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Football – Critical Position: Tillman, Trim may be solution to UL’s biggest question-The New Peanut?

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, August 14, 2013

UL’s two starting cornerbacks from a season ago, NFL prospect Melvin White and first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick Jemarlous Moten, were seniors in 2012.

There were jobs to be had in Lafayette – theirs – and Cedrick Tillman and Corey Trim knew it.

It’s a huge reason the two Mississippi junior-college cornerbacks are Ragin’ Cajuns now, and precisely why UL wanted the two as much as it did.

“That played a real big part in my recruiting,” Tillman said. “With (those) two guys leaving, I feel like I can come in and start.”

“That really helped my decision,” Trim added. “I was thinking, ‘If I can come here, do good, I’m gonna have the same opportunities they had.’ ”

So here the two are now, a week-and-a-half into preseason training camp, both itching to play in UL’s Aug. 31 season-opener at Arkansas.

“I can’t wait ’till the 31st,” said Trim, a product of Baton Rouge’s Redemptorist High. “Really can’t.”

“There are (72,000) people that are going to be at Arkansas and I’m going to be on TV for the first time,” added Tillman, who played at Grenada High in Mississippi. “So I really want to show up and show out.”

Whether or not they’ll both will start against the Razorbacks remains to be seen.

But odds right now seem tilted a tad in their favor.

With Trim and Tillman both missing spring practice while completing their associate degrees at Jones County (Miss.) Community College and Holmes (Miss.) Community College, respectively, Sean Thomas and Jevante Watson went into fall camp as UL’s two No. 1 corners.

Thomas, a junior, has stood out on special teams the last two years and got a start in a special dime package in a 2012 win over rival UL Monroe. But he played mostly sparingly as a reserve cornerback last season.

Watson, a sophomore who redshirted in 2011, also was a key contributor on special teams last season.

Both have limited experience in a college secondary, however, opening the door for Tillman, who said he had offers from Mississippi State and several Sun Belt schools, and Trim, who picked UL over fellow Sun Belt-program Troy, Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee.

“That (also) played a big part in my recruiting, because I felt like it was guys my age (who are the competition for playing time) – and I didn’t have to beat a senior out,” said Tillman, who was ranked as the country’s 28th-best juco cornerback prospect by 247Sports.com.

“Coming from a two-year program helps a lot, because I’ve been playing,” he added. “And I’m a junior, so that clock’s ticking. I came here ready to play, with my head on a swivel.”

Trim, ranked by 247Sports.com as the nation’s No. 33 juco cornerback recruit, knows the feeling. He had 46 total tackles in nine games last season while playing for former New York Giants, Alabama and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Ray Perkins at Jones County.

“They bring an element of experience to the secondary,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They’re physical, they’re confident and they’re getting better.”

“They’ve got a lot, a lot, of football snaps under their belt that some of these other guys who were even here for two years don’t have,” UL secondary coach Tim Rebowe added.

“You cannot underestimate the game experience they have. So they’ll be ready.”

Rebowe sensed as much when UL opened its camp early last week.

“It (doesn’t) take long,” he said late in the same week. “Probably the first day, they’re on the field and you go, ‘Hey, these guys are ready.’ ”

Or at least very nearly.

Both say they’re still getting in shape, still understanding UL defensive philosophy and still learning the Cajun way of doing

“I’m not ready to anoint them yet, but they’re looking good,” Hudspeth said early in camp. “They’re progressing.

“They’re close. They’re not ready yet, but they’re close,” the Cajun coach added Tuesday. “They’re competing. … The other guys (Thomas and Watson) are competing (too). I like the competition. They’re gonna compete at it, probably right up until game week.”

Trim and Tillman, for their part, seem pretty certain about where they’ll be when the Cajun defense first takes the field at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Yet they do so with a nod of respect for Bastrop High’s Watson and New Orleans-St. Augustine High product Thomas, who’ve paid their dues with two years each devoted to a program that’s enjoyed back-to-back 9-4 seasons and back-to-back New Orleans Bowl victories.

“I’m very confident,” Tillman said when asked about starting from the get-go. “I feel like if I keep coming out every day and working hard, I’ll get the spot.”

Trim, who’s been working mostly on the left side while Tillman works on the right, expressed similar sentiments.

He even used the same three words Tuesday, just a couple minutes before Tillman did as the two sat side-by-side.

“I’m very confident,” Trim said. “All I’ve to do is keep working hard every day, show Coach that I can play, compete every day, and the job’s sealed.”

The new Peanut?

New Ragin’ Cajun Cedrick Tillman worked out earlier this summer with fellow cornerbacks Bill Bentley, a 2012 NFL draft pick still with Detroit Lions, and Melvin White, a 2013 undrafted free agent currently in Carolina’s NFL camp.
But in a program well known for producing NFL defensive backs – Michael Adams, C.C. Brown, Todd Scott, Ike Thomas and Orlando Thomas just to name a few others – the cornerback Tillman is asked about most frequently is one with the same last name.
Charles “Peanut” Tillman is a two-time Pro Bowl pick who ranks third in Chicago Bears history with 33 interceptions. He was inducted last year into the UL Athletic Hall of Fame.
So are Cedrick and Charles related?
“I get that every day,” said Cedrick Tillman, a Mississippi high school product who joins UL as a transfer from Holmes (Miss.) Community College.
For the record, they’re not kin.
But don’t tell that to certain Cajun staff members.
“The trainers, they call me ‘Peanut,’ ” Cedrick Tillman said. “I take that as a compliment. I want to live up to that name. Keep that Tillman name going through the program.”
– Tim Buckley