Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Who is the best cornerback in the Mountain West?
For UNLV junior Jericho Flowers, that’s an easy question to answer.
“I’m going to say myself,” Flowers said with a smile after a recent UNLV training camp session.
Flowers has had plenty of practice with his answer. On July 5, he took to Twitter to predict he will be the conference’s best cornerback this season, and last week he told the official UNLV website that he and senior Jocquez Kalili are aiming to be the Mountain West’s best CB duo.
The Mountain West doesn’t quite see it that way. When the league announced its preseason All-MWC team last month, four defensive backs were chosen and Flowers was not among them.
It’s obvious that Flowers believes in the tao of “speak it into existence.” And in this case, he may not be that far off. He started 10 of 12 games last year as a sophomore and got better as the season went on, and by the end of the campaign he was playing at an all-league level.
Head coach Tony Sanchez said Flowers’ belief in himself is one of his greatest strengths.
“He’s an aggressive guy,” Sanchez said. “Superior level of confidence, which you have to have at that position. He’s one of the reasons I think we’re going to have a much-improved defense this year.”
Flowers is planning to turn up the aggressiveness this season. He said he conceded too many short passing routes last year, especially early in the year as he was re-adjusting to life as a full-time cornerback (as a freshman he was forced to switch to receiver due to a run of injuries on that side of the ball).
Now that he is settled in as a defensive back, he doesn’t plan on allowing short passes to go uncontested.
“Last year I gave up a lot of hitches, gave up a lot of short things,” he said. “I’m trying to give up nothing this year. I’m trying to be there in all aspects be productive throughout the game.”
At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Flowers proved to be a surprisingly good tackler on the perimeter last year. He made 43 solo stops, third-most on the team, and racked up 5.0 tackles for loss.
That stat Flowers is more interested in, however, is interceptions. He snagged two picks in 2017, but he believes the new defensive system installed by first-year coordinator Tim Skipper will give the entire secondary more chances to ballhawk.
“Tight coverage gets you picks, and I want as many picks as I can get,” Flowers said. “It’s already coming together in practice. We just have to play together. We play a lot of man coverage now with coach Skip, a lot of high energy, a lot of sticky coverage. If you have sticky coverage and the quarterback chooses to throw your way, you’ve got to make the play.”
Flowers did just that in UNLV’s first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, when he went stride for stride with Brandon Presley down the sideline on a deep ball and came away with the only interception of the day.
If he keeps up that level of play for a full season, the Mountain West prognosticators will likely come around to his way of thinking when it comes to cornerback rankings.