If you happen to be a fan of stellar cornerback play, the Pac-12 Conference has you covered in more ways than one this season. Whether you enjoy watching tall lockdown defenders or prefer smaller, quicker players with versatility and tantalizing upside, the conference has it all. Though not all of the players listed below will be entering the draft next April, only two Pac-12 cornerbacks were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft — a number that is expected to spike significantly in 2021.
As a fan of the cornerback position, the sheer depth at the position entices me, so I opted to take a closer look at several of the top cover men across the Pac-12 conference ahead of the 2020 season.
Christian Roland-Wallace, Arizona
The Palmdale native got off to a roaring start as a freshman last season, appearing in all 12 games (eight starts). The 5-foot-11, 198-pound cornerback amassed 37 tackles, six passes defended, and an interception. Roland-Wallace possesses good size for a boundary defender, often showcasing his physicality and willingness to provide run support. With Jace Whittaker moving onto the NFL, Roland-Wallace now wears the crown as the Wildcats’ top cornerback.
Camryn Bynum, California
The redshirt senior has made 38 consecutive starts for the Golden Bears, and enters his final campaign tied for fifth in program history in pass breakups. Bynum (6-0, 200) earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019, totaling 63 tackles (3 for loss), 10 passes defended, and an interception. The elder stateman of the Bears’ secondary is a savvy cover man who plays with an intriguing blend of tenacity and discipline. In addition to his coverage prowess, Bynum is an exceptional open-field tackler and offers back end versatility.
Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
The Ducks may boast a formidable trio of ball-hawking cornerbacks, but if there is a de facto leader amongst the three, it’s Deommodore Lenoir. The 2019 second-team Pac-12 All-Conference honoree started all 14 games, extending his streak to 27 consecutive games, registering 47 tackles (2.5 for loss), eight passes defended, and an interception. Lenoir has tremendous range, and at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, he has the requisite size to play anywhere on the backend. The senior defender is largely considered to be the Ducks’ most physical cornerback, and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the running game.
Thomas Graham, Oregon
My personal favorite of this group, Thomas Graham is a silky smooth coverage specialist with outstanding match-and-mirror technique. I was mildly surprised that Graham elected to return to Oregon for his senior season, given his high-level of play in 2019. Graham (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) is a technically sound defender with few wasted steps in and out of his back pedal, plenty of long speed, and the versatility to play the boundary, nickel, or safety position. Graham, who is currently tied for sixth among active FBS players in interceptions (eight), also happens to be the FBS active leader in pass breakups (32).
Mykael Wright, Oregon
Mykael Wright rounds out the talented trio of Oregon cornerbacks. Though not nearly as polished of a player as the aforementioned Graham and Lenoir, Wright could quite possibly be the most physically gifted. The freshman cut his teeth on his sensational return ability last season, becoming just the third player in Oregon history to return two kicks for a touchdown in a single season. He was also twice named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week. The 5-foot-11, 182-pound Wright made an impact on the defensive of the side of the ball as well in 2019, racking up 21 tackles (two for loss), five passes defended, and an interception. I anticipate Wright taking a significant step forward towards college football stardom as a sophomore.
Isaiah Dunn, Oregon State
The Beavers aren’t traditionally known for churning out defensive standouts in recent years, but they have some worth keeping an eye on in 2020. Isaiah Dunn, in particular, often gets lost among the plethora of talent that the conference boasts at the position, but following his eye-opening junior campaign, Dunn is poised to become a household name in 2020. At six-foot, 182 pounds, Dunn sports a lanky frame, but offers solid play strength that matches his aggressiveness on the perimeter. His 2019 numbers don’t tell the whole story — 42 tackles, eight passes defended, and one forced fumble — as he frequently forced teams to look the other way in the passing game. While Dunn won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2020, he has a next-level skill set and should draw accolades, provided he can build off his undeniable momentum.
Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Had Paulson Adebo elected to forego his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL Draft like many anticipated, he undoubtedly would have come off the board early on draft weekend. Now, Adebo enters his final campaign at Stanford as one of the premier defensive players in the country. The Cardinals’ cover man possesses alluring length at the position — 6-foot-1, 192 pounds — and his imposing size and physical traits allows him to thrive in press coverage. Adebo can do more than bully wideouts at the line of scrimmage, however, as he has the fluidity to flip his hips and run with the top receivers in college football. Last season, Adebo mustered 33 tackles, 14 passes defended, and four interceptions, giving him 38 passes defended and eight interceptions over the past two seasons. Should he maintain his standout play, Adebo will be a surefire first-round pick in April.
Elijah Molden, Washington
The 2019 first-team All-Pac-12 cornerback returns for his senior campaign after a decorated junior season that included 79 tackles (5.5 for loss), 17 passes defended, four interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. At 5-foot-10, 191 pounds, Molden may not possess prototypical size for the position, but he more than makes up for his slight build with innate instincts, ability to diagnose plays, football intelligence, and sheer tenacity. Molden is arguably one of the most valuable defenders in the conference, as he can be moved around formations, cover a myriad of pass catchers, and has a knack for putting himself in position to make plays on the football.