The most talented and experienced position group on Defense is, without question, the Secondary. Even with recent departure of 4-year starter Rashaad Reid through graduation, the returning group of senior Rod Sweeting and juniors Louis Young, Isaiah Johnson, and Jemea Thomas still have 43 games started under their belts. Last year's Secondary was a significant part of a passing defense ranked 2nd in the ACC in YPG, Pass Comp%, and yards per passing play...although 2nd to last in Passing TDs allowed.
As exciting as it is to return this much experience with the CBs and Safeties, it's another name that seems to always get brought up when talking to anyone on the team about the Secodary unit...and that name is Fred Holton (...he's back!). A redshirt sophmore who sat out 2011 with an Achilles injury suffered in Fall practice, Holton was then challenging the Safeties for a starting spot. So how do you balance playing time with this much talent in the defensive backfield? Find out after the jump...
As it turns out...there's a good chance you end up playing all of them at once a good bit. As a veteran of the NFL and college game, CAG is in-tune to the dynamics of matchups and personnel groupings. A significant number of defensive snaps are played in the Nickel (5 DB set) or Dime (6 DB set) when the down and distance requires it, or the opposing team is playing catch-up. Usually when the 5th DB (the "Nickel" back) comes in, they get matched up against the offense's slot WR. Last year, however, this task went to Sweeting and the 5th DB (Thomas) played the WR out wide. We all remember Jemea Thomas matched up against Sammy Watkins last year, where the 5'11" Thomas certainly held his own and snatched 2 picks and defended a critical pass in the endzone. With Johnson and Holton as the Safeties, look for this trend to continue.
With the pass rush of the Front 7 a large question mark heading into 2012, this unit will need to cover opposing receivers as effectively as they can (of course, no coverage can survive very long after 4 seconds) for the Defense to succeed. However, our Secondary does more than just cover receivers. They have the size to play up in run support and run the Corner blitz effectively, which CAG does quite a lot of. Fred Holton (at 6'1" 209) is large and physically imposing at Safety, and will provide another dimension of run support that was lacking in the 2011 defense. In the Spring, all of the reports agreed that this is a much more physical, hard-hitting unit.
Backing up the CB spots are sophmore Jamal Golden (the other QB on the roster from Wetumpka, AL) and redshirt freshman Chris Milton...both are converted HS QBs (recruited as "Athletes"). Backing up Isaiah Johnson is sophmore Corey Dennis, and the current 2-deep behind Holton lists walk-on sophmore Coray Carlson, who will likely battle with redshirt freshman Dominique Noble and true freshman Lynn Griffin. Look for Golden, Dennis, and Milton to battle for that "Dime" back (6th DB) spot.
Are you impressed with our depth at Secondary? How would you line them up?