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Position Preview (and updates) - Defensive Back


catdaddyp

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The defensive backs were not elite, but were quietly solid in 2023 - finishing with the 4th best pass defense in the MAC. Pass defense improved to 187.3 YPG, which is an upgrade from 243.8 YPG in 2022. The DBs will look to take another step forward with a lot of new faces and a new cornerbacks coach.

 


(CB)

Devonte Golden-Nelson -  [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.5) 3 ️ - Former transfer from Memphis. Golden-Nelson was a coveted defensive back coming out of high school. He has long arms, flips his hips well, and is excellent at getting his hand in to break up the pass. Golden-Nelson had a strong start to the 2022 season before injuries hampered him. He played in 4 games and started 3. Golden-Nelson had a better year in 2023, played in 11 games, and was the highest graded CB on the roster. He finished with 22 total tackles, a pass defensed, and 2 interceptions. Golden-Nelson mostly locked down whoever he was covering in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD. Injuries have hampered DGN.

 

Joey Hunter - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.7) 3 ️ (HS) / (5.4) 2 ️ (Portal) - Transfer from South Carolina who was often injured. Coming out of high school Hunter was a physical corner, excellent tackler, and played the ball well in the air. Unfortunately, injuries again played a role in Hunter’s 2023 season. He started 2 games and played in 8. Hunter finished with 8 total tackles and 2 passes defensed. Hunter did not participate in the 2024 spring game. HS FILMStar Rating Take: Hunter has been hurt almost his entire collegiate career. (5.4) 2 ️ is fair at this time.

 

Silas Proby - [Redshirt Junior, Returning) - NR (HS) / NR (Portal) - Physical defensive back that has the tools and frame to see time at cornerback and Nickel. Proby did not see the field in 2023 and redshirted. JUCO FILMStar Rating Take: TBD

 

Malcolm DeWalt - [Redshirt Junior, New] - NR (JUCO) - Long DB with excellent size. DeWalt is physically ready to contribute and can play most positions in the secondary, but is best suited at cornerback. DeWalt has excellent hand/eye coordination and is able to fight off blocks due to his size and reach. DeWalt enrolled post spring. JUCO FILM

 

Justin Anderson - [Redshirt Junior, New] - NR (JUCO) - All-conference JUCO DB. Anderson is a long and rangy defensive back that could play anywhere in the secondary. Anderson is at his best when coming downhill and is not afraid to assist in run support. He flips his hips well enough to play corner, but may be best suited at safety.

 

Iesa Jarmon - [Redshirt Sophomore, New] - (5.2) 2 ️ (JUCO) - JUCO transfer. Lazy rating by Rivals as Jarmon was a 3 ️ commitment to Cincinnati in the 2021 class. Jarmon is a physical and versatile defensive back that can play anywhere in the secondary. He is an impressive athlete and his physical abilities match up with his HS rating. Jarmon should immediately compete for playing time. Jarmon did not participate in the 2024 spring game. JUCO FILM *


Elijah Reed - [Redshirt Sophomore, New] - (5.6) 3 ️ (HS) / (5.5) 3 ️ (TP) - Transfer from Kentucky. Reed was heavily sought after by Kentucky, Utah, and Purdue coming out of HS. He was a key special teams player at UK, but rarely saw the field on defense. Reed has the potential to become an All-Conference player if he develops. He has the ability to play any position in the secondary, but will likely stick at cornerback. Reed arrived post spring. HS FILM

 

Catrell White - [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - (5.3) 2 ️ - Cornerback who is not afraid to come up and assist in run support. White reads the flight of the ball well and has a sense of when to make contact and knock the ball loose. He played in 1 game on special teams and redshirted. White worked opposite Golden-Nelson in the spring and will be ready to contribute this season. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Keyveon Johnson - [Freshman, New] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Former WR that transferred high schools and converted to DB. A little raw as a DB, yet long and athletic. Expect Johnson to redshirt in 2024. Johnson arrived after the spring.

 

Davion Jennings - [Redshirt Sophomore, Returning] - NR - Jennings played cornerback in HS and has a good sized frame with long arms. Jennings did not see action in 2022 or 2023. Former Walk-on. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Katory Henry-Shaw - [Freshman, New] - NR - Walk-on. HS FILM *

 

 

(NB/S)

Darrian Lewis - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.3) 2 ️ - Lewis is physical, a former HS WR, and turned out to be a great fit at Nickel. He played in all 12 games and started 8 in 2022. Lewis took a step forward in 2023 and was the second highest rated defensive back. He started 7 of the 12 games he playing in, collecting 74 total tackles, half a sack, and 3 passes defensed. Lewis will be the starter at NB. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: Somewhat early but probably (5.4) 2 ️.

