Coming from East Mississippi Community College, it took a little while for C.J. Bates to get used to the change.
No, not to the clichéd “speed of the game,” though that is still a work in progress for the sophomore receiver. It was the change in scenery that took him off guard.
He was accustomed to turning his head to the side and seeing his fellow receiver Antoinne Adkins there next to him. The two were a dynamic receiving pair at East Mississippi last season, combining to post some healthy numbers as they led their team to the NJCAA national title.
They both made their way to Lafayette — Bates as a receiver, Adkins as a cornerback.
“Now he’s standing right in front of me,” Bates said. “It kind of feels weird, but we just work with each other to get each other better.”
Wherever they may be on the field, the duo from East Mississippi Community College stand in line to make an impact on the team this season.
Adkins is battling with sophomore Dominick Jones for the starting cornerback job opposite senior Corey Trim, a competition coach Mark Hudspeth said on Wednesday is far from over.
“Antoinne is going to play in the secondary,” Hudspeth said.
Even by cornerback standards, Adkins is small. He’s listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds.
But he makes up for his lack of size with his ability to go snatch a football.
Both Adkins and Bates hauled in a team-leading 53 passes for their junior college squad last season, and Adkins snagged 21 passes the year before as a freshman on a 12-0 East Mississippi team. Adkins feels his ability to catch the ball will only help him as he adjusts to a new position.
“I feel like I’ve got good ball skills just because I’ve played receiver,” Adkins said.
Senior wide receiver Jamal Robinson noticed the difference when going up against Adkins in practice compared to some others who had strictly been a defensive player.
“I think his ball skills are better than most cornerbacks’ since he’s played receiver,” Robinson said. “That’s a good thing.”
Adkins still has plenty of learning to do at a position where he’ll be attempting to defend pass routes rather than run them, but he said he’s not entirely without experience. He said he played some defensive back in high school — way back in 2008.
“I already had a feel for it, it was just getting the technique back down,” Adkins said.
Just like riding a bike, right?
“That’s right,” Adkins said with a laugh.
He’ll be pushed by his former position buddy Bates, a raw but physically gifted 6-foot-1 athlete who accounted for more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as Adkins’ East Mississippi teammate last season.
“He’s been making plays,” Robinson said. “He’s got good hands and can make people miss. He’s quick.”
Adkins said he knows some of Bates’ moves, though he won’t admit to having taught those moves himself. He doesn’t keep them in the back of his head during practice, though, because that would ruin the point. How can he get better if he knows what’s coming?
Instead, Adkins focuses on the fact that he knows he’s going up against someone talented.
“We’re trying to make each other better,” Adkins said. “If we go against each other every day, hopefully we’ll get better sooner rather than later.”
They might be running against each other in practice rather than in coordination, but if they’ve worked well together before maybe working opposite each other will provide the same results.
“It’s a good place for the both of us,” Bates said.