Sorry for the lateness of this post my continued job search took up the majority of the morning. Enjoy college while you can. Let's give a look at the secondary where two starters graduated and that was probably the best news we could have gotten.
The new emerging star at cornerback is the field cornerback Aaron Berry. Berry had a little bit of a rough start to last season but down the stretch he became one of the better players on the defense. He is a great tackler and is continuing to get better as a lockdown corner. Hopefully this season we will see more of his turnover causing ability with the more agressive bump at the line system Phil Bennet is going to implement. Backing up Berry is a player that we got to see a little early last season in Ricky Gary. One word to describe Gary's play is solid. He doesn't possess Berry's athletic ability but he is a solid player positionally and can make the tackle when need be. I think we could see Gary as a 4th or 5th cornerback in the dime packages.
At the other cornerback position, the boundary, Jovanni Chappel returns to the job he won late last season. When Chappel came into the defense in the final few games we saw an improvement in the passing defense. The knock on Chappel is his size only 5'9 180 pounds but he plays much bigger than he looks. At WVU last year he shut down a much larger wide receiver and I don't believe he will have problems defending bigger guys. Chappel has earned his way into the starting lineup through special teams play and hard work. He is a really smart football player who will add to the speed of the defense. Behind Chappel is the future star cornerback of the progoram Buddy Jackson. Jackson has shot up the depth chart in camp due to his phenomenal athletic ability, he was said to have ran a sub 4.3 forty time during camp. Along with his blinding speed Jackson is a decent sized player at 6'0 tall. I believe that Jackson will be the third corner used and with his level of talent I could see him garner increasing playing time over the season.
Another corner that we could see who isn't on the 2 deep is Jared Holley. Holley enrolled during January and the added time with the team has helped him make an impression on the coaching staff. Since Holley is just a freshman he doesn't need to be rushed and could take a redshirt this season. I would expect that Holley would take the redshirt and compete for a starting job next year. The other freshman corner Ronald Hobby will definitely redshirt and is a guy to look for in two years or so.
Moving onto safety we return one starter at free safety in Eric Thatcher. Thatcher is a very intriguing player because two years ago before his injury he was an absolutre force. He was a giant hitter would dominated the middle of the field. Last season he had trouble with missed tackles and blown assignments. If Thatcher plays up to his ability he could be an All Big East player but if he has the same problems as last season he could be in for some difficulty. His leadership as a 5th year senior will be invaluable to the other young safeties. Backing up Thatcher is either Irv Brown or Andrew Taglianetti. Brown is a very unknown player and has had a bit of injury trouble in camp. I'm interested to see what type of player he is and if he can slot in at free safety if need be. Taglianetti would probably be taking a redshirt this season but with his impact as a special teams player I could see him making a big impact. He is widely thought of as a gritty football player who does all the right things. I'm interested to see what we have in him as well.
The strong safety postion is one of youth and one of immense talent. Starter Dom DeCicco is a huge bodied player who has a penchant for the big hit. He has it all in terms of athletic ability and talent, it is going to be interesting to see how he adapts to Big East football. DeCicco is going to be a star its just a matter of how quick he becomes one. Backing up DeCicco is another physical specimen in Elijah Fields. Fields had a few problems early in his career but he has gotten it turned around and has done everything the coaching staff asked of him. The hype surrounding Fields is high and his athletic ability is something to behold. I have a hard time believing that Fields isn't going to see a bunch of playing time and won't see the field with DeCicco. Having two top level talents at strong safety is an asset that Coach Bennett needs to figure out how to exploit.
With all the talent we have in the secondary the only worry is unproven players. If a starter goes down it will be interesting to see how the backups respond. DeCicco and Fields are the players to watch this season.
Back tonight with the special teams and another column.