Spring Football Previews: Defensive Backfield

Will Jemea and the gang be even more productive this season? - Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

In today's spring practice previews, we take a look at the defensive backfield.

Tentative Pre-Spring Depth Chart

SLB Brandon Watts (R-Sr) Tremayne McNair (Jr) Tyler Marcordes (R-So)
MLB Jabari Hunt-Days (R-So) Anthony Harrell (R-So) Daniel Drummond (R-Sr)
WLB Quayshawn Nealy (R-Jr) Beau Hankins (R-Fr) Marcus Allen (R-Fr)
CB Jemea Thomas (R-Sr) D.J. White (So) Domonique Noble (R-So)
SS Fred Holton (R-Jr) Lynn Griffin (R-Fr) John Marvin (Fr)
FS Isaiah Johnson (Sr) Chris Milton (R-So) Coray Carlson (R-Jr)
CB Louis Young (Sr) Jamal Golden (Jr) Demond Smith (R-So)

I got this chart from our library of football resources -- check it out!

Key Players

First: the injuries. Jabari Hunt-Days is out for spring practices, as well as fellow DBs Brandon Watts, Fred Holton, and Isaiah Johnson. I don't think they'll lose their starting jobs in the fall though, so that settles that. In the meantime enjoy watching their respective backups on the depth chart above to make their case.

Jeremiah Attaochu should be an interesting guy to watch; not so much because of his play but because of his probable move to Defensive End. With his spot opening up in the backfield younger guys can come in and get game experience during garbage time or in specialty packages. The starters, however, will remain largely unchanged. Jabari Hunt-Days is coming off a big freshman effort in which he made 84 tackles and one interception. There will be lots of room for him to shine along with fellow 2012 star Quayshawn Nealy. Nealy racked up 79 tackles of his own, and though those numbers might go down with the scheme change in 2013 that doesn't make him any less talented.

Any conversation about key guys in the backfield has to mention R-Jr Safety Fred Holton. Is this the year he finally comes back? CPJ has been saying "he's close" for what seems like years now and I know we're all anxious to see him play again. He put on a small show his freshman year (forcing a fumble in the 2010 UGA game), and we've always heard about his talent, but two seperate injuries in 2011 and 2012 have kept us from seeing that potential realized.

Also look for Jemea Thomas to keep performing at a high level this spring, maybe even step it up for his senior season. Thomas was second on the team in tackles and first on the team in interceptions last year, but that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement! He's the elder of the defense and can lead the entire unit to improvement by example.

Expectations

The expectations for the defense are higher overall (we even got press about it over on the mothership). I don't think anyone is anticipating a very large improvement in the backfield simply because they were the best unit on the defense last year. Of course we should always be expecting steps forward; I'm just saying these guys aren't forecasted to skyrocket statistically. As long as they stay clear of injury we should be all good in this department for the spring.

One thing that could throw a monkey wrench in the cogs is the scheme change. In his talk with the AJC Mike Pelton stated that the attention this spring would be letting the defense get more physical. There is now less focus on making reads before attacking and more focus on getting to the ball. I get the impression that Roof wants to free up guys to just play, kind of like we saw at the end of last year, and that certainly bodes well. What we shouldn't expect is that the new scheme will immediately click. That won't happen to any team under any coaching staff. We've got to let the players get a few games under them (at least) before we start being concerned that the coaching changes haven't made any difference; otherwise we're trying to squeeze water from a stone.

Q&A

>> How many interceptions will Jemea Thomas have this year?

I'm looking him to step it up from his total of 4 last year. Morgan Burnett caught seven his senior year, so let's go with eight for fun.

>> Could Beau Hankins pull off a coup d'etat and work his way into the starting lineup?

I don't think he could without an injury somewhere. There's too much experience in the linebacking corps. Could he be moved to B-Back? With his frame, maybe, though he's likely too tall. /wildspeculation

>> What is Ted Roof going to do with all these linebackers (there are about 20 on roster)?

I actually got a chance to hear him speak to that a while back, and he said that he had the graduate assistants set up a 10-12 play tape on each player when Roof first got here. These highlights helped him determine what each player does well and where he would best fit, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a lot of positional movement this spring.

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