Spring practice begins this week 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.
Position Coach: Bob Shoop (safeties coach/defensive coordinator) and George Barlow (cornerbacks coach)
Key departures: S Brock Nichols (10 tackles, 1 INT, legendary composite photo)
Key returnees: S Vincent Davis (68 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 PBU), DB Mekhi LaPointe (59 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 3 PBU), DB Daquan Evans (59 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 fumble recovery, 3 PBU), S Christian Williams (20 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 PBU), S Will Jones (missed 2021 due to an ACL injury)
Key additions: S Ray Thornton III (Clemson), S Aamaris Brown (Kansas State).
The defensive backs unit had a rough go in the 2021 football season, beginning when highly touted transfer Will Jones tore his ACL before the season had begun. The unit couldn’t stay healthy or consistent, and it resulted in defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer being relieved of his duties after a 45-14 ass beating by the hands of Tulane before the season had ended.
Turning the page to the 2022 spring season, head coach Jeff Scott brought in Bob Shoop to lead his defense and oversee the safety group. They brought in two transfers in Aamaris Brown from Kansas State and Ray Thornton III from Clemson to shore up depth, on top of getting Will Jones back from an ACL injury that sidelined him all of 2021.
This offseason, the defensive back group has been all over strength and condition coach AJ Artis’ GRIT rankings. In each workout, a player is given a score 0-4 noting their ‘Grit’ during the training, four being ‘championship level’ effort and 0 being unable to finish. Leading the group is the aforementioned Will Jones but other defensive backs in the top pack are Daquan Evans, Jayden Curry, Mekhi LaPointe, Vincent Davis, and Dequan Stanley.
Coach Scott, who has lauded his team's offseason workouts, gives us the top-10 ranked workout performers: No. 1 is Will Jones, guy who tore his ACL but has obviously come back strong. Then it's Bellamy, Cecil, Yates, Smoke Davis, Grant, Meech Harris, LaPointe, Carter, Norris.— dareksharp (@DarekSharp) February 24, 2022
Going into spring practice, new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will have no shortage of experience at his disposal in the secondary. The defense looks to be aligning to a 4-2-5 formation rather than a 3-3-5 and with only one departure from last year’s secondary, the consistency and competition across the safety and corner position should provide fruition. However, the unit will have a lot to prove after coming off a season where they gave up nearly 300 yards passing and over 2 TDs a game though the air.