How's Your Unit? - More Defensive Backs
NC State CB Dontae Johnson
NC State CB Dontae Johnson
Posted Mar 31, 2013

The most interesting defensive back situations this offseason, Part 2

2013 Spring Preview 

Position Watch - More DBs

- Top Ten key 2013 spring defensive back battles

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It was a strange year for the UK secondary, struggling wildly against the better downfield passers and getting destroyed after the first month finishing with just five picks while giving up 21 touchdowns. Three starters are gone including corner Cartier Rice and safeties Mike Benton and Martavius Neloms, but injuries were a huge problem. Ashley Lowery played a big role at safety through most of the season before getting hurt. Fred Tiller, Zack Blaylock, Daron Blaylock and Cody Quinn were all true freshmen who should be ready to roll around J.D. Harmon, a first year corner who came up with two picks. Pencil in Quinn on the other side, while JUCO transfer Nate Willis will at least add a little bit of dept at corner.

New Mexico
How bad are things in the secondary? The Lobo receiving corps might be one of the worst in America, and yet wideout SaQwan Edwards is making the move over to the defensive side. The pass defense was a disaster last season, and now it's without almost all the top players. The secondary was a disaster, hurt by a lack of pass rush and big plays up front. Losing three starters won't help, with sophomore Cranston Jones the lone returning starter at corner after making ten tackles and a pick. For good and bad, almost all the defensive backs can move around to different spots. Jones is a corner, but just about everyone else come move around depending on the formation and alignment.

NC State
New head man Dave Doeren has work to do on both sides of the ball, but the secondary is one of the bigger issues with pickoff artist David Amerson gone along with the team's two top tacklers, safeties Earl Wolff and Brandan Bishop, who combined for 222 stops. Dontae Johnson is a 6-3 corner who started out his career at safety and showed he could hang with the ACC's better receivers. Sophomore Justin Burris got five starts and should step in for Amerson at one corner. Safety Hakim Jones made ten tackles and has the size to take over for Wolff, while sophomore Tim Buckley has a shot at stepping in for Bishop at free safety after spending last year as the backup. Corner Dravious Wright is the team's best defensive back recruit.

San Jose State
With the move into the Mountain West, the San Jose State team that went 11-2 last year with the second best pass defense in the WAC has to tighten up in a real hurry or quarterback David Fales will be involved in shootout after shootout. This was a good group of ball-hawkers last season coming up with 15 picks, and while the secondary was burned by BYU and Louisiana Tech, it was generally a positive. Safeties Cullen Newsome and James Orth are done after being two of the team's top tacklers, while Ronnie Yell was a solid-tackling cover corner. Fortunately, Bene Benwikere is back at one corner after coming up with a WAC-high seven picks. Jimmy Pruitt and Damon Ogburn spent last year as understudies and now will get their shot at the open corner job, while sophomores Travis Talianko and Simon Connette have to grow up quickly to take over the safety jobs. Freshman safety Tyler Winston was the team's top recruit, while JUCO transfer Esston Al-Uqdah should provide some instant depth.

Toledo managed to come up with 17 picks and made up for several mistakes with some big plays, but everyone who wanted to throw, did. The Rockets allowed 200 yards or more in every game. There's not going to be a killer pass rush to help take the heat off, and it's going to be trial by fire at all four spots. However, after finishing 116th in the nation against the pass, and after getting picked apart, a little improvement will go a long way. Junior corner Cheatham Norrils is the lone returning starter, and he's a good one. Sophomore Chris Dukes is the likely top option on the other side while Ross Madison, Danny Larkins and Jordan Haden will combine forces at safety.

- Top Ten key 2013 spring defensive back battles