Position Battle Preview: Cornerback

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    Throughout the summer, we’ll preview some of the big position battles on Tennessee’s roster for this upcoming fall. Tennessee has many position battles this season, and some battles are just for one starting spot while others affect an entire unit.

    We started our series off by looking at who will help Jauan Jennings catch passes in the wide receiver group. Now we move on to the players who are responsible for defending the passing game: the cornerbacks.

    Cam Sutton and Malik Foreman graduated at the end of the 2016 season. Those two, especially Sutton, were mainstays in the Vols’ defensive backfield. Now both are gone, and there’s a full-blown battle for both starting cornerback spots.

    Barring something unforeseen, Redshirt junior Rashaan Gaulden will have the nickel corner position nailed down. But the main two starting corner positions are up for grabs, and Tennessee has several players trying to win those starting jobs.

    A pair of seniors will likely be Tennessee’s starting cornerbacks this year. Emmanuel Moseley and Justin Martin are the expected favorites to be the Vols’ starting corners by the time the season starts. Neither are extremely experienced for being seniors (Martin was a JUCO transfer initially as well), but Moseley has been at least a part-time starter since he was a freshman. Moseley comes into this season with 19 career starts as a Vol, and Martin has made eight starts with Tennessee.

    But those two will have some strong competition this fall in the form of a transfer player and younger, talented players who’ve been on the roster a couple years now.

    Shaq Wiggins made an already fierce competition even more interesting when he announced his decision to transfer to Tennessee earlier this year. Wiggins began his career with Georgia before transferring after his freshman year with the Bulldogs in 2013. He then sat out a year at Louisville before earning an All-ACC honorable mention as a redshirt sophomore for the Cardinals in 2015. Injuries kept him from performing up to expectations in 2016, and he decided to transfer after that season.

    Wiggins brings with him 21 career starts at both Georgia and Louisville. The redshirt senior has broken up 18 passes and intercepted four others in his career, and he will be the main competitor to unseat one of Tennessee’s other seniors.

    But the Vols have more than just seniors competing for playing time at both corner positions.

    Sophomore Baylen Buchanan impressed as a freshman last season, playing in all 13 games (mostly on special teams) and even making his first career start when the Vols faced South Carolina on the road. Buchanan had to step in last season after Cam Sutton went down with injury, and he performed admirably for a freshman in SEC play. He’ll be a dark horse candidate to steal a starting job, and he should still earn playing time in the rotation even if he doesn’t start.

    Sophomore Marquill Osborne is also a name to watch. Though he mostly played on special teams last season, Osborne has the potential to be a solid corner and will be in competition for the open corner jobs.

    Tennessee has several intriguing, experienced options at cornerback this fall. The Vols will likely start two seniors at cornerback this year, but which two seniors will get the nod?