Safeties 'More Natural'

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack, who doubles as the safety/husky coach, spent a whole year waiting on the time when the safeties and huskys would be comfortable in his defense. That time has arrived based on spring training production.

When a football coach says a player is "more natural," it speaks volumes about his development.

To cut to the chase, it basically means that player knows what to do instinctively and plays faster because there is no hesitation in his movement.

That's the point DC/Safety Coach Dave Wommack feels the majority of his troops, at least the ones returning, have reached.

"The ones who are returning are playing more naturally and made a lot of progress in spring training," Wommack stated. "They have paid their dues in the learning curve and it's all starting to come together for them now.

"We wanted to get two deep there and we are certainly working that way."

At Free Safety, Cody Prewitt held on to his top spot. Cody started last year and appears to be headed for that designation in fall.

"Cody has been very steady. He runs the defense for us and he does an excellent job of knowing what's coming by seeing the formations and things like that," noted Dave. "His experience showed up a lot in spring."

Chief Brown, who was displaced by Elston last fall, drew rave reviews from Wommack.

"If I had to point out one player who has made the most improvement during spring, it would be Chief," he said. "We need to find him a place to start. He's faster, quicker and knows the defense inside and out. He also played very physical this spring. Chief can play both positions as well."

Cody Prewitt
File Photo

Ontario Berry was penciled in as number three, but the first week of practice he pulled a hamstring and did not practice much.

"I liked him in the fall. He's physical and he will help us on special teams. I was anxious to see him in spring, but did not get a chance to," he continued.

Walk-on Tyriek Gracia may get a shot at special teams.

"Tyriek is a kid who loves the game. He takes care of his business in the classroom and does everything we ask of him," said Wommack.

At Rover, there is also an incumbent - sophomore Trae Elston, who burst on the scene last year as a hard-hitting true freshman and has continued to develop since.

"Trae is a dynamic hitter who will go chase the ball. His experience is showing up now. He's intelligent and doesn't make a lot of mistakes," added Wommack. "I'd like to see him stay in a better football position than he does at times, but I am pleased with him because he is so young and has so much in front of him. Also, he wants to get better."

Quintavius "Q" Burdette finshed at number two at Rover.

"Q is one of those guys I wish we had redshirted last year," Wommack said. "He came on real well at the end of spring. He now understands where to fit things in our run scheme. He's to teh point now where he not only understands where to line up and the calls, but why. I think he's made a lot of improvement. I believe he will play a good role for us next fall in dime packages and other calls."

Transfer Anthony Alford, a former quarterback, also caught Dave's eye in spring ball.

Trae Elston
File Photo

"Anthony has been a pleasant surprise," he began. "We are dealing with his eligibility. Will he have to sit or will he be able to play? If he is eligible, he will play. He can play Rover, Free Safety or Husky. He is a violent hitter, maybe the most violent of all of them. He's always looking for extra work and he's pleasant to be around. If he is eligible, he will help this defense next year a lot."

At Husky, some things have changed.

Last year, the Husky slot was under the direction of CB Coach Wesley McGriff. This year, Husky has been put under Wommack, who is ably assisted by his son, Kane, whose responsibility is to oversee that position.

"That is a spot I was concerned about shoring up two-deep. Right now, in my heart, Mike Hilton has forged ahead," Dave stated. "I would like to be bigger at that position, but Mike is an extraordinarily tough guy. He's like Trae in that he's become more natural and we can do more things with him. He has the coverage skills and is physical enough to help in run support and pressuring from that position."

Dehendret Collins was at Husky most of spring, but was moved to corner the last week of the session.

"He can play both positions if he needs to. He has done a nice job for us this spring. He's a better player now than he was last year - there's a place for him somewhere on this defense," Wommack noted.

Wommack was also impressed with the improvement Brishen Mathews made during spring ball.

"Brishen has gotten better. He sometimes has mental lapses, but he's done much better with focusing and doing it our way this spring. He's a solid guy who will help us and he's also a guy we could move to free safety and be OK," Wommack added.

Walk-on Josh Richardson also got the nod of approval from Wommack.

"Josh has good coverage skills and he's worked extremely hard. He has worked really hard and has shown up on film several times this spring," Wommack closed.

Analysis: What a difference a year makes. Prewitt and Elston were thrown in the fire a year ago, but survived and came out on the other end as mature, better players. Chief came alive in spring and had that 'aha' moment. Alford surprised everyone. Q is getting there slowly but surely. Hilton made his mark last year and continues to impress. All-in-all, a strong developmental spring that should turn into a productive fall at the safeties and husky.

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