Position Previews: Defensive Backs
This is the last feature of my 2012 Position Previews, if you missed the last one which covered the linebackers, click here.
There was a lot of youth in Auburn’s secondary last season, and at the same time a lot of potential too. The overall performances weren’t impressive, although we did see some flashes of solid play from several starters.
Willie Martinez inherits a group in need of some work, and he knows that. The former Georgia DB coach has a lot of experience in developing guys with Brian VanGorder at DC, there is no reason why this time should be any different. If the coaches can improve the coverage – especially man – then it will allow the defensive front to pressure the front line and create a sense of nerviness in the opponents.
At safety, the projected starters going into game 1 will likely be McNeal and Florence. McNeal had a unsteady 2011, and at one point lost his starting spot to Ryan Smith. Smith will continue to improve, but sophomore Jermaine Whitehead is an interesting prospect. He’ll be training at strong safety in fall camp, and will make a push for solid playing time. He’s a smart player with good instincts, and could end up being a really good player before he leaves Auburn. Erique Florence will fill Neiko Thorpe’s duties, and hopefully will show signs of improvement going into his second year as well.
At cornerback, the man guaranteed to start is Chris Davis. I’m a big fan of Davis, and I think he is poised for some serious improvement in 2012. He showed signs of being an elite corner last year, and if he can stay consistent then the secondary may have it’s first real corner since Jerraud Powers departed in 2008. The defence is desperate for a physical, hard-nosed, shutdown corner, and he’ll have a few matchups this season to challenge his improvement, especially against Sammy Watkins in week 1 (you know he’ll play).
On the other side, there is a hot debate on whether Therezie will take over in that spot or Bell will keep it. Bell was at best, a solid corner last year. He missed the spring due to injuries, and Therezie got the chance to prove himself to Martinez. If Bell can have a good camp at 100% health, he’ll likely keep his spot. But Therezie will continue to improve, no doubt about that. There is a good chance he may overtake Bell this season.
The loss of Rose hurts the secondary, but is far from a game changer. It just means we’ll have an extra scholarship to hand out in the 2013 class.
What to expect
In 2012, Auburn has to show some improvement in the secondary. The unit has been poor for three straight years, and having a new coach back there helps, especially since he has experience with the new defensive coordinator. Developing the talent is as important as play-calling and coverages, and I just hope that we see the corners show some improvement in the man to man duties. I feel like Davis will improve a good bit this season, and Therezie may overtake Bell on the depth chart sooner rather than later. There is a lot of bright, young talent in the secondary, and it’s about time we make it a team strength.