Defensive coordinator Rick Smith has taken the control of a Pirate secondary unit that couldn't stop a runny nose last season if they had a box of tissues, let alone any decent passing offenses. With that being said, it's obvious Smith's schemes are beginning to take hold and it's shown in the first two spring scrimmages.
Smith spoke about how the unit did this past weekend.
"By the end of the scrimmage the ones (starters) had six series and gave up three touchdowns which is not good," Smith said. "However I felt like we played better than that, a couple of those plays came down to execution and could have been prevented. I was extremely pleased with the third string; they went four-for-four. In all, we stopped them 12 out of 16 times. It was basically all mental mistakes, so today we really simplified it out here and ran only two coverages."
Smith runs a tight ship and expects a certain level of performance from his defense.
"I'm a hard-nosed guy and I want my guys to be tough," Smith said. "They can't ever make mental mistakes back there or it's touchdowns. We're doing a few more coverages probably than they did last year to try to help out because every coverage has a strength and every coverage has a weakness. If the offense knows what you're going to be in, they know how to attack it, so we're trying to do a much better job of disguising our coverages back there."
"The linebackers are doing a great job disguising their coverages, which is helping us a lot," Smith went on to say. "But overall when I left here on Saturday, I went home and told my wife I'm not going to have a good afternoon, a good night or a good Sunday if I don't go grade the tape. So I came back out here for about three hours and felt a lot better, especially about the secondary, I thought they played really good Saturday."
The Pirates have seen top performances from some new young faces in the first two scrimmages.
"DaShaun Amos is a young cornerback who has really gotten better, he's had two great picks the last two Saturdays," Smith said. "He's just a pup, he had to run with the twos (second string) today and did a good job. Today, walk-on Terrell Richardson had to run with the first string because we had some guys leave early, he's doing well. Domonique Lennon is doing really really well, so I'm pleased with the young guys we have."
"Rocco Scarfone is getting better, he's had a habit of dropping his eyes and hitting with the top of his head which could cause injuries, but he's improving on that. Detric Allen is another guy who's doing a great job, he had the highest grade of any corner on Saturday. Walk-on Doug Mayo-Tapp, was on second team today and did well. Josh Hawkins is really falling off as a starter, I'm not sure how to reach him, but we're going to be alright we're getting better."
Former running back Michael Dobson made the switch to cornerback and has been working all spring at improving.
"It's been a pretty comfortable switch," Dobson said. "I played defensive back my first year here so it hasn't taken me long to get familiar with it again. It's definitely different and a big transition, but with coach Smith and the other DB's helping me out it has been a real comfortable move for me."
"I love the switch," Dobson went on to say. "I loved running back but I love defensive back as well, I just love football. It was a personal decision that the coaches were very supportive about and I have really enjoyed this spring, I'm ready for camp and the season."
Red-shirt freshman DaShaun Amos has had an interception in each of the spring scrimmages.
"I've been doing what the coaches and the older guys have been telling me and it's paid off," Amos said. "Everyone was congratulating me on my interceptions and it feels good to make an impact. We've been taking everything from last year and making it better, just improving the defense. There have been changes all over the field in order to make the team better so we can go out there and get some wins."
Domonique Lennon shined this past Saturday, tying Gabe Woullard for a team-leading six tackles.
"It feels good, especially because I play safety," Lennon said. "Safeties don't have the most tackles, or at least not usually. It lets everybody know that I'm a physical guy who is coming down field and hitting people."
"Even with all the talent we have at the safety spot I'm very confident in competing for the starting role," Lennon said. "I feel like I could have contributed my freshman year, but I had an injury. Now I'm back; I'm faster, bigger and smarter out on the field. We have a great coach, he has a secret and he's let us all in on it, so I think we're going to be great."