Post spring look: Secondary

The secondary proved to be the most improved unit on the defensive side of the ball. Sabby Pisciteill, Al Afalava, Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes work extremely well together as they communicated effectively and listened to the coaches instructions.

Depth chart beginning of April:

RC: Brandon Hughes, Gerard Lawson, Tim Clark, Ahmed Zarrugh, Coye Francies
LC:
Keenan Lewis, Ricky Herod, Kellen Marshall, Patrick Henderson

FS: Al Afalava, Bryan Payton, Matt Sieverson, Caleb Tommasini
SS:
Sabby Piscitelli, Daniel Drayton, Austin Hall

 

Depth chart beginning of April:

RC: Brandon Hughes OR Coye Francies, Gerard Lawson, Tim Clark, Ahmed Zarrugh,
LC:
Keenan Lewis, Ricky Herod, Kellen Marshall, Patrick Henderson

FS: Al Afalava, Bryan Payton, Matt Sieverson, Caleb Tommasini
SS:
Sabby Piscitelli, Daniel Drayton, Austin Hall

 

Injuries:
  • Coye Francies pulled a groin muscle in the first week of drills

 

Overview:

The secondary proved to be the most improved unit on the defensive side of the ball. Sabby Pisciteill, Al Afalava, Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes work extremely well together as they communicated effectively and listened to the coaches instructions.

Strong safety Sabby Piscitelli had his strongest spring since being at OSU as he was all over the field and netted an interception at least every practice. With a greater understanding of his role within the defense and a greater comfort with his teammates he is more relaxed which is helping him make plays. He also looked fast flashing that reported 4.4 speed often. At the start of spring drills he was still biting on the run, but the coaches stayed on him and by the end of the month it looked like some of the coaching was sinking in.

Free safety Al Afalava had a quiet spring, but his presence is mainly felt in full contact drills at full speed. Between him and Piscitelli there is a tremendous amount of flexibility and quickness which gives the defensive coordinator plenty of options. Behind Afalava Bryan Payton had a big time month grabbing the second most interceptions out of the secondary putting himself in the right situations to make plays. With the way Payton played in April it will be hard to keep him off the field and at the very least he gave the Beavers some badly needed depth at free safety.

At left corner Keenan Lewis solidified his starting spot. Lewis has tremendous range and his long arms allow him to get his hands on plenty of passes. With a year of experience under his belt he is developing towards that lock down corner that has helped OSU teams rank near the top of the conference in pass defense. He is one of the emotional leaders of the defense.

There is a significant drop off behind Lewis but there is some experience with seniors Rickey Herod and Kellen Marshall. There is also redshirt freshman Patrick Henderson. All three will be contributors on special teams as Herod proved to be a valuable gunner last season.

Brandon Hughes and Coye Francies are waging a battle for the right corner spot. Hughes has a half year of experience under his belt and is the bigger of the two allowing him to be more physical at the line of scrimmage. Francies is one of the better covermen. Coach Mark Banker says Francies has "ball skills" and loves his ability to control his body and make a play on the ball. He is also a standup student with great character.

Francies stock immediately jumped after the second spring scrimmage when he came from the other side of the field and brought down Patrick Fuller who certainly was going to score a 60-yard touchdown if Francies had given up on the play. It reminded everyone of Afalava's play against Washington State in 2005 where he popped the ball out inside the 10-yard line. Most likely a starter won't be named until late August. Bottom line is the starter must produce or he will be replaced with his backup.

Gerard Lawson is third on the depth chart with redshirt freshman Tim Clark following him. And while Lawson won't see much time on the field at cornerback he is one of the best gunners on the team getting down the field quickly to cover or down punts.

One point of emphasis for the entire group was being more physical at the line of scrimmage. Cornerbacks coach Nigel Burton wants his players to do the pushing around. A physical secondary gives the receivers one more thing to worry about besides their routes and it gives the defensive line just a little more time to get in the backfield.

 

Top spring performer:

Sabby Piscitelli. The senior was all over the field grabbing interceptions while providing leadership to the secondary. This could be his breakout year.

 

CB/SS spring summary in three sentences or less:

The starting safeties impressed with Payton emerging as a viable backup. Lewis continues to develop into a lock down corner as Hughes and Francies battle for the right corner position. Several key special teams members backup the starters.

 

Notable quotes:

Sabby Piscitelli - "We're working hard, some young guys are making plays, I think we're going to surprise a lot of people in the fall."

Coye Francies on tackling Fuller - “Nothing special. I felt it was like my job. You never quit on the football field. You have to have the will to never stop.”

Riley on Francies tackling Fuller - "You can make a major difference in a game with a play like that."

Mark Banker on Francies - “When the pass is in the air, the ability to control your body and get up and catch a ball or just get a hand or a finger on it. He can find it."

 

Who's coming in the fall:

 

Additional links :

 

Offense - Running backs | Quarterbacks | Offensive line | Tight ends | Receivers

Defense - Defensive line | Linebackers


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