Chris Rippon

Last year, the Rebel secondary was learning yet another new system, the concepts of which were somewhat foreign to them. With a season and two springs under their belts now, Secondary Coach Chris Rippon believes we will see a much more 'fluid' secondary in 2006. Read about it inside.

Rebel Secondary Coach Chris Rippon says it's one thing to know your assignments on a particular coverage, it's another thing - a better one - to understand the whole concept of the coverage and what everyone else in the secondary is doing on the call.

"Last year, we had guys - through nobody's fault - doing everything they could just to learn their positions. This year, they are learning the concepts of the coverages and the defense, which will make them much better as a unit," Rippon began.

In a nutshell, that deeper understanding of what Rippon and Assistant DB Coach Tony Hughes are teaching will make a difference in performance in 2006.

"In spring, we stressed not just learning your own assignments, but learning what the whole coverage was meant to do and what the other three guys in the secondary had to do in every situation," he continued. "We couldn't teach that last year - this year we can. It's a lot to learn, but once you get your position down, it's the next logical step in development."

There are three primary reasons Rippon and Hughes were/are able to expand their teaching material - FS Charles Clark, CB Trumaine McBride and SS/FS/CB B. Brown.

"All three of them are extremely smart and experienced, they are familiar with our teaching style, they know their specific assignments backwards and forwards, and they understand the importance of knowing the concepts of the coverages," Rip noted. "When you have players who are that mature, that competitive and that dedicated, it makes going deeper into what you are teaching easier. They have also taken it upon themselves, like seniors are supposed to, to make sure everyone else in the secondary understands the importance of knowing what to do.

"They have done a great job of not only understanding the concepts of what we are doing, but implementing their specific responsibilities into that concept. They understand what it means, not only to them but to the whole secondary, and how things change when, for instance, a wide receiver goes in motion. Not only how it affects them, but how it affects the guy on the other side, and they can adjust accordingly within the concepts of the coverage. Last year they did it by rote memory, but didn't really understand it. Now, they understand it."

Communication on the field is also a big part of the equation.

"We worked hard on communicating to someone on the other side of the field what was happening and on making adjustments on the run," Rippon stated. "Everyone has to be in synch and the only way to achieve that is for everyone to understand what's happening and to be able to communicate it effectively. We got burned a couple of times last year for lack of understanding and lack of communication. While it was somewhat understandable last year, we can't allow that to happen this year. We can't give up scores due to a lack of understanding or communication this year - period. From the ground we made in spring, I don't expect those types of busts in 2006."

While Rippon has total faith in the aforementioned trio of DBs, he wants to see the others in his top six or seven get to that point as well.

SS Jamarca Sanford missed all of spring with an injury, but Rippon believes he will get caught up in a hurry.

"Jamarca didn't miss watching a rep in spring, he didn't miss a meeting. He got a lot of stuff by osmosis, but he got it," Rippon said. "Certainly, he'll be rusty, but when Jamarca gets back in the swing of things he'll sharpen his game accordingly. Physically, he's going to be fine. Mentally, he'll be behind a little but will catch up."

CB Nate Banks will be a junior, but this will be his first season as a starter.

"I consider Nate a young player due to lack of experience, but he had a very good spring of learning. He's not far behind the others in terms of learning the concepts of the coverages, but he needs a good summer on his own and a good August with us," Chris added.

Sophomore Terrell Jackson also made substantial strides in spring.

"Terrell and a couple of more bought into our presentation of the material and gained a lot of ground in spring. I'm not saying he or they are on the same level as the other guys, but they made advances in getting there, substantial advances," Rip allowed.

Rippon did not get the spring production he wanted from RS freshmen safeties Gary Albury and Gary Riggs, but he's hoping for a breakout summer from that duo.

"They didn't progress like I had hoped. They have to get themselves going," is how Rippon put it.

Sophomore CB Dustin Mouzon was making the progress Rippon covets in spring, but then was injured and dropped off some.

"We feel Dustin can be one of our top three corners and Terrell can be a corner or a safety for us," explained Rippon. "When we look at our top four guys, we are also evalauting who can play other positions. If we have three corners and two safeties we feel comfortable with, you can bet that third corner will take up the slack if one of the safeties goes down.

"Last year, B. Brown was a guy we felt could fill in at any position. We feel the same way this year, but who's next? That hasn't been determined yet based on spring practice."

Rippon had Clark and Brown learn both safety positions in spring. He also had B. working some at CB and Jackson is in the process of taking on some safety responsibility.

"It all comes down to who is our next guy, not who is our next corner or safety. That's what we want to establish here - guys with a lot of flexibility," he closed. "That was hampered some in spring with Jamarca out. Then B. and Dustin went down.

"But we feel we have a handle on who can do what and we are anxious for continued development."

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