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Pre Camp Position Outlook: Defensive Backs

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL DL | LB | DB | ST
Being honest this has been the preview that I have been dreading getting to. I have developed something of a guarded confidence about this team. Most of the factors that lead to last years dramatic and complete down turn in results can be placed at the feet of vague and abstract things like the turnover margin and the colossal lack of depth. Turnover margin almost never repeats year to year. Phil Steele has made a nice career for himself projecting games using a system that heavily weights turnover margin and accounts for them as they truly are, almost completely random events. The depth is better this year across the board, and that is all well and good, and it is the basis for my perhaps irrational confidence about this team this year. I don't look forward to going in depth with the secondary because this is one area of the team where I don't have abounding confidence about a revival. But I am a (semi)professional and so I will plough on. 


CB - 9 - Dominque Battle

Battle was the veteran of the corners coming into last year and was counted on to be the rock of a very young group of corner backs. That never quite came to pass. Battle was knocked around in camp and was injured. He did not start the opening game against Fresno State. He returned the next week for the game with Indiana State. He started the next two games against N.C. State and Oklahoma but he was injured in the OU game. It was then announced that he had been lost for the year. If he can stay healthy this year Battle should be penciled in at one corner for the rest of the year. If he isn't then all four starting jobs will be contested for the duration of the year.

CB - 21 - Camerron Cheatham

Cheatham had a rough year last year. He was forced into action by the Battle Injury and he started 9 games, not always with stellar results. To be fair though, everyone sucked last year so it isn't really fair to hold that against him. By all accounts Cheatham had a great off season, both in the weight room and on the practice field. I think Cheatham will start the opener, but he is by no measure locked into this spot.

FS - 26 - Drew Frey

Why? I have no idea. I am not a fan of Drew's. It's nothing against him personally, but after a great first couple of years he has not developed enough since. I would just as soon start Arryn Chenault in this spot and roll with the punches. As I said when I broke down the post spring depth chart I will give Frey two weeks to prove me wrong before I start calling for his head. I would love nothing more than for every instinct I have about him as a player to be proven wrong. But based on what I have seen of him in his 5 years with the program it's probably not going to happen.

SS - 17 - Malcolm Murray

From a purely physical standpoint Murray is probably among the most talented DB's on the roster. He is fast enough has good instincts and covers a ton of ground. He is a physical but sound tackler. He was an early enrollee and was here for spring practice. He got the lions share of reps. By all accounts the early returns weren't stellar. He hasn't picked up the defense quickly. But his talent level is such that it makes no sense not to give him every opportunity.

NB - 20 - Chris Williams

Williams came to UC as arguably the most talented defensive back ever to come to Clifton from high school. But a combination of injuries and playing out of position has prevented him from starting. I am a big fan of Williams and I thought that he should have be a starter at one of the safety spots last year. He started 4 games last year, 2 as a nickle back, one as FS one as SS. He should be the starting NB again this season.

The Rotation

CB - 11 - Deven Drane

Played in 8 games down the stretch and started against UConn. Drane has the perfect skill set and dimensions to be a boundary corner down the line. He also looks a little bit like the predator with his helmet on, always a good sign for a future corner.

CB - 8 - Adrian Witty

Witty is a guy who had a ton of buzz building about him last year during camp. But when the season rolled around he picked up a couple of knocks and was never quite healthy. He played in the first four games before the staff put him on the shelf after the Oklahoma game. Had a good, not great spring and should push Cheatham hard for the 2nd corner job.

CB - 5 - Reuben Johnson

Started every game last year, and will probably start quite a few this year as well because there is a ton of volatility in the back end. He is an aggressive corner both in coverage and in run support. He had more than his fair share of big sticks, but he also bit hard on quite a few double moves that resulted in big plays. If he can play with a calmer head he could develop into a great corner because he has it all physically. Until such a time comes I can't project him starting where there are calmer hands available.

SS - 24 - Wesley Richardson

I admire Richardson for the way he has gone about his career. From walk on to starter is a journey that isn't all that common. That being said I don't think that Richardson is talented enough to be a productive player at this level. He has maxed out so to speak. I think he has a better grasp of the defense than his competition Murray, but Murray's sheer physical talent is hard to ignore when placed next to Richardson.

FS - 25 - Arryn Chenault

I would prefer Chenault to take over the FS job from Drew Frey. He played in the last 8 games of the year as a special teamer. He already has starter size at 6' 200 pounds and he will be a fixture down the road.

The Reserves

CB - 39 - Demitri Beal

Member of the 2010 recruiting class red shirted last year. Should be a special teamer

CB - 23 - Reuben Haley

Former walk on. Played in all 12 games last year primarily on special teams

S - 13 - Patrick Lamber

Played in all 12 games. Early in the year was the nickle back. Was unseated by Chris Willaims and relegated to special teams

S - 30 - Aaron Roberson

Walk on transfer from Gannon, saw action in 8 games last season.


CB - 28 - Trenier Orr

corner back prospect from the Orlando area. Most likely a red shirt this year. More here.

S - 49 - Isaih Vaughn

Prefered walk on safety from Pierce Community College in Los Angeles. JUCO teammate of Damon Julian.

Pre Camp Position Rating: 5

My feelings about the Defensive Backs are similar to those I have about the offensive line. There is enough talent on hand to fashion a competent secondary. But I don't have a lot of faith in the staff to put the best 4 on the field or to call a defense that puts the secondary in a position where success is a reasonable expectation. The defensive line will be much better this year and the secondary will certainly benefit from what appears to be a revitalized pass rush. The numbers will be better this year because they can't get much worse. But the biggest question mark for this team for me is the secondary. I have a good feel about where the rest of the positions stand, but I am in the dark here. It will be better, no question. But how much better?