Champ's Eventual Replacement? Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox



"Want a lock down corner who is not afraid to press you? Then Cox is your man."

That's what the Oklahoma State Cowboys were getting five years ago when they received a commitment from four star cornerback Perrish Cox.  Let's hope that is exactly what the Denver Broncos are getting as well.

In the last two offseasons, the Broncos have been anything but shy about adding talent to the defensive backfield.  Compared to the 2008 defensive backs--the last in the Mike Shanahan era--Champ Bailey and Josh Barrett are the only two that remain. 

Despite the fact that Josh McDaniels and the new regime in Denver have added a plethora of defensive backs, there is still some uncertainty among Broncos fans as to where the unit is headed for the future.  The safety position would appear to be set, but what happens when Champ Bailey is gone?  What happens when Andre' Goodman is gone?

The Broncos have to feel like they got themselves a couple of nice steals in the 2010 NFL Draft in the fifth and seventh rounds, and one of those guys carrying the "steal" status is Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox.

 Cox played high school football at University High School in Waco, Texas where he excelled in all three phases of the game.  Not only that, but Cox was also an outstanding track athlete in high school as well, and actually received multiple scholarship offers for both sports.

As a senior at University High School, Cox recorded 27 tackles, nine interceptions, and a sack along with two punt returns for touchdowns.  Offensively, he hauled in 47 receptions for 670 yards and 12 more touchdowns.  His performance in his final year earned him a spot in the 2006 U.S. Army All-American game, and was named one of Scout.com's top 100 players.

The number eight cornerback in the nation had some troubles academically in high school, recording a 2.5 GPA and a 15 on his ACT.  Despite his academic woes, Cox was still a fantastic athlete and was named first team All-Everything in the state of Texas. 

Not surprisingly, the Big 12 was all over this Texas star, and he had offers pouring in from the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State as well as LSU.

Scouts were extremely intrigued by Cox's combination of height and speed, and the track star recorded a 4.44 second 40 yard dash back in his high school days.  Scout.com had this to say upon his selection to the U.S. Army All-American game:

Perrish Cox of Waco, Texas is a speed demon with outstanding size. Measuring 6-0 and 170 pounds, Cox clocked one of the best times at any one of our Scout.com Combines this year with a 4.44. It should be no surprise that the track star was one of the fastest players as he is also being recruited to run track.

Cox was considered to be a shutdown cornerback whose only real deficiency as a player was his size and thus, his ability to effectively tackle bigger ball carriers.  A lanky 6'0" 170 pounds, Cox knew that his major weakness was his size, and that is something he set out to improve as he moved on to college.

"I can shut a good receiver down on defense," said Cox. "I'm pretty athletic and like to play heads up. I'm real good at man coverage. I want to get bigger and be able to go head to head with a big tailback better."

Cox wound up choosing Oklahoma State over the aforementioned LSU, Oklahoma, and Nebraska where he became an instant impact player on special teams.

Literally.

Upon his arrival at Oklahoma State in 2006, Cox became the first Cowboy since the great Barry Sanders--widely considered to be one of the top collegiate players of all-time--to open the season with a kickoff return for a touchdown.  Cox took the opening kick against Missouri State 96 yards for a score, setting up a season in which he became one of the nation's most efficient return men, averaging 23.8 yards per kick return and 12.8 yards per punt return.

Though he showed promise as a receiver in high school, he was used only on special teams and defense at Oklahoma State where he finished his freshman campaign with 24 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups. 

Cox finished the final eight games of his sophomore season at Oklahoma State as a starting cornerback, and he finished the year with 42 tackles, two interceptions, and eight pass breakups.  He continued his prowess as a return man, finishing second in school history with 665 kickoff return yards for the season.

Among those return yards were a kick and punt returned for scores, though he was a bit more limited on his punt return opportunities, only taking 17 all season.\

Cox's press coverage skills were undeniable, and his abilities as a return man were something that the nation really took notice of as he entered his junior season for the Cowboys, where he again took the opening kickoff for a 90 yard score against Washington State.

He concluded the 2008 campaign with 30 kick returns for 885 yards and two touchdowns, the second coming on another 90 yard strike in the final regular season matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Cox continued to play a steady role at the cornerback position, recording 32 tackles, two more interceptions, and eight pass breakups on the way to being named Honorable Mention All-Big 12.  He was also named to the CBS Sports 2008 All-American as a kick returner, and was also named the Kick Returner of the Year by College Football Performance Awards.

