"It's probably affected the safety position a little bit more. You have two guys that started a lot of games that have been beat up. We lost Cooper for the season and then you lost Dominique. It's not an excuse but it's a fact."
Did losing Cooper affect run support?
"Yeah, I would say because like I said anytime you lose a guy that has started and played that many games it's going to have an effect. As far as corners go, I think it's been more of a competitive factor. We rotated a lot of guys and played a lot of guys at that position. Mario (Butler) has played the most because he has the most experience. Rashaad (Reid) has played a lot, Jarrard has played a lot and Mike Peterson has played a lot. I feel like we have a little more depth there."
Have you been satisfied with the progress of the younger players?
"Yeah, I think Roderick Sweeting is coming along. He has some work to do in the off-season. He needs to get stronger. He has some great coverage skills. I think he's going to be a really good player. I'd like to see more production. I think Jarrard had a productive game against Clemson. He didn't have a perfect game but he made some tackles and had an interception and things like that so he's doing better."
It seemed like Michael Peterson flew under the radar this season?
"Right, Mike played good for us last year when we asked him to come in and play against Florida State. He did some good things. He actually was one of the only ones that played decent against Louisiana State. He didn't have a great fall camp. I do it with the competition and that's how it sorted itself out. He does some good things, he's really smart and he understands what we're trying to do. What I've been proud about him is that he didn't pout. He just fought his way back. He's done some good things but we still have a long way to go."
Would it be safe to say that Mario was the most consistent performer?
"He's probably the most consistent with assignments. He's probably tackled the worse the last two games. I thought he improved that earlier in the year. He made a lot of tackles when he had to. I've been a little disappointed in that. As far as the most consistent guy in understanding what we're trying to do; yeah he's probably the most consistent."
The spring should be interesting with everyone back and then you have someone like Lance Richardson to put in the mix?
"He's had a good bowl practice. He's showed up and he's physical. He doesn't mind tackling. I don't think there's a doubt that if does what he's supposed to do off the field he's got a chance to really help us on special teams so I'm looking forward to the spring."
I guess the natural assumption is that with everyone coming back next year the four freshmen coming in will be redshirted?
"That will be up to Coach (Johnson). He's going to watch them and he's going to play the best. They're going to prove that they can play week in and week out."