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2021 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Backs

There are a lot of new faces in the secondary, including a new cornerbacks coach.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins today so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team.

Defensive Backs

Position Coach: Cornerbacks coach George Barlow took the USF job after spending the last six seasons at NC State. He will replace Jules Montinar (cornerbacks) and Wes Neighbors (safeties) who took jobs elsewhere. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will coach safeties.

Key Losses: Mike Hampton, KJ Sails. Bentlee Sanders, Nick Roberts.

Key Returners: Daquan Evans, Vincent Davis, Christopher Townsel, Mekhi Lapointe, Mac Harris.

Key Additions: TJ Robinson becoming eligible. Incoming transfers, Christian Williams (Miami), Will Jones II (Kansas State), Mathew Hill (Auburn). Potential impact freshmen Jaelen Stokes (Ranked No. 38 on ESPN 300’s top CB list) and Jalen Herring (ranked no. 117 on 247sports top athlete list.)

The position group with the most attrition could possibly be the secondary for the Bulls as they look to replace the production of the Mayor of Tampa KJ Sails (51 tackles and 3 interceptions in two years) and three year starter Mike Hampton (108 career tackles). In addition to both starting corners hitting the NFL draft, two safeties in Nick Roberts and Bentlee Sanders announced their intention to transfer.

Jeff Scott and company took no time to find replacements by hitting the transfer portal hard bringing in two former four-star CBs in Christian Williams and Matthew Hill, and a high three-star in Will Jones. This is in addition to bringing in some potential immediate impact talent through signing day.

What was supposed to be the strong point for the defense last season was hit hard with poor play, transfers, and covid-19 issues, the secondary underperformed in 2020. Luckily, a lot of two-deep received plenty of game action due to covid-19 protocols, injuries, and opt-outs with eight players on the roster seeing significant playing time.

Junior Daquan Evans emerged as a playmaker at corner playing in all nine games recording 28 tackles and three interceptions for 138 return yards and Mac Harris played in seven games with two starts recording 24 tackles and a pick in his freshman campaign. Sophomore Christopher Townsel also played admirably playing in eight games and starting five with 32 tackles and a pick in his freshman season.

Mekhi Lapointe (33 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Vincent Davis (34 tackles, 1 QB hurry) continued their steady career play with six starts each in seven games at safety and the STAR position respectively.

USF was tied for 29th in the country in 2020 with 10 interceptions and 11th in return yards with 220—all, but one from current roster players.

Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and Barlow will have plenty of pieces to work with, but replacing two bookends at cornerback will be a tough job. The mix of talented underclassmen, veteran upperclassmen, and P5 transfers should deliver a variety of roster options for a defense that annually needs to find an answer to the various spread options in the American.