The good, the bad, the question: S/CB

One of the strongest, if not the strongest, positions on the team are the cornerbacks and safeties. With battle worn players filling out the two deeps across the board they will be looked upon to lead the defense as the new linebackers and defensive linemen settle in.

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."

The roster:

  • 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 game.

  • RFr. Cameron Collins (6-2, 215) - a scout team standout...could become a special teams standout...will compete for a starting position in 2009.

  • 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 play.

  • 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 play.

  • 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.

 

The good: Senior Brandon Hughes has worked himself into being one of the best covermen in the Pac-10. Junior Tim Clark continues to play well pushing Keenan Lewis for the starting job.

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."

The roster:

  • 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 next year.
     
  • 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


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