 

Terence Thomas - [Redshirt Sophomore, Returning] - (5.5) 3 ️ (HS) / NR (Portal) - Thomas signed with Purdue’s 2022 class. However, he was released from his scholarship and never saw playing time. Thomas would probably be productive on either side of the ball, but will be slotted at Nickel. Thomas has plenty of potential to become a big time contributor, but only saw action in 4 games in 2023 on special teams. Thomas participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.


 

(S)

Paul Lewis - [5th year Senior, New] - NR (HS) / (5.4) 2 ️ (Portal) - Transfer from Cornell where he was voted 2nd Team All-Ivy League. One year of eligibility remaining. Lewis is a hard hitting DB that played CB at Cornell. He has length and can cover a lot of ground. Expect Lewis to push for a starting position in 2024. Lewis participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM *

- Portal Offers: Buffalo, Monmouth, South Florida, Rhode Island, Samford, ETSU, Sacred Heart, New Hampshire. * 

 

Aman Greenwood - [Redshirt Junior, New] - (5.5) 3 ️ (HS) / (5.4) 2 ️ (Portal) - Grad transfer from Syracuse with 2 years of eligibility. Greenwood started 7 games in 2020 and has seen significant action on defense in 15 games since then. He is a physical player and sure tackler that could play Safety or Nickel. Greenwood should immediately push for a starting position. Greenwood participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM *
- Portal Offers: Western Kentucky. *

 

DiMarco Johnson - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.3) 2 ️ - Johnson is an athlete with size and length. He’ll go get the ball and displays excellent hand-eye coordination. Johnson was coached well in high school, playing for one of the premier programs in South Carolina. Johnson did not see the field in 2022, but played in all 12 games on special teams in 2023. He collected 6 total tackles. Johnson participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ may be accurate.

 

Noel Roach - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.2) 2 ️ - Athlete that has the ability to go up and get the ball. At the time of his recruitment Roach had all the physical characteristics to become a starter by the time he graduated, although that statement is looking less likely as the talent level has been increased in the secondary. Roach did not see the field in 2022, but became a key special teams player in 2023 playing in 10 games.  HS FILM * Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ is looking accurate, but there is still time.

 

Daymon David - [Redshirt Junior, New] - (5.8) 4 ️ (HS) / (5.5) 3 ️ (Portal) - Transfer from Oregon. David was a 4 star recruit coming out of HS that has not lived up to the billing as of yet. He possesses all of the physical characteristics that a 4 star would and could become an impact player. David was pushing for a starting spot in the spring. HS FILM. *

 

Darius Owens - [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Owens fits the style of Strong Safety coach Renna has been targeting - very physical and will come down hill quickly for a hit. Owens plays in the same vein as Nate Thompson. He’ll need to add some mass, but once he does it will likely be hard to keep him off the field. As expected, Owens redshirted in 2023.  HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Rodrick Hunter - [Freshman, New] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Early enrollee and hard hitting safety that understands angles. Rodrick reads the flight of the ball well and will aggressively come up in run support. He has the potential to eventually become an all-conference player, but will probably redshirt his freshman year. HS FILM *

 

Sean Conroy - [Grad., Returning] - NR - Former walk-on. Conroy has been a key special teams player and has applied for one more year of eligibility.


 

 

As expected, a number of defensive backs hit the portal this offseason. 9 new players were brought in with 7 of them from the portal or JUCO. Similar to the defensive line situation during the 2023 peaseason, the DBs have a ton of athleticism, length, and physicality, but there are still many questions to be answered. The only known starters at the moment are Golden-Nelson at one cornerback spot and Darrian Lewis at Nickelback. Every other position in the defensive backfield is open. The good news is no matter who plays, all of the DBs now physically look the part of G5/P5 athlete and will benefit from a stout defensive front.

 

 

Scholarship Players:

Noel Roach

Darrian Lewis

DiMarco Johnson

Devonte Golden-Nelson

Darius Owens

Catrell White

Joey Hunter

Terence Thomas

Silas Proby

Justin Anderson

Paul Lewis

Iesa Jarmon

Keyveon Johnson 

Rodrick Hunter

Daymon David

Aman Greenwood

Macolm DeWalt

Elijah Reed

 

Added:

Daymon David (TP)

Aman Greenwood (TP)

Paul Lewis (TP)

Elijah Reed (TP)

Justin Anderson (JUCO)

Iesa Jarmon (JUCO)

Malcolm DeWalt (JUCO)

Keyveon Johnson

Rodrick Hunter

 

Removed:

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - S Rishad Hence - TP = Eastern Kentucky

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - S Jaden Woods - TP = East Tennessee State

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - CB Judson Tallandier - Graduation 

(5.7) 3 ️ (HS) - S Nate Thompson - Graduation.