Statistically, Cox's best season came as a senior in 2009, where he recorded a Nation-best 19 passes defensed, four interceptions, 36 tackles, and roughly 850 return yards with a punt return touchdown.

2009 was an interesting year for Cox, where he became the Big 12 all-time leader in return yardage and was semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back.

Though he took on a leadership role in the secondary as a senior, his maturity was in serious question after he missed curfew before the Cotton Bowl and then posted on Twitter about it.  Cox was also arrested for speeding and driving with a suspended license in September 2009, and was suspended for the biggest game of his senior season.

Cox reportedly has great work habits in the weight room, and though his maturity has been questioned, he has three children to take care of. 

The standout performer was expected to go as high as the first round by many draft analysts, but certainly no later than the third round.  After an unexpectedly slow 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine of 4.58 seconds, Cox's stock took a plummet. 

Though Cox was not able to participate in Oklahoma State's pro day, he held a private workout in Waco, Texas where he greatly improved his combine numbers, reportedly running as fast as 4.45 seconds in the 40 yard dash and 4.57 when running into the wind.  Either way, Cox's numbers from the combine were greatly improved, and he checked in at a solid 191 pounds.

At 6'0" 191 pounds running a 4.45 second 40 yard dash and being regarded as a "shutdown press corner", Cox seems like the guy--regardless of his curfew issue--that you might want to take a third round flyer on.

Not to mention his prowess on special teams as a return man, which are his most heralded skills.  Coming out of Oklahoma State, Cox seems to have almost everything Josh McDaniels and his staff look for in a player other than his minor character issues.  He is versatile and can help this team immediately without having to be thrust into the starting lineup.

So, when the Broncos saw him sitting on the board with the 137th pick, they were stunned:

"There was no hesitation on our part at this point (in the draft)," Denver coach Josh McDaniels said during his post-draft press conference. "He’s admitted he’s made some mistakes. I go back to... ‘Is this a character issue or is this a guy who has made a few wrong decisions?’ We think it is (the latter); we spent some time with Perrish at his pro day and at the combine."
Almost every draft fan and analyst was surprised that Cox was still available for the Broncos, or any team for that matter, in the fifth round of the draft.  Though he expected to go higher, Cox knew that his actions before the Cotton Bowl probably played a big role in his slide:

"It (the suspension) hurt me in a great way," Cox said during a teleconference on Denverbroncos.com. "I was told I was supposed to go higher than I did. The Cotton Bowl was a mistake on my part. It’s something I learned from and want to put in my past.

"I am just thankful to be in the position I am now and go to the Broncos."

The Broncos know they got a talented player, but Cox isn't going to be a "steal" unless he performs out on the field, and McDaniels knows he is capable:

"He’s a player that is more talented than where he was drafted, there’s no question about that," McDaniels said. "We felt good enough at that point to make the move. He has to live up to his part of the bargain, and we believe he will."
Cox will undoubtedly have a good time making the transition to the NFL.  As he continues to utilize his superb return skills, something that seems to come very natural for him, he has the privelege of working under Champ Bailey, arguably the best cornerback the NFL has seen in the last couple of decades. 
Clearly, Cox's potential is nothing Broncos fans have to worry about.  SB Nation's own Mocking Dan had this to say in his final evaluation of Cox:
Cox is the kind of physical cornerback who can have a long career in front of him. He was a three-year starter for Oklahoma State and a first-team All-Big 12 performer as a senior. Is an excellent special teams player and returned four kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns.

The only thing holding Perrish Cox back is Perrish Cox. He was suspended for the Cotton Bowl after breaking curfew and tweeting about it. He was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license in September of last year. Wasn't allowed to workout during the Oklahoma State pro day.


If Cox can play within himself and improve in some areas, he has the ability to be a very good starter in the NFL.


Perrish Cox obviously has all the talent to be a successful NFL cornerback, but he is the only one who can tap into that potential.  With the guidance he will receive from Champ Bailey and the Broncos' coaching staff, Cox is in a great position to have a solid NFL career, and right away, it appears as though No. 32's impact for the Broncos will initially be as a return man.
For someone who is "hard to tackle" as Josh McDaniels put it, that is a piece of the puzzle sure to be very valuable to the Broncos.


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