The lone returning starter in the secondary ranks will be free safety Kellen Fowler, who came on during the latter half of last season when he took over for the injured Quinn Gooch. Fowler showed very well down the stretch, providing a solid and consistent last line of defense on top of the zone-heavy coverages run by Coach Jaime Hill.
Fowler is often the most vocal player in the defensive backfield during practice sessions. The free safety position has to be consistent and sort of an on-the-field coach at times that makes sure everyone is in position. Fowler does that as well as anyone, and with three new starters around him, he will be of great importance to the defensive backfield this coming season.
Fowler's primary backup coming out of spring practices was Andrew Rich. Rich presents a big and athletic body, and he should provide an adequate backup at the position. Beyond Fowler and Rich, the depth at free safety is a bit scant, although some new faces will be raring to compete.
Beyond Fowler and Rich
Steven Thomas is back, and with a redshirt year under his belt he should be the top option for third-string on the depth chart. A couple of exciting options at safety coming in this fall will be Shiloah Te'o and Daniel Sorensen, although both hard-hitting prospects are expected to compete primarily for spots at strong safety.
Back and Strong
David Tafuna is back and ready to assume the starting spot at strong safety. Tafuna got hurt prior to last season, but completed a full spring practice session and looks to be completely healthy. He brings a wealth of experience and athleticism to the strong safety position.
Jordan Pendleton is the other option at strong safety. There have been rumblings that Pendleton is making the switch to outside linebacker, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. We expect Pendleton to line up and compete at strong safety when fall camp begins, but wouldn't be surprised if he ended up at outside linebacker.
Pendleton didn't get in a full spring due to injury, but showed during contact drills why he's such an exciting option at strong safety. Pendleton presents a big and very athletic body that can cover a lot of ground while presenting an imposing figure across the middle of the field.
Whenever Chris Warner takes the field, we like what he brings at strong safety. The problem is that Warner can't seem to stay on the field for very long, as he's been plagued with a rash of injuries since he first reported to BYU. Should he prove healthy, Warner will certainly be in the mix to make a spot for himself on the two-deep roster.
Luke Ashworth is reportedly on the move and ready to make his mark at either safety position. Ashworth is a great athlete who could most likely earn a spot in the receiver rotation, but we love his prospects at safety should he follow through with his plans.
As mentioned, both Shiloah Te'o and Daniel Sorensen will be reporting to camp as true freshmen, and will be doing so with impressive credentials. We like both players at strong safety, although Te'o in particular appears apt to play either position. Both players starred for their respective schools and earned All-State honors.
Strength of the Position
The strength at safety is with Kellen Fowler, as he has proved time and again to be a reliable force on top of the coverage. Fowler is as much a coach as he is a player on the field, and players have learned to rely on him as a steadying presence behind them in coverage.
There is also a lot of intrigue surrounding incoming freshmen with top credentials, athletes likely to make the switch, and with Pendleton, who presents a unique type of athleticism and size to the safety position. Indeed, there are some exciting options at both the free and strong safety positions.
All Eyes On
Our eyes will be peeled primarily toward Ashworth, if he completes the switch to safety from wide receiver, and on Jordan Pendleton as he looks to establish himself as a consistent option at strong safety should he remain there.
Fowler is a known commodity, as is Tafuna, so we'll be watching others more intently as fall practices begin. We always watch the true freshmen and other incoming players more than anyone else initially, so Te'o and Sorensen will certainly warrant notice from the TBS staff.