Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

With Steve Addazio's first training camp as Temple's head football coach approaching, owlsdaily.com will take an extensive look at each position group. Today's focus is on the secondary.

In a 35-year coaching career, Chuck Heater has settled from coast-to-coast, from Florida to Washington, Colorado to Indiana, Arizona to Ohio.

But while Temple's new defensive coordinator hasn't stayed in one place for too long, he has spent a significant amount of time coaching defensive backs – which will be part of his responsibility with the Owls as well.

"I can anticipate most of the problems in the back end," said Heater, who started coaching the secondary at Toledo in 1979. "I can ask most of the right questions about the front stuff. But everything bad that's ever happened in the back end in football has happened to me, because I've been doing it for (over) 25 years. You build your inventory up. I've got a great awareness and anticipation of problems. Now getting them coached so they don't have those problems is the challenge.

"Sunday morning is too late. You need to have the answers Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday before the game."

Heater admitted defining the qualities of a good defensive back is difficult.

"The really good ones have the instinct and awareness and football savvy, and obviously they have the football build, they can run and jump," said Heater. "But that varies. It's not a track meet or weight lifting contest, it's harder to measure."

Zamel Johnson, who transferred from Hofstra before last season, is the early leader to start at one corner spot, though the sophomore had limited production last year with four tackles in 11 games.

But there's experience at corner as well with senior Kee-ayre Griffin starting 10 games a year ago and producing 51 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, four pass defenses and an interception.

Junior Maurice Jones has started seven games and played in 22 over the last two years, contributing 29 tackles, two sacks and an interception in 2010. Nixon totaled 12 tackles, a sack and two pass defenses last season.

True freshman Anthony Robey is currently listed as Johnson's backup on the two-deep.

"We're going to ask them to do a little bit more in terms of their coverage responsibilities, a little more challenging than what we had in the past," said Heater. "Zamel Johnson had a really nice spring for us. Mo, Nixon and Key have all played."

At safety, Kevin Kroboth moves from strong safety – where he shared time with Justin Gildea – to replace second-round NFL draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett at free safety. Gildea will remain at strong safety, after having a breakout year last season.

"I think Kroboth is the guy who can get it done (at free safety)," said Heater. "It's an important position. He has to be able to tackle and make up for all the mistakes that happen sometime. We may not replace Jaiquawn, but everybody has to play their role."

Heater said he also expected redshirt freshman Brian Burns to be in the mix at safety, while Johnson, Jones and Griffin see most of the corner snaps.

"In the secondary, I've never been big on rotating guys, my deal is it's hard enough to train up the guys who have to play," said Heater.

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