CLEMSON - If you're reading this, Bashaud Breeland: for the record, your old buddy Cordrea Tankersley didn't want to flaunt his personal triumph.
A few weeks ago, Clemson defensive backs coach Mike Reed told The Post and Courier that Tankersley, a sophomore and surprise starting cornerback on the post-spring depth chart opposite Mackensie Alexander, was "a faster Bashaud Breeland."
"Very much faster," Reed said July 15. "Bashaud has ball skills; Cordrea I would say has the same ball skills, but he's still growing into the position."
Pretty high praise, comparing a guy who's been a full-time cornerback for less than 300 days to a 2014 fourth-round pick of the Washington Redskins.
"Oh, yeah, I'm faster than Bashaud," Tankersley said when asked about it, with a hearty laugh. "I don't want to make him feel bad."
Back when Tankersley was a backup safety in the first month of the Tigers' 2013 campaign, there was a 50-yard dash during the 12-day prep period leading up to the N.C. State game. The contestants were Tankersley, Breeland, cornerbacks Adrian Baker and Martin Jenkins.
How'd it go?
"I don't think Bashaud was in the picture," said Tankersley, again chuckling at the memory. "It was really me and Adrian Baker."
Breeland was never a speed demon, though; his coverage skills and prowess for interceptions (four last year, co-leading the Tigers) are why he surrendered his final years at Clemson.
"He has some really good ball skills," Tankersley said. "I give him the upper hand on hands."
Right now, Tankersley's got the upper hand on Baker, Jenkins and other corners hoping to take the field with the first-team defense Aug. 30 at Georgia. His claim to fame before last spring was producing a team-high nine special teams tackles in 2013.
"My role was special teams, and I took that big. I was happy with the role I played," Tankersley said. "It helped me get better, because of course it gave me the opportunity to compete and get a feel for it. I took advantage of it."
Tankersley played quarterback, wide receiver and a little safety in high school, and he figured he'd fit in at safety for the Tigers. He did play prep school cornerback at Hargrave Military Academy in 2012 as he looked to qualify academically at Clemson, but when he enrolled in early summer 2013, he worked out on Saturdays with Robert Smith and ultimately was among Smith's backups as the season opened.
Then the Tigers' cornerback depth thinned with injuries to Alexander, Peters, Jenkins and others. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables had little choice, and on Smith's coaxing, Tankersley started taking cornerback reps the week leading up to the Oct. 19 Florida State game.
"Ever since then," Tankersley said, "we haven't looked back."
Six months later, Tankersley was the post-spring starter at boundary cornerback. Calling Joe Haden and Richard Sherman his favorite NFL corners, he's learned much about the position in a short period of time.
"You have to be really, really disciplined. You have to play fast and play aggressive," Tankersley said. "I think that's one of the big parts of my game, so it worked out just fine."
Breeland has the stickier hands, but there's a reason Reed made the comparison.
"He challenges the ball well in the air. You throw it to him, he'll catch it," Venables said of Tankersley. "He's got good size to him, and he blitzes, he's a good tackler. So he's got good skill and good instincts."
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