Cornerback Corey Ballentine, shot in the rear end in a draft-night incident that killed his friend and teammate Dwane Simmons, has reportedly gotten to work with the New York Giants as they continue their offseason program.
How much work Ballentine can do at this point is unknown. He is expected to make a full physical recovery.
During rookie mini-camp, coach Pat Shurmur said Ballentine “was the victim of a crime” and the Giants “want him to get full closure” after the loss of his friend.
Let’s turn the focus to Ballentine the player as we continue our look at the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp.
How he got here
Ballentine was known more as a track star than a football player in high school.
“I wasn’t really highly recruited for football coming out of high school. I was a late bloomer, I was recruited more for track,” Ballentine told reporters via conference call shortly after the Giants selected him in the sixth round, 180th overall. “Washburn was one of my few football offers that believed in me. They believed they could help me grow and get better as a player. I met with the coaches and I figured it being close to home and I was comfortable with my coaches and teammates, it would be the best option for me. That’s why I chose it over other schools. I had a couple other D2 offers but I figured Washburn was the best one out of the other offers.”
Ballentine played in 46 collegiate games with 186 tackles (113 solo), 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and five interceptions. He blocked four kicks and averaged 24.81 yards per kickoff return.
Ballentine also ran track at Washburn and set school records in the 60- and 200-meter indoor events.
Ballentine was named the Cliff Harris Award winner for the small college defensive player of the year and was one of only three NCAA Division II players to be selected for the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“It [the Senior Bowl] was definitely very important for me. I’ve always felt like I could compete with that type of competition as far as being with those D1 guys. This was kind of like my first real opportunity and I think I went out there and I did well,” Ballentine said. “My real goal was just to improve every day. I knew I wasn’t going to go out there and immediately just lock everyone down, but as long as I was growing mentally and growing physically and getting my technique better, I felt like that was more important.
“It was definitely important, kind of an eye opener for me because there is a lot of things I haven’t seen as far as routes, route combinations that I haven’t seen in Division II. When I got to the practices and one on ones and stuff, I saw that for the first time. It kind of opened my eyes and let me know I need to be more on my p’s and q’s. There are certain things I can get away with in Division II football that I can’t get away with there or in the NFL.”
The Giants, obviously, saw enough to think he can be an NFL player.
“Corey Ballentine, another height, weight speed guy and just played at a small school, and he’s got ball skills, he’s got ball production. He has played the nickel, as well,” GM Dave Gettleman said.
“... he’s 5’10”, he’s 196 pounds, he runs 4.44 plays 4.44. He’s got ball skills, he’s played the nickel, he’s played outside. How do you pass him up?”
NFL.com Lance Zierlein said:
Explosive, NFL-caliber athlete with outstanding speed and plus short-area quickness to match routes and drive on throws. Ballentine’s long speed, play strength and twitch will be coveted by teams looking for man-cover talent ... Could find early reps as a plus special teams performer.”
Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst said Ballentine has “outstanding upside:”
Ballentine was a terrific small-school corner who possesses the size, speed and underlying ability to play at the next level. He needs to refine his game but could make an impact as a rookie in dime packages in a man-coverage system or backed off the line of scrimmage.
Considering everything we know right now — sixth-round pick, third cornerback taken by the Giants, the adjustment he has to make from Division II competition, the time he has missed due to the personal tragedy he went through — it seems unlikely that Ballentine should be counted on to play a high volume of snaps. At least early in the season.
Ballentine’s background and athleticism figure to make him a potentially valuable special teams player, at least on coverage units. The Giants’ plan seems to be to rely on Corey Coleman and Jabrill Peppers as their primary return men, so Ballentine may only be Plan B or C in that role. If he’s in the plan at all.
Whatever the role, the Giants — and Giants fans — should be happy to see Ballentine at all.