Like with the linebackers, one of the biggest changes at cornerback is the coaching situation. During the Geoff Collins era, up to this point, two different coaches worked in the secondary. Jeff Popovich was the man working with the cornerbacks, but he and safeties coach Nate Burton were replaced by Georgia Tech alum Travares Tillman, who will oversee the entire secondary.
Tillman will be running with an almost entirely new set of starters this year, as well. Robert will cover the safeties and nickel positions tomorrow, but just looking at corner, the Yellow Jackets lose Tre Swilling and Tobias Oliver at the position.
The Yellow Jackets return a host of experience at cornerback between Zamari Walton and Myles Sims. Each played in at least seven games last season and are likely in line to be the starters this year, though Kenyatta Watson II will also be in play. Sims deflected three passes last year, second to just Tre Swilling at corner.
Watson II is an intriguing addition for the Yellow Jackets at corner. We have already seen Walton and Sims play, so we have an idea of what to expect. With Watson II, we know that he brings excellent size—like Walton and Sims—but he doesn’t have the same in-game experience. The change of location from Texas to Atlanta could be just what he needs to break out, though.
Lastly in the group of returning players is Kenan Johnson, a member of the inaugural Geoff Collins recruiting class. He has seen a little bit of playing time over the years, including three starts in 2020.
Though he could play safety as well, I will be covering Harvey here. Harvey joins the Yellow Jackets after spending a redshirt season at Auburn, where he was recruited as a four-star DB (per the 247 Sports Composite).
Watching his high school film, one of the first things I notice is how electric he is with the ball in his hands. He is easily able to find holes and shake off would-be tacklers. He also shows off his closing speed in zone coverage. He is able to follow the QB’s eyes and chase down the intended receiver with ease.
This is an interesting addition for the Yellow Jackets, as he is one of the oldest players in the room. After spending five seasons (including a redshirt and the Covid year) at Maryland, Bennett is playing his final season in Atlanta, where he will challenge for a starting spot. At 6-3, 200 pounds, Bennett brings great size to the cornerback position. Across his five seasons at Maryland, Bennett started five games, but appeared in 22, mostly in a special teams role.
Eric Reed, Jr.
Joining Ahmari Harvey, Eric Reed, Jr. also transfers in from Auburn. He was originally recruited as a 4-star on the 247 Composite scale as well.
As a defender, Reed, Jr. has great control of his body, being able to turn on a dime and then explode into the ballcarrier. I am curious to see how he adapts to corner, as he appears to be a more natural safety from his film.
Who will be Above the Line?
I think a case can be made that all of these guys will be Above the Line at some point this season. Certainly the four returning corners are all in play, but the incoming players bring a nice balance of talent and experience that could give them an added boost. If I were a betting man, I would bet on the four returning players and Kenny Bennett being the guys ATL just to get the experience there, but I wouldn’t be surprised by any listing.