When your job is to observe, assess and evaluate the performance of a big group of people doing any task and you rarely pay close attention to one particular aspect of that group, it normally means one thing.
You are so secure and confident in what's going on there that you focus on other areas.
Thus was kind of the case with the safeties during spring training.
Sure, I'd cut my eyes that way sometimes because the veteran players were dealing with a new coach (Kim Dameron) and he was teaching them some new things, namely to be interchangeable and not so much designated a free or strong safety. No, not everything was perfect and there was at least one very heated battle for playing time going on – Johnny Brown and Kendrick Lewis had a free-for-all at free safety.
But overall I knew the position was in good hands and not an area to be concerned about.
That does not mean there weren't newsworthy things taking place. It just means I knew issues would be taken care of as quickly as they popped up.
Senior Jamarca Sanford set the pace of the safeties all spring. That was proven at the end when the coaches awarded him the Chucky Mullins Courage Award for his spring accomplishments.
Jamarca, in the past, has always gotten an A+ for his run support and just passing marks for his pass coverage. He and Dameron worked hard on enhancing his coverage skills and the hard-hitting senior made excellent strides in those areas, Kim said. It looks as if he's well on his way to becoming the complete player – with no apparent weaknesses – any excellent athlete strives to be. In the past, Jamarca has been a talker on the field. That always seemed to rev up the defense, but I'm not sure you could call him a true leader before. This spring, he jumped into that role with both feet and his teammates responded. Another plus.
Brown is probably better against the run and Lewis is probably a little more instinctive in pass coverage, but both made a lot of plays in spring training and both earned Dameron's respect for their effort. As it stands right now, Brown is a little bit ahead of Kendrick, but Lewis will be the third guy, the top sub for both Jamarca and Johnny and he will get substantial playing time. Dameron's safety system of having all candidates learn both positions paid dividends for Kendrick, but don't count him out on having a chance to beat out Johnny when August practice resumes. The battle was that close all spring.
Senior Terrell Jackson also had a productive spring. Kim said he'll be comfortable in the fall giving Terrell snaps and he also expects Jackson to be a major contributor on special teams. After moving back and forth between safety and corner most of his career, Terrell seems much more comfortable at safety behind Sanford.
Fon Ingram started the spring at cornerback, but ended up at safety. He seems to be going through the same growing pains that Jackson did his first couple of years of college ball. As in, ‘where do I fit in?' Fon made several nice plays on the ball throughout spring, but when Marshay Green and Jeremy McGee were moved to corner, Fon seemed like a better fit at safety. Ingram is also in the middle of a numbers game. He's a really good athlete who is in danger of not seeing the field much due to the experience and talent in front of him, but after Jamarca leaves don't be surprised to see him surface on future teams in major roles. In the meantime, he's expected to be a big contributor on special teams.
Hargrave transfer Jared Mitchell looks to have good athletic ability, but he needs to pitch a tent in the weight room. Talk to us again after he has put on 15-20 pounds.
Colby Arceneaux was also battling for PT but as spring ended it looked as if his value is going to be on special teams.
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