Cornerbacks: The corner situation is an interesting one. Justin King and Tony Davis appear to be the two to beat for the starting jobs. "King is developing into his potential. He has control of his speed, knows how to use his body and is better are reading his assignment -- it's hard to believe he's [going to be] a junior already -- seems like yesterday he was a freshman," one observer said.
King provides a "strong base" for the unit with his experience and leadership. "He's one of those guys who is disciplined and shows his teammates how to do things right -- just by doing it himself," another observer shared.
On the other side, Davis has "proven he has the speed and basics to be a starter." However, some observers feel he needs to "work on his wrap-up technique" this spring. "He's quick, but he'll lower a shoulder and charge a guy instead of draping himself over him. Any smart player will see this and can play matador and step out of the way or brace himself for the collision and sometimes stay on his feet," an observer explained.
As an interesting aside, Davis ended up with 12 more tackles than King this past season, 42 vs. 30 respectively. However, "quarterbacks went after Tony more than Justin," as the observer went on to say.
Some observers feel that Davis in particular will see pressure for the starting job from A.J. Wallace, Knowledge Timmons and Devin Fentress. All three are described as "blazers" and one observer called them the "jet set of backups." Observers praise their speed. Wallace and Timmons both are "as fast as they come," but need "to get a handle on their running. The speed is great, but if you bite on a fake or over-pursue, the fact you are fast takes you farther out of the play." Fentress' size is something that is of concern -- at around 165 pounds he "gives up about 20 pounds to A.J. and Knowledge."
Safeties: The safety unit loses some significant experience with the departure of Donnie Johnson, Darien Hardy and Nolan McCready. However, the unit has two players with significant experience remaining in All-Big Ten selection Anthony Scirrotto, who started all 13 games last season, and Spencer Ridenhour who saw action in 12 games as the strong safety (aka Hero) in 2006. These two seem to be the odds-on favorites for the safety starting jobs, though Ridenhour has a "black mark against him" heading into the spring given that he was sent home from the Outback Bowl for violating an unspecified team rule.
Ridenhour is described as "strong," "smart," and "swift" in his play. Despite his Outback issue, observers feel his athleticism will give him the edge at the free safety spot. Other safety prospects being mentioned as expected to make a charge are Travis McBride, Bani Gbadyu and Cedric Jeffries.
All three of these players redshirted last year. Gbadyu is quick and has shown good coverage skills. He is a "very physical player" whose style of play has been described as "aggressive," "tough" and "intense." He is expected to work on his tackling/wrap-up consistency this off-season, which "will likely dictate his impact."
McBride primarily saw his scout reps with the safeties last year. He has "good quickness" and a "strong initial burst." His focal points will be with his pursuit decisions and his ability to "select the right angle on ball carriers."
At 6-foot-2, Jeffries saw his reps with the scout team safeties, too. Although he is described as not as aggressive as several other safety prospects, he has shown a propensity to read-react consistently in coverage. Observers feel he needs to increase his size and say he is focused on that this winter and spring in order play the position more effectively.
Depending on the situation with the corners and the fact that the unit has some "tremendous speed and athleticism," there has been talk of a possible shift of a corner to the safety unit.
Among the names mentioned for this have been Willie Harriott, Devin Fentress and Tony Davis. Observers seem skeptical that Davis is the likely candidate for this given "he is one of the most experienced corners on the team." However, there seems to be some discussion building around helping the safety unit with additional speed from the corner unit.
Whether it actually happens likely won't be decided until spring practice and even then "may only be temporary."
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