(5.5) 3 ️ (HS) - S KJ Martin - TP = NC State

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - CB Cameron Threatt - TP

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - CB Tyson Durant - TP = Washington State

(5.5) 3 ️ (TP) - S Corey Thomas - TP = Virginia

(5.4) 2 ️ (HS) - S MyJaden Horton - TP?

NR - S David Jester - JUCO

NR - CB Zayden Laing-Taylor - JUCO

 

Removed Before 2023 Season:

(5.7) 3 ️ - Jaylen Kelly-Powell = Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

(5.3) 2 ️ - Chu Ogbonna = Retired = Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ 

(5.2) 2 ️ - Charles Amankwaa = TP Rutgers - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

(5.4) 2 ️ - Ronald Jackson = TP Montana - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.5) 3 ️ - Jalen Hooks = Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.4) 2 ️ - Adetutu Daranijo = Retired - Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ 

NR - Joe Malchesky = TP Robert Morris - Walk-on

NR - Logan Day = Grad. - Walk-on

NR - Kavari Adams = TP? - Walk-on

NR - Dontae Pollard = TP - Walk-on

 

Before 2022 season:

(5.4) 2 ️ - Woobendy Guerrier = Retired. - Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ 

(5.2) 2 ️ - Randy Cochran Jr. = Retired. - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

NR - Nasari Jackson - Walk-on

NR - Quentin Woodall - Walk-on

 

 

Edited by catdaddyp
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On 4/8/2022 at 4:28 PM, catdaddyp said:

Last position group I’ll cover. (I apologize to anyone who may have wanted material about the kickers and punters). 

 

 

Kavari Adams - (Redshirt Junior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Small defensive back that will likely struggle at the D1 level. Adams may be a competitor, but he lacks the speed and other physical tools to be a consistent contributor.

 

Charles Amankwaa - (Senior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Good athlete with solid ball skills. He reads the flight if the ball well and will go up and get it. Amankwaa is not afraid to tackle and tries to play physical. He has enough speed to keep up with most wide receivers.

 

Logan Day - (Redshirt Senior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Plays the ball well in the air and not afraid to be physical. He doesn’t have the ability to play CB and would have to play S. Day may help on special teams.

 

Dontae Pollard - (Sophomore, Returning) - Smaller DB that possesses enough speed to keep up with most receivers. He plays physical, but will need to add on more mass. Pollard has decent ball skills.

 

Randy Cochran Jr. - (Junior, Returning) - Cornerback with good size. He doesn’t have elite speed, but enough to keep up with most receivers. Cochran does a good job with hand fighting and locating the ball. He isn’t likely to have many interceptions over his career, but he does a nice job of getting his hand in and breaking up the pass.

 

Tyson Durant - (Sophomore, Returning) - Good athlete with excellent hands. He reads the flight of the ball well and will go up and get it. Durant was also a WR in high school, where he flashed some speed and shiftiness. He should push for playing time this year and will likely be a starting cornerback by the time he graduates.

 

Jalen Hooks -  (Senior, Returning) -  Good athlete with excellent height and length. He’s physical and can play anywhere in the secondary. Hooks flashes the ability to play the ball in the air as well as the speed to keep up with most wide receivers. He should be a starter as he’s talented, experienced, and versatile. 

 

Ronald Jackson Jr. - (Sophomore, Returning) - Has good height and length and a knack for punching the ball out. Decent speed, but might be a better fit at safety than corner. Could be a special teams asset.

 

Darrian Lewis - (Sophomore,Returning) - Good athlete that’s a fluid runner and has a nice burst. He reads the ball in the air and will go up and get it. Lewis is physical, a former WR, and has the ability to play anywhere in the secondary. He should provide depth and special teams play this year.

 

Chu Ogbonna - (Redshirt Senior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Has good height and length. Has enough speed to keep up with most receivers, but doesn’t always keep connected. He should provide depth and special teams play.

 

Quentin Woodall - (Senior, Returning) - Former JUCO. May be the fastest player in the secondary. His technique isn’t great, but he’s an athlete and can run. He could provide depth at any spot in the secondary and play on special teams.

 

Cameron Threatt - (Sophomore, New) - JUCO transfer via way of Mississippi State. Threatt is a long and rangy defensive back that’ll be able to line up anywhere in the secondary. He’ll provide immediate depth as well as push for a starting position.

 

KJ Martin - (Junior, New) - Transfer from West Virginia. Another long and rangy defensive back except Martin is a true S. He was mostly a backup at WVU, but did start a handful of games. Martin is excellent when coming to help from the weak side, but will need to shore up his tackling technique when facing head on. He’ll provide depth and push for starting minutes.

 

 

S

 

Sean Conroy - (Redshirt Junior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Plays like a linebacker in the way he comes downhill to hit. Excellent hand-eye coordination. Conroy could provide depth and would be a perfect fit on special teams.

