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2011 BCS Champ. Position Breakdown - DBs
Auburn CB Neiko Thorpe
Auburn CB Neiko Thorpe
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 7, 2011


The position-by-position breakdown of the 2011 BCS Championship - Defensive Backs

2011 BCS Champ. Breakdown

Auburn vs. Oregon - Def. Backs

- CFN 2011 BCS Championship Preview  
- CFN 2009 BCS Championship Breakdown - Florida vs. Oklahoma   
- CFN 2010 BCS Championship Breakdown - Alabama vs. Texas

CFN 2011 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION BREAKDOWN

- Quarterbacks | Running Backs
- Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defensive Lines | Linebackers
- Secondaries | Special Teams | Coaches

By Pete Fiutak

Auburn: Here’s the one big, screaming weakness on the Tigers. Granted, most of the yards are coming because teams spend so much time throwing in an attempt to keep up with the high-powered Auburn attack, but the secondary hasn’t exactly been able to buckle down throughout the season, getting bombed on by anyone who can throw the forward pass. The big issue ball-hawking; this crew doesn’t do enough of it. With only ten picks this year and six coming in the two games against South Carolina and the win over Arkansas, this isn’t a secondary that makes a lot of game-changing plays. Of the ten picks on the year, the secondary has come up with five. However, it’s a physical group that makes plenty of tackles, and should be a plus against the Oregon running game.

6-2, 186-pound junior corner Neiko Thorpe hasn’t made a pick this year, but he is fantastic as an open field tackler making 62 stops so far. However, he’s a beatable cover-corner and is far better against the run. On the other side is 5-9, 182-pound Demond Washington, a former JUCO transfer who moves well with elite cutting ability. He’s physical for his size, seeing a little time over the years at strong safety, but his strength is as an elite kickoff returner. The veteran safeties are fine, but they’re hardly special. Senior Zac Ethridge is a nice tackler and has his moments against the pass. Lucky just to be alive after suffering a frightening, season-ending neck injury against Ole Miss two years ago, he has miraculously come back to play well. 6-2, 208-pound junior Mike McNeil returned from missing 2009 with a broken leg to make 42 tackles at the other safety spot. Like most of the Tiger defensive backs, he can hit, but he has to do more with the ball in the air.

Oregon
: By far, like by a ten-mile wide margin, this should be Oregon’s biggest advantage. Even though everyone in the pass-happy Pac 10 had to throw to try to keep up with the nation’s No. 1 offense, the Ducks only gave up 214 yards per game and finished first in the league and sixth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Unlike the Tiger defensive backs, this group takes away the ball in bunches, and it can tackle. While teams have been able to move the ball through the air from time to time against the Oregon DBs, any error gets pounces on with 20 interceptions on the season including four to save the team’s bacon against Arizona State, and four in the Civil War win over Oregon State. However, the better, more efficient quarterbacks have lit the Ducks up like a Christmas tree, with Stanford’s Andrew Luck throwing for 341 yards and Arizona’s Nick Foles chucking away for 448 yards and three touchdowns.

5-10, 188-pound senior Talmadge Jackson III might not be all that big, but he can pop for a corner with 67 tackles on the year to go along with two picks. The First Team All-Pac 10 selection is a more natural safety, but at his size he’s built for corner with the wheels to keep up with any of the Tiger receivers. On the other side is Second Team All-Pac 10 pick Cliff Harris, a rising star sophomore, especially as a return man, who made 30 tackles on the year but made teams pay for staying away from Jackson with 15 broken up passes and five picks including two against Luck and Stanford. The safeties, by comparison to the corners, are serviceable, but solid. Sophomore John Boyett is only 5-10 and 198 pounds, but he has unlimited range and good pop making 67 tackles on the year with nine broken up passes and five picks. Primarily a quarterback in high school, Boyett plays the game fast and has a nose for the ball, while 5-11, 213-pound Rover Eddie Pleasant has worked as a linebacker along with his safety spot. Ideally suited for this hybrid role, he has the blend of size, speed, and toughness needed to handle this multi-faceted position with 63 tackles but no picks or broken up passes. Against the Tiger attack, don’t be stunned if he ends up as the game’s leading tackler.

ADVANTAGE
: Oregon. Auburn has athletes and it can run with the Ducks, and getting physical with the receivers won’t be a problem, but if the line isn’t getting to QB Darron Thomas, there will be moments when the Tigers get picked apart. Cam Newton doesn’t throw picks and is ultra-efficient, but this Duck secondary will challenge him throughout and should come up with at least one interception.

CFN 2011 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP POSITION BREAKDOWN

- Quarterbacks | Running Backs
- Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defensive Lines | Linebackers
- Secondaries | Special Teams | Coaches