With Spring football in the rearview mirror, players and coaches are gearing up for summer conditioning and prepping for fall camp. Heading into that period, one of the main areas of concern is the back end of the defense; the secondary.
ASU loses 3 of last year’s starters in the defensive backfield. (Irabor, Nelson, Darby) Those starters were all seniors and very experienced. The lone returning starter is Damarious Randall. Though he is returning, he only has about ten games under his belt.
The defensive backfield on every football team in the country is a ridiculously important unit, especially in the last several years with the proliferation of pass-happy offenses. The physical skills and the mentality required to play the position of defensive back are unique.
Anyone who has ever played football or even just messed around in the backyard knows how hard it is to cover a receiver. The WR on offense has the advantage of knowing what route he is going to run and what the QB is going to do with the ball. He also knows the QB’s drop depth and pass protection to determine how deep the route will be run. The DB obviously doesn’t have that information and must read and react to the man he is covering. This is an athletically challenging feat.
On top of that, defensive backs must have a “short memory”. It’s inevitable in this day and age, that sooner or later, every DB is going to get burned by the offense. He’ll mis-read, mis-play or mis-judge a route or a pass. Or maybe he’ll just get beat deep or shaken off by a nice move by the receiver. It’s going to happen. It’s embarrassing, and DB’s typically get exposed and made fun of during film sessions following the game. Therefore, it’s imperative that defensive backs have the ability to shake off the fact that they just got embarrassed and gave up a big play, and then move on.
As far as personnel returning. The above mentioned Damarious Randall seems to have one safety position locked up. The other safety position is less stable at this point. Laiu Moeakiola, Marcus Ball and James Johnson are all vying for that spot. Although, the staff has mentioned experimenting with Ball at an outside linebacker position. Right now, it appears that Johnson has a step on both.
At corner, there’s some competition going on right now. And it won’t end until September. Lloyd Carrington has the most experience of all the returning corners. He’s in a good spot right now, but hasn’t locked himself in yet. Solomon Means, Rashad Wadood and William Early have looked solid at corner. Incoming signees Kweishi Brown and Deandre Scott bring a lot of athleticism to that position, but they’ll be way behind the learning curve when they arrive.
So, heading into the summer, coach Todd Graham would be wise to pay quite a bit of attention to this defensive backfield. Devils in Detail believes he will. With coach Patterson coordinating the defense this season, Graham will be able to emphasize and scrutinize specific units of the D. The backfield will be one of them.