We are going to lump the cornerback and safeties into the same preview for a couple reasons. First, I can never keep straight where Fisher has these guys practicing, but secondly, it’s game week and we need a season preview as well as the Northwestern preview to come out.
This position group loses 3 of their 4 starters from last year (4 of 5 if you count the Nick spot, but we’ve already been over that), and if it weren’t for Travis Fisher here, i’d be extremely worried. Cam Taylor-Britt was the only player drafted from the defense in the past couple years, and replacing him will be difficult. On top of that, you lose both starting safeties in Marquel Dismuke and Deontai Williams. It’s going to be tough sledding, but i’ve been nothing but impressed with Fisher in not only how he fills his room but how he develops his players.
Back from last year is one of our starting cornerbacks, who played nearly every snap as did CTB. Newsome was also fifth on the team in tackles, and much of that was because teams challenged him with CTB locking up the other side of the field. Newsome struggled a bit in pass coverage last year, but he was young and needed some time to get acclimated, I anticipate a big year from him this year.
Braxton Clark is back as he had 122 snaps last year in some mop up duty and when there was a minor injury. This is where things will get interesting to me. Clark I had on my watch list when he got here, he’s long and athletic and can run like a deer, but a shoulder injury and then a knee injury have derailed him a bit. Further, the amount of talent we have brought in is crazy to think about. But as we’ve stated before, you have to know the system, talent only gets you so far.
As mentioned, the transfers are going to be a huge deal. Tommi Hill, a transfer cornerback from Arizona State will do everything he can to take that starting job from Clark opposite Newsome. He reminds me a bit of Deontai Williams or Damion Stafford early in his career, a big boom or bust guy, that you can see the ceiling, but if he doesn’t consistently do what he’s supposed to could potentially be a liability. That’s not a knock on Hill just doing whatever he wants, he just needs to learn the scheme.
Those would be my top 3 right now pushing the corner spots. I’m curious about two guys right now in Ohio State transfer Tyreke Johnson who is a former five star and recruit Tamon Lynum. Both have the tools, but are they going to be able to overcome what we have back and the new transfer(s)? I just haven’t seen enough out of them to know at this point, I just don’t see a ton of contribution this year from these two.
Javier Morton is another transfer, this time from the JUCO ranks and Garden City CC. Again, I haven’t seen enough out of him to give an opinion one way or the other, so I’ll be curious how the season plays out for him.
True freshman Jalil Martin is getting some run early in camp for his natural abilities and his instincts for the football. I really like him as a guy like Newsome or CTB where he waits his turn and steps right in in a year or two. 2022 may be a bit too early, but I would certainly remember that name. Fisher seems to have found a guy in the 2022 class he is really happy with.
Heading over to the safeties… Myles Farmer is the clear leader in the secondary. He stepped in for Williams last year once Williams went down, and played “ok” is how I would describe it. I still remember Farmer having a two interception day against Northwestern to really get me intrigued with his abilities, but I also remember him getting outrun by a slow Northwestern RB to really frustrate me. At safety, as long as he knows where he’s supposed to be, that will more of a blessing than a curse. He’s just not extremely dynamic and won’t wow you with athletic ability.
Right now next to Farmer, I would give the edge to Marques Buford Jr… the sophomore got some snaps last year at corner but made the switch to safety when we became thin graduating both starters. I really like his ability to get where he needs to go, he just needs to figure out where that is. The constant theme again is I know who he is, but no idea how good he will be or what he will bring to the table.
Omar Brown who is a transfer from Northern Iowa spent spring ball at corner, but made the switch to safety as well. I believe he is giving Buford a run for his money at the starting safety spot. To beat the drum some more, the common theme again with all the new faces, I don’t know enough about him to give an opinion one way or the other.
Noa Pola-Gates is a four star that has seen limited action for us, but could very well make a name for himself just knowing the system better than others. I just am not really a believer here unfortunately, and it would be a matter of time later in the season for some of the newer guys to overtake him.
Deshon Singleton is the guy who I think is giving Brown and Buford all they can handle. A transfer from Hutchinson Community College, he has the size to help against B1G opponents, but i’ll say it again, he’s new so is he going to be able to learn the system and be where he needs to be?
Summary is pretty easy… we have the talent and a good enough coach to overcome any of the “newness” we are going to see. Don’t get me wrong, there will be bumps in the road, but we have more than enough players to find guys to replace our 3 or 4 starters that left. If this was a different coach such as Held, Verduzco, Austin, I may be worried. But with Fisher at the helm, I like what we have here. There will just be some growing pains and a lot of “who is this guy again?”
Wednesday we will have our season preview and season prediction for wins and losses!
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