
But with expected starter Jonathan Jones limited due to a lingering foot injury and reserve T.J. Davis out for an undetermined amount of time after having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament earlier this spring, the options are few and far between.
"Obviously if we can control it, it wouldn't have happened," Robinson said of Davis' injury. "He was doing a lot better, man. He was doing a good job for us. At the end of the day, things happen and our motto is, 'Man down. Man up.' So another guy has got to step up. Once he steps up, we'll be ready to roll."
The lack of depth also means that Auburn's incoming signees at the spot — Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson, who, like Robinson, are Florida natives — will get the chance to work into the rotation immediately.
"We'll have to do that. That was part of the deal in the recruiting process," Robinson said. "Right now we just lack numbers. ... We're going to need some guys that can finish down the field."
That's not to say Robinson has been displeased with the corners he's inherited this spring. He praised Josh Holsey, who is back at the position he played his freshman season in 2012.
"He’s doing a great job," Robinson said. "The guy is strong, he’s fast, he’s got the ball skills down the field and he’s very, very smart."
Robinson also couldn't say enough about Johnathan Ford. Known as "Rudy" to his coaches and teammates, last season's leading tackler is cross-training at both corner and safety. Though Ford would likely be one of the starting safeties if the season began this week, he also projects as one of the team's top backups at corner, according to Robinson.
"Rudy, obviously, can fly. He’s got great top-end speed, a tough dude and he's got a passion for the game," the coach said. "He’s always in the office, he’s always around, trying to get better with his craft."
The other player taking first-team reps at safety is Tray Matthews, who Robinson has already become enamored with.
"Tray is a specimen of a dude," he said. "He’s a big dude with great energy and a tough guy. He’s going to be a heck of a leader for us back there.”
Once Jones works his way back to 100 percent, he is expected to start alongside Holsey. But what if one of them gets hurt? Who would be the first player off the bench?
Right now it would be Opelika native Stephen Roberts.
"A local kid who's turning the corner. He started off slow and now is picking it up as we move down the stretch," Robinson said. "He's going to be a good football player for us."
And of course, it's not too late for the rest of the corners, a group which includes rising third-year sophomore Kamryn Melton.
They've just got to keep working.
"They're a ways away, but they continue to get better on a day to day basis," Robinson said. "Right now, we've just got to keep progressing and see where we are."