The good: A wealth of experience lies in the secondary with seniors Al Afalava, Greg Laybourn and Bryan Payton all playing at a high level. They are a confident, hard hitting, cohesive unit who will be relied upon to lead the defense.
Redshirt freshman Lance Mitchell showed a penchant for being around the ball while also being able to deal out some brutal hits. He was a standout on the scout team a year ago and will make the jump to special teams and fill out the two deeps.
The bad: Once again, nothing. Loads of experience and several underclassmen who are developing nicely.
The question: Can the experienced safeties carry the defense as a new set of linebackers and defensive linemen settle in?
Top spring performer: Bryan Payton. It seems like he is always good for at least one pick a practice.
Riley says: "We have a very exciting group in the secondary with a lot of talent. This group is really the strength of the defense on paper and will have to provide leadership for our younger players. Al Afalava in the secondary is solid. It is a good group."
- Sr. Al Afalava (5-11, 215) - one of
the hardest hitting safeties in the Pac-10...his 131 career tackles are the
most on the roster...a Pac-10 honorable mention pick a year ago who will be
up for all-conference honors as a senior...five tackles in the spring game.
- Sr. Bryan Payton (6-2, 231) - a ball
hawk with excellent height, size and speed...another hard hitter who is used
in the nickel package and the first off of the bench...six career starts...four
tackles in the spring game.
- Sr. Greg Laybourn (5-10, 205) - competing
with Payton for starting free safety position...hard working...former walk-on
who earned a scholarship...lacks speed, but makes up for it with smart play
and sure tackling...five tackles in spring game.
- RFr. Lance Mitchell (6-2, 202) - a
ball hawks who could become a special teams standout...athletic, fast and
a hard hitter...will compete for starting spot in '09...four tackles in spring
- RFr. Cameron Collins (6-2, 215) - a scout team standout...could
become a special teams standout...will compete for a starting position in
- So. James Dockery (6-1, 174) - a playmaker who splits time
at cornerback and safety...picked off one pass in spring game while adding
three tackles...a great athlete...keep an eye on him during special teams
- So. Suaesi Tuimaunei (6-1, 206) - a team high six tackles
in the spring game...also picked off a pass...a hard hitter who doesn't mind
sacrificing his body...another player to keep an eye on during special teams
- Sr. Austin Hall (5-10, 197) - a special teams veteran...faces
an uphill battle for playing time at safety.
- Fr. Josh LaGrone (6-1, 170) - a grayshirt who will redshirt.
Coming in the fall: No one
Additional notes: Al Afalava has been suspended for the season opener at Stanford.
Redshirt freshmen David Ross and Brandon Hardin both made several nice plays on a weekly basis and will receive a chance on special teams to show their stuff. Junior Patrick Henderson will also get a chance to show his stuff on special teams.
The bad: Nothing. With two returning starters and a proven backup, Beavers fans can't ask for a better situation.
The question: Will Clark take over Lewis' starting spot?
Top spring performer: Brandon Hughes.
Riley says: "I am really proud of our two corners along with Tim Clark. Brandon Hughes, Keenan Lewis and Tim Clark are a really nice trio of cornerbacks."
- Jr. Patrick Henderson (5-10, 185) - missed spring
game due to unknown reasons...a special teams player who faces an uphill battle
for playing time but will be in the mix in 2009.
- Sr. Brandon Hughes (5-11, 182) - named to Lott
Trophy watch list...has started since his freshman season...a second team
All-Pac-10 selection...tough at the line of scrimmage...very physical with
the receivers...excellent at supporting the run defense...teams were not throwing
his direction near the end of last year, same goes for the Beaver quarterbacks...very
confident and a leader.
- Jr. Tim Clark (6-0, 175) - a pick every other
practice...improving by leaps and bounds...has four starts under his belt
and aiming for more...quick and aggressive.
- Sr. Keenan Lewis (6-1, 197) - missed several
practices as he attended to personal issues...has started since his freshman
year...long and lanky...the active leader for starts on the team with 34...improved
greatly last year but was slowed down by cramps and a knee sprain...had three
picks in four games before his injury.
- RFr. David Ross (6-0, 184) - slated to be an
impact player on special teams and will be in the mix for a starting spot
in 2009...had several nice plays during the month of practice.
- RFr. Brandon Hardin (6-2, 208) - the largest
cornerback on the team - in both height and weight...a potential special teams
standout who hits like a truck...will be in the mix for a starting position
- Fr. Brian Watkins (5-9, 174) - brother of linebacker Anthony Watkins...faces an uphill battle for playing time...a grayshirt who will redshirt.
Coming in the fall: No one