Tankersley ready for next opportunity
There are several ways to handle adversity.
One can run from it, change course to avoid it or find a way to overcome it, among other options. Former Silver Bluff football standout Cordrea Tankersley battled it head on, and he’s poised to reap the benefits of his decision this fall as a member of the Clemson football team.
Tankersley, a quarterback for the Bulldogs, originally signed with Clemson on National Signing Day in 2012, but he failed to qualify academically.
After a semester studying and playing defensive back at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., he’s rectified that problem. With his grades where they need to be, he signed with the Tigers again this year.
Tankersley said he’s excited to have the chance to finally prove that he’s the Division I talent that the Clemson coaches saw during his days in Petticoat Junction.
“It feels great,” he said Friday of qualifying. “I have a second opportunity to go out and showcase my talent.”
While Clemson fans will be mainly interested in his development as a player, Tankersley pointed out that he also gained knowledge off the field and in the classroom that will be useful at a four-year school. In fact, that’s the part of his prep school experience that he chose to highlight above all else.
“Academically ... it was a great experience because I learned a lot that I can use at the next level,” he said.
On the field, Tankersley said he learned how to be a cornerback, which is where he’s expected to play for Clemson. In fact, he said he’ll be in competition for one of the Tigers’ starting corner positions this fall.
“That’s where I’m pretty much more comfortable at because that’s where I played 100 percent of the time at Hargrave,” Tankersley said.
He was mainly known for his offensive prowess in high school while also playing safety. But the former Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas selection didn’t waste any time adjusting to his new position. In the prep school Tigers’ season opener against Southern Tech, Tankersley returned an interception for a score. Later in the season, he recorded three tackles against Navy’s junior varsity squad and its option attack, proving his aptitude in run defense.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been impressed with what he’s seen from Tankersley.
“He’s a guy that I think has a chance to be a really, really, really good player,” Swinney said at a Wednesday news conference. “He’s got great size for the position.”
It’s that size that makes Tankersley an asset to the Tigers, who had depth issues in their secondary down the stretch of the 2012 season. They closed with a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. But even in that game, wide receiver Adam Humphries was prepared to play defensive back.
“We had a lot of needs in the secondary, and the biggest thing is ... we got in a bind this year to the point that we had to take Adam and train him up,” Swinney said. “We just got very thin; we lost some guys for the year. ... We just felt like we had to have some guys who could play early.”
As a result, Clemson signed seven defensive backs, including Tankersley, in this year’s class of 23 signees.
While Swinney said that he and his coaching staff were looking for some volume, there were traits they were seeking in potential Tiger defensive backs. First, they were looking to fill the necessary depth at cornerback and safety. But they were also looking for versatile players that could play both, in addition to the nickelback position.
“This was a big need for us, and we didn’t just want to sign guys,” Swinney said. “We wanted to sign guys that fit specific needs in the secondary, and we got a couple of those guys that offer us some flexibility.”
Tankersley said that’s where he comes into the picture. While he’ll start his career at Clemson as a 6-foot-1, 195-pound cornerback, he said coaches have told him his size may one day allow him to move to safety.
His past as a successful, athletic quarterback is also a positive, Tankersley said.
“They’re glad that I played quarterback in high school because I can learn the plays and move around,” he said, referring to his ability to fill many roles in the secondary.
As for playing time, Swinney confirmed Tankersley’s assertion that depth chart slots in the Tigers’ defensive backfield will be open for competition this fall, even with star 2013 recruits like Mackensie Alexander in the mix.
“The plan is to play half of them, redshirt half of them,” Swinney said of the first-year defensive backs. “Who they’re going to be, I don’t know. They’re going to have to figure that out.”
While he won’t be able to get into Clemson for the spring semester or spring practice because of the time it took to be deemed eligible by the NCAA, Tankersley said the rigors of college life won’t be a hindrance to his success on the field. He said waking up early for practices or workouts won’t be shock to his system after his time in the military structure of Hargrave.
“Waking up in the morning shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “It was a good idea to go there.”Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.