Both starting Safeties from a season ago graduated, paving the way for 2 new starters to step up. This spring was a very important time for our entire group of Defensive Backs to show how ready they are to fill the voids created by the departing seniors.
It was to be expected that would have some growing pains this spring, and they did, but they also showed some real promise. The one thing I can say about the Defensive Backs, and specifically the Safeties, is that most all of them tackle well and are good at supporting the run.
I think there is still room to improve in pass coverage but I didn't expect them to play like seasoned veterans just yet either. James Butler is the leader of the group and the guy that has seen the most real playing time. He laid out some big hits this spring but, like the newer Safeties, wasn't always in the right spot at the right time.
Coach Tenuta really worked hard on that and the group showed some improvement toward the end of spring. Dawan Landry is probably the most intense guy in the group. Landry, a former QB, is a great natural athlete and has good overall instincts for football. He seems to be a fast learner and looks to have solidified his spot as a starter with his spring performance.
I think he brings a little more speed to the backfield than we've had there recently. With more reps, he will improve further in pass coverage but he's already one that knows how to hit.
Chris Reis is a young guy that struggled for the first part of spring and Coach Tenuta really stayed on him. Like the others, he hits hard but needs to improve in other areas.
Nathan Burton seems to be one of the more comfortable guys in the group in pass coverage. He's not as fast and physical as Butler & Landry and doesn't possess as much upside but he is a very solid and capable backup that won't hurt you. I see him as a poor man's Jeremy Muyres.
Overall this is a group that is making some plays but also giving up some plays. Once they get more comfortable with more reps in fall and get better used to each other, I expect that they will be a little more consistent. I think the athleticism is a slight upgrade over last year's starters.
There may be some room here for freshmen contributions on the 2-deep. We are pretty thin here as a group, so any kind of injury here likely means Gaston or Roberson could see some playing time. Both incoming freshmen are pretty well thought of among those that see a lot of Georgia High School football, so the future looks bright at Safety.