Even with true freshman Bryce Hall on the depth chart at CB, the Hoos are far from loaded there. And yet, Kirk Garner, listed at CB, spent much of training camp working at safety. (Although we note that Juan Thornhill, listed at FS, is starting at CB.)
The cross training may have merit, especially for a team without much depth in the defensive backfield. Having a couple of guys who can swap back and forth allows Bronco Mendenhall to be more flexible with his defense. Garner may be the best pure cover guy on the team, and playing him at safety may help shut down the opposition’s top receiving RBs and/or TEs.
Garner did play both DB positions in HS. He was rated a 4 star CB by ESPN, but the other recruiting services rated him with 3 stars. All saw him at CB, and that is where he was slotted. Though he worked at S, he is still listed at CB on the roster. And though he worked with the 2nd team defense, he isn’t listed on the 2-deep. It has to be disappointing for Garner to be passed on the depth chart by a number of underclassmen, including some true freshmen.
Here is Garner’s senior year highlight film:
Despite his lack of size, he’s a physical player. He’s a good open field tackler and he can also lay the wood. On paper, his real strength is in coverage. That Garner has been passed on the depth chart by a number of underclassmen, including some true freshmen, makes it even more interesting that Garner was working at S rather than getting additional reps at CB. It’s possible that the coaching staff felt the need for a cover guy at S, and that Garner was the best choice there. At this point, it seems as though Garner would be a last resort at either CB or S.
Over the past 2 years, Garner has been an important part of the Hoos’ kick coverage teams. He has 7 tackles. He’ll continue to contribute there. But it seems like becoming a regular part of the defense may have passed Garner by.