 

Adetutu Daranijo - (Junior, Returning) - Not afraid to be physical. He reads the flight of the ball well and has decent speed. Daranjio should contribute on special teams.

 

Woobendy Guerrier - (Senior, Returning) - Former JUCO. Good athlete with size, speed, and long arms. He’s very physical and can be explosive when tackling. Guerrier has all the physical characteristics to be a starter and would be a perfect fit at nickel back.

 

Rishad Hence - (Sophomore, Returning) - He’s not afraid to be physical, but will need to add more mass. Hence is unlikely to make many interceptions in his career, but is excellent at breaking the pass up. 

 

MyJaden Horton - (Sophomore, Returning) - Good athlete with size and length. He mostly played QB in high school until his senior year. Horton has the athletic ability to be successful, but there’s always an adjustment going from high school to college, coupled with learning the nuances of a fairly new position. 

 

Nasari Jackson - (Sophomore, Returning) - Decent athlete that plays hard. He might contribute on special teams.

 

DiMarco Johnson - (Sophomore, Returning) - Good athlete with size and length. He’ll go up and get the ball, is able to cover a large portion of the field, and displays excellent hand-eye coordination. Johnson was coached well in high school, playing for one of the premier programs in South Carolina. He’s the perfect fit for free safety (or field safety) and should push for starter minutes.

 

Jaylen Kelly-Powell - (Redshirt Senior, Returning) - Former transfer from Michigan. Good athlete that can play anywhere in the secondary. He was highly recruited coming out of high school but hasn’t lived up to his potential. JKP will give Tim Tibesar plenty of flexibility of where to line him up and use him most effectively. JKP should be a starter.

 

Joe Malchesky - (Sophomore, Returning) - May grow into a linebacker. He’s a strong, physical player that reads the ball well, but foot speed could be a concern at D1. Malchesky might help on special teams.

 

Noel Roach - (Sophomore, Returning) - Long, rangy, athlete that can cover a lot of ground. He flashes excellent hand-eye coordination and will go up and get the ball. Roach has all the physical characteristics to be a starter by the time he graduates.

 

Nate Thompson - (Redshirt Senior ?, New) - Transfer from Duke that has some Power 5 starting experience. He brings excellent size for a defensive back and flashes solid hands. He will be able to fill in at either safety position and could play the nickel as well. Thompson’s addition provides flexibility and increases the talent level in the secondary. He’ll push for a starting position and should see plenty of playing time.

 

 

As I write this, it looks like the staff is already in the process of bringing in more Power 5 talent. It’ll be interesting to see what this group looks like by the time the season arrives. There are currently some talented players, but more high quality depth is needed. A strong pass rush would do wonders for our defensive backs and I hope that happens this year.

 

There is some flexibility and depth, but I suspect not all the players we saw in 2021 will see the field in 2022. 

 

 

My best guess as to who is on scholarship:

Cam Threatt

KJ Martin

Rishad Hence

Noel Roach

Darrian Lewis

DiMarco Johnson

Ronald Jackson

Charles Amankwaa

MyJaden Horton

Chu Ogbonna

Woobendy Guerrier

Jaylen Kelly-Powell

Adetutu Daranijo

Randy Cochran

Jalen Hooks

 

 

I’ve enjoyed all the discussion! As the roster officially changes, I’ll go back through and update each position.

 

 

 

Edited with the addition of Nate Thompson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bump for addition of Nate Thompson.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 4/8/2022 at 4:28 PM, catdaddyp said:

The staff has made defensive back a priority and have issued a number of scholarships to JUCOs and Portal entries. The first signing day of the 2023 class certainly improved the talent level, but a few experienced players are still needed to balance out the secondary.

 

The DB room is currently comprised of 2 sr, 6 jr, 8 so and 4 fr.

Slightly unbalanced, but not terrible.

Any portal additions will help balance the room, maybe even more than anticipated to the extent that it drives some of the underclassmen, rather than upperclassmen  out.

So it is important that the additions be better than anyone who is currently in the room; let's improve the room, not just balance it out.

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14 minutes ago, Blue & Gold said:

Looking at Terrence Thomas’ top-shelf offensive highlights I can’t believe JoeMo isn’t salivating to use him on the offensive side of the ball.

Might be one of those situations where Thomas is being slotted at a position where he’ll have the best chance of seeing playing time. I also wouldn’t rule out Thomas being used as a returner or potentially flipped to offense at some point.

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  • catdaddyp changed the title to Position Preview (and updates) - Defensive Back

Bump for update. Although multiple players have positional flexibility, I separated them into groups by cornerback, nickel, and safety. One note here is the high amount of scholarship defensive backs on the roster. Most programs keep around 15 scholarship DBs and we have 20 at the moment.

Edited by catdaddyp
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