CLEMSON — At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Cortez Davis isn’t your average cornerback.
Clemson’s redshirt freshman cornerback is the tallest member of the Tigers’ secondary, three inches taller than the next-biggest corner, sophomore Bashaud Breeland. He’s four inches taller than Darius Robinson or Garry Peters, and six inches taller than Martin Jenkins.
“Me being a tall corner, it’s different,” Davis said. “A lot of people my height play safety against receivers.”
Davis is tackling the challenge of fitting in as an every-down cornerback. He saw the first significant action of his collegiate career at Wake Forest, making two tackles in 22 defensive snaps.
He had played only 15 snaps in the first seven games combined.
“Coming into the situation, I think I did a pretty good job,” Davis said this week. “Some plays I had ups and downs, but overall I think I did a pretty good job.
“I was kind of nervous at first but I kind of got it out of me. It was interesting, but I was ready for the challenge.”
At 6-foot-3, tackling can be an issue for Davis, but his ability to cover long distances with looping strides is a plus. He played safety his freshman and sophomore seasons at Daytona Beach, Fla.’s Mainland High before switching to corner for his final two seasons. He believes his long-term future is at cornerback.
This summer, Davis worked hard on technique and flexibility and has watched extra film to prepare.
“I have good speed, and I’m working on my footwork,” he said. “I think it’ll translate to the game. My biggest challenge is going up against some of those (smaller) slot guys when they move outside. Other than that, it’s all good.”
Injury decimation of Clemson’s secondary gave Davis his chance; Jenkins is redshirting with a groin injury, Robinson is out for the rest of the regular season with a fractured ankle, and Breeland missed Wake with an abdominal strain (he is expected to return Saturday at Duke). Peters, Davis and senior Xavier Brewer were the only original scholarship cornerbacks at Wake; former walk-on Dante Stewart played 21 snaps, and receiver Adam Humphries pitched in with 10 snaps and two tackles.
“It is exciting to get that chance,” Davis said. “I’m sorry for what happened to my teammates, that’s a really bad thing. But I stepped up for my team when I was needed.”
Young guards stepping forward: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris was critical of Clemson’s offensive tackles and the lack of depth behind starters Brandon Thomas and Gifford Timothy this week, but he and coach Dabo Swinney have been pleased with the effort of young guards like sophomore David Beasley and redshirt freshman Ryan Norton.
Swinney said Beasley has been “very solid, way more than what I expected, to be honest.”
“He’s exceeded expectations,” Swinney said. “He got a little banged up (with a sprained ankle) and played through that. I’m enjoying his role on our team. It’s been fun to watch him grow and mature as a young man. His best football is in front of him.”
Norton played 29 snaps at Wake Forest, mostly spelling Beasley. He leads all line reserves in snaps, with 169, and could be the heir apparent for senior center Dalton Freeman, an All-ACC selection and Rimington Award finalist. He was Clemson’s offensive lineman of the week this week.
“He’s a guy who’s really doing a super job,” Swinney said. “I’m excited about that young man, he has a heck of a future. You hate to lose a guy like Dalton Freeman, a rock inside. But it’s great to know you have a guy like Ryan Norton who has experience and can get in the flow.”
Welcome back: Clemson defensive ends coach Marion Hobby will return to Duke this weekend. Hobby is in his second season on Swinney’s staff. He served with Swinney as the Tigers’ defensive line coach in 2005 before spending two seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. He served as the Blue Devils’ co-defensive coordinator from 2008-2010. Former Clemson assistant John Latina, who worked as the Tigers’ offensive line coach from 1994-98, is in his first season as one of David Cutcliffe’s assistants at Duke.