In the final full practice before the Spring Game on Saturday, the focus was on the defensive backs. Speaking to the media was DB coach Bill Busch and he was very honest about the progress of the unit. He compared inheriting this unit to being a recovering alcoholic and hitting rock bottom. Although harsh, he is right, as this unit has been simply horrific the past three years. We knew there would be a decline in performance when the trio of Marcus Cooper, Logan Ryan, and Duron Harmon all left for the NFL, but I don't think anyone expected this amount of consistency as it pertains to ineptitude in the secondary.
The most notable change in the secondary was swapping Anthony Cioffi and Kiy Hester. Cioffi is now at strong safety while Hester is at free safety. SS suits Cioffi because of his size and aggressiveness while Hester is a good FS because of his range and superior coverage skills. Cioffi is now on his third position in as many years, as he spent his first two at corner and played last year at FS.
Saquan Hampton emerging
The biggest surprise in the secondary has been Saquan Hampton at FS. It was widely accepted that Kiy Hester was going to be the starter along side Anthony Cioffi. However, Hampton, a RS-So, has had other ideas. Bill Busch singled him out as a player that has made significant strides this Spring. Recently, Hampton has been taking the reps with the first-team defense as Hester has worked with the backups. Regardless of who starts at that position, there will be no worries in quality of play if someone were to get injured or miss time. It is a huge asset to have two very talented players at safety.
Although Cioffi and Hester switched positions to suit their skill sets, both safety positions will have similar responsibilities. This defense will not be one dimensional. This won't be a situation where Cioffi is always up in the box while the FS plays center field. Both safeties will need to be very solid in coverage but also be very sound tacklers. Essentially, they need to be interchangeable. Busch should be able to trust either safety with the other's responsibilities, if that makes sense. FS and SS will pretty much be the same position with a few tweaks. Busch also mentioned the importance of the safeties using their eyes to scan the field and not let them wander and make mistakes.
Finally, Bill Busch says if you don't tackle, you don't play.
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