OSU football: Jarrick Bernard-Converse, Christian Holmes offer good choices at vacant cornerback position
STILLWATER — At the end of last season, Jim Knowles didn’t know who was going to play cornerback opposite Rodarius Williams, because A.J. Green was graduating.
Now, Knowles doesn’t know who’s going to play that spot, because two players have proven themselves worthy of the job.
Knowles, in his third season as Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator, was working in the spring to figure out how best to fill the only vacant starting position on his defense.
He moved Jarrick Bernard-Converse from the cover safety position to cornerback for spring camp, which was virtually wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s played as many games at Oklahoma State as I have,” Knowles said of Bernard-Converse, who started as a true freshman in Knowles’ first season.
Then the Cowboys added some insurance over the summer in graduate transfer Christian Holmes from Missouri, who played in 24 games as a part-time starter and regular contributor over the past two seasons.
Both players are listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, which is good size for a cornerback, but that’s not the end of their similarities, according to Knowles.
“Both those guys are quality players, quality individuals, football guys. We’re gonna be fine. I’m thrilled with the way they’re playing,” he said.
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Bernard-Converse’s nature as a talented but selfless player has stood out since he arrived on campus as a freshman. Blending in so seamlessly isn’t always easy, however, for a graduate transfer. Yet Holmes has made it work.
“He brings a lot of experience. Gameday reps,” coach Mike Gundy said. “But more importantly, he’s the perfect example of a young man that understands what it takes to be successful at this level. He’s very mature, very intelligent. He knows what his goals are.
“He wants the team to win, but he also wants to play this game for a number of years, so his work ethic throughout the summer, his verbal leadership and also leadership on the field has been fantastic for our team. Very few times can we have a young man come into our culture and earn the respect of the players based on his work ethic and leadership skills in a short period of time, and Christian’s been able to do that.”
On the opposite side, Williams is a fourth-year starter who often will be asked to handle the opponent’s best receiver. But Knowles no longer faces the perilous question of how to replace Green. Instead, Knowles is choosing between two good options.
“A.J. is a significant loss,” Knowles said. “But to be able to replace him with a guy (Bernard-Converse) who has two years worth of starts and bring in a transfer (Holmes) who is everything you could ever want in a kid in terms of his ability and his focus and his wanting to be a part of the team — I feel great about the position.”