Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler has been showing his speedy skills during spring camp. MSU cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley says he’s the best in the country, and Dantzler is ready to prove his coach right. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to the Dispatch
April 5, 2019 10:32:15 AM
By BEN PORTNOY
If you ask Mississippi State cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley where redshirt junior Cameron Dantzler stands nationally, he won't mince words.
"Based on now, with everything he's doing, I would say he's the best corner in the country," Buckley said.
The statement is undoubtedly bold, but if anyone has standing in the argument it's Buckley.
After a three-year career at Florida State, he left Tallahassee with school records in interceptions and interception return yards.
In 1991 -- his final year at FSU -- Buckley was a consensus All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award honoring the country's top defensive back. He finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting that year and will be a part of the College Football Hall of Fame's 2019 class.
Buckley also has the coaching experience to back up his claim.
Before coming to Starkville in 2016, he spent five years at FSU and another two years at Louisville with a two-year stop at Akron sandwiched in between.
"After this year I think about 15 guys that have signed professional contracts I've dealt with," Buckley said. "And I have just as much confidence in him as (former FSU corner) Xavier Rhodes and (former Louisville corner) Jaire Alexander."
By contrast, Rhodes and Alexander were both first-round picks after their collegiate careers -- the former of whom was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 as well.
Dantzler's physical gifts are obvious. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he has the size and strength to guard bigger receivers but also the speed to work on smaller opponents.
Buckley flashed his athleticism in situational coverage drills during Thursday's practice.
Lined up along the sideline, players took turns running at a tackling dummy with their backs turned away from the group.
Buckley would then drop a pass just over the dummy, forcing his corners to adjust and make the interception.
As Dantzler turned the corner around the makeshift receiver, he skied toward the ceiling at the Palmeiro Center and snatched a ball thrown slightly behind him.
Stuck in mid-air, Dantzler's legs spread apart as if he was simulating a Michael Jordan dunk on the football field.
"Well, since I've put on a few pounds I feel like I'm more physical, more explosive," he said.
Where his coach has seen the most improvement is in Dantzler's ability to combine the physical and mental gifts he possesses.
"The talent and the mental capacity that he has is starting to merge," Buckley said. "Once it really merges and he gets it, it's going to be scary."
And while the praise heaped on him in the early going is high, Dantzler is prepared to live up to his billing.
"I feel like I'm one of the best corners in the country," he said. "I just have to prove that this season."
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