FARGO — North Dakota State has had its share of shutdown play at cornerback in recent football seasons with the likes of Josh Hayes and Marquise Bridges. Hayes transferred to NCAA Division I FBS Virginia last spring, while Bridges pursued a pro career after his final season with the Bison in 2019.
NDSU cornerbacks coach Kody Morgan said there are multiple current Bison corners who have the potential to reach the level of Bridges and Hayes, including senior Destin Talbert, junior Jayden Price, sophomore Courtney Eubanks, junior Jerodd Vines and sophomore Jenaro Ocama.
“I think all of them do,” Morgan said. “I think all of them have that potential deep down in them.”
The key is to unlock that high-end play as the Bison prepare for their season opener against the University of Albany on Sept. 4 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Price and Talbert were listed as the starters at cornerback on the depth chart that was released during last week’s media day.
“It’s really early in (fall) camp, we’ve got a lot of guys playing at a very high level right now,” Morgan said. “All those guys are kind of battling for those spots. I’m excited about all those guys. Everybody in the room is doing a fantastic job. We’ll kind of see in the next couple weeks what happens.”
The 6-foot, 186-pound Price made all nine starts for the Bison during last season’s spring schedule. He’s hoping to build on that performance and trend toward being considered a lockdown-type cornerback.
“I aspire to be that,” said Price, from Derby, Kan. “Am I there yet? No. I’ve got a lot of work to do. If you’re playing corner, you aspire to be that whether you’re going to be that guy or not. You want to be that, you want to be that lockdown corner.”
Price played in all 10 games last season, including the one game played in the fall against Central Arkansas. He finished with 22 total tackles, one interception, three pass breakups and three passes defended.
“Jayden is an ultimate competitor,” Morgan said. “The biggest thing for Jayden is he’s healthy. He battled a hamstring a lot last year. I think that slowed him down at times.”
Talbert made five starts last season and took over for Hayes during the spring season after Hayes entered the transfer portal. The 6-foot, 185-pound Talbert finished with 25 total tackles, five pass breakups and five passes defended in 10 games.
The 5-foot-11, 177-pound Vines is an FBS transfer from Eastern Michigan who is learning the Bison defensive system this fall. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Eubanks, from St. Petersburg, Fla., played in six games as a true freshman and also played for the Bison during their spring postseason games, including a quarterfinal loss against eventual national champion Sam Houston in the FCS quarterfinals.
“He didn’t get a chance to play until pretty late and when he did, he shined,” Morgan said. “You saw a glimpse of what he can be as a true freshman playing in the spring.”
Eubanks said that experience is invaluable heading into his second season in the program.
“That was very important because coming into this year now I know I’ll be ready, I know what I can do, the coaches know what I can do, so that was very important,” said Eubanks, who had three pass breakups and three passes defended a season ago.
Price said he’s worked to improve his footwork and ability to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage with his hands, entering his fourth season with the Bison.
"I love all the guys in the (cornerbacks) room," Price said. "I’ve excelled in learning more about the defense, not necessarily just my position, but every position so we’re working together. Everybody is on the same page with all different sorts of stuff."
While Morgan likes the talent the Bison have at cornerback, he added there has been “peaks and valleys” during fall camp.
“We’ve just got to get consistent in that spot,” Morgan said.