Coming back from a serious injury can not only test a person physically; it can also be a mental struggle that some may not be able to endure.
During a practice session in October 2021, Purdue cornerback Cory Carlisle Trice Jr. suffered a season-ending ACL injury after a promising start to what should have been his breakout season. Instead, Trice Jr. admittedly suffered emotionally, going through the rehab process and not being able to play the game he loved. Instead of withering away, Trice turned to God and his family for strength. He would eventually come back from his injury a stronger, more enlightened young man.
After redshirting his true freshman year in 2018, Trice would appear in 11 games the following season, starting five of them. He would tie for the team lead with three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He would also add 35 total tackles and a pass defended. In the COVID-shortened season of 2020, Trice would start all six games and finish with 32 tackles, a tackle for loss, and two passes defended. After suffering a season-ending ACL injury in 2021, Trice came back in a big way in 2022. He would play and start in 13 games and lead the team with 10 pass breakups. He would also add two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six late in their contest against Indiana, which would seal their Big Ten West title. Trice would receive an All-Big Ten honorable mention from his coaches and media, as well as a Third Team All-Big Ten honor from Pro Football Focus.
One of the two things that cannot be taught to a defensive back is size and length. Simply put, they are attributes that you either possess or do not possess. In Trice's case, he possesses both of these attributes and is capable of using them to his advantage. Though his size may suggest a transition to the safety position, Trice is better suited to using his skillset as a cornerback.
Benefits Of Length
As we saw in the case of Joey Porter Jr., having superior length can afford a defensive back some room for error. In Trice's case, part of the reason for his success at Purdue was his ability to make sure of his near 33-inch arm length is an advantage. This next example will demonstrate his ability to make a play despite being in a somewhat compromising position.
In this next example against Maryland, Purdue is showing a zone defense with a single-high safety. Trice is positioned outside on the right. When the ball is snapped, the Terrapin receiver closest to the line of scrimmage stems Trice's inside shoulder, which eventually results in him having outside leverage.
In most cases, this should result in an easy catch and first down, right? Not in this case; as soon as he breaks outside, Trice closes the gap using his speed and extends out to make a beautiful pass deflection. As noted, this should have been a first down, but Trice's superior length made the difference.
Making Plays In The Backfield
On the rare occasion when Trice Jr. is playing in the box, he has shown the ability to blitz inside and make plays in the backfield. His large frame allows him not only to be an effective press man cornerback, but he is also an asset in run support. This next play against Penn State demonstrates this very idea.
In this sequence, we have the Purdue defense in a relatively stacked box with Trice Jr. positioned on the far right as the nickelback. When the ball is snapped, Trice Jr. does a great job delaying his move until the handoff takes place. Once the Nittany Lions running back is handed the ball, Trice Jr. leaves his spot, blitzes inside, and does a great job lowering his pad level to make the tackle for a loss of three yards. Could he be used in this fashion at the next level? Only time will tell.
Instincts And Ball Skills
With all his desirable physical attributes, his greatest strength is arguably his mind. Throughout his career, he has shown a propensity to make timely plays in coverage due
to his instincts in ball skills. This next clip you will see shows his ability to process quickly and react.
This sequence took place in his redshirt freshman year against Maryland. Trice Jr. is seen as the outside corner on the left side. The key characters in this play are the Terrapins receiver positioned across from him and the Terrapins tight end positioned as a flex on the right. Notice how Trice Jr.'s eyes are more engaged on the quarterback than the receiver in this sequence.
When the ball is snapped, both the receiver and tight end will create a rub effect, which does not fool Trice Jr. He allows the receiver through and breaks on the tight end, running into the flats. Trice Jr. shadows briefly, then undercuts the route for the interception, which he takes all the way into the end zone. Patience, instincts, and ball skills are all displayed in one sequence.
To say the least, Trice Jr. is not your average seventh-round cornerback. Based on the reports from this year's OTAs, the Steelers are finding out quickly that his skillset makes him far more valuable than the round in which he was drafted. If there is one rookie who is ready to make an impact, this young man would be a safe bet.