CLEMSON—When the head coach of the national champion Clemson Tigers hands out praise, people listen, and that praise is coming more frequently for K’Von Wallace.
“K’Von Wallace has really come on. I’m really pleased with him,” Swinney said. “He’s a handful now. He has great feet. But he’s probably the most physical guy from a jam technique that we have. We expect good things from K’Von.”
The rising sophomore amassed six tackles and an interception in 109 snaps over 15 games last season, most of which came on special teams and as a reserve nickel or safety, but he is looking to make a change this season to boundary corner.
With the departure of Cordrea Tankersley—last season’s boundary corner—to the NFL, Wallace was asked the question that he had waited to hear from secondary coach Mike Reed.
“After the championship game, he asked me what position I preferred, and I told him boundary corner,” Wallace said. “It isn’t a big transition—the hardest thing is knowing the coverages. It’s a pretty easy transition, and I have been in the film room putting in work.”
The boundary corner is the cornerback who routinely lines up on the short-side of the field, and is considered more challenging than the counterpart position—field corner. The reason being, that the field corner generally gets more safety help, thus the boundary corner is normally left alone on an island to defend their man.
But it is that challenge that was the driving force behind Wallace wanting to change positions.
“Overall, it is the best position to go and compete and it’s the hardest position,” Wallace said.
While Wallace is big and physical for a cornerback—at 6-feet, 190 pounds—it is the technique and finesse parts of playing the position that he is having to focus on.
“We’re really trying to get him to hone in and fine-tune cornerback techniques, understanding the position and all the nuances to try to give him a real chance to grow quickly into that position,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
If there is one technique that Wallace will not need to work on it would be his confidence.
“I’m a loud and talkative person, so the wide receivers are going to hear me every time we play. They are going to hear me,” Wallace said. “I feel like I’m a great athlete, so to be in that position and compete with those big physical receivers—I feel like I am a physical guy. I have a knack for it and competing is why I play the game.”
It is a confidence that was breed into Wallace during his “cross training” sessions last season, but is also aided by going against wide receivers like Deon Cain on a daily basis.
“Best wide receiver corps in the country in my opinion,” Wallace said. “Just going against them and getting better every day. Just knowing that they make the game easier for us the way they go hard and compete.”
While Wallace has not yet earned the spot that he covets more than any other, and will continue to have to battle Ryan Carter, Trayvon Mullen and Mark Fields for the job, there is little doubt that he has at least caught the eyes of the head coach—which can only help his chances.
“We really wanted to give him some confidence in that spot (corner), and just really see how he would do,” Swinney said. “We know he can go play nickel for us and we know he can play safety. But we wanted to evaluate those young safeties, and then really challenge him and see how he would do over there. He has done a nice job.”