Fall Camp Preview 2009: Defensive Backs

While the A&M secondary will count on some young faces, three of our four secondary spots are already covered by very talented, proven starters and the group looked good in the off-season...Aggie Websider's Jeffrey Jennings continues his coverage and focuses on the Aggie secondary...Read it in the Tailgate

While the A&M secondary will count on some young faces, three of our four secondary spots are already covered by very talented, proven starters and the group looked good in the off-season. As Hop mentioned this spring, they were comfortable in carrying out their assignments, consistently challenged the receivers and will force the opposition to execute at a much higher level every play. However the Aggies' took a considerable graduation hit following the 2008 season, losing two big contributors at corner and two others at safety. They look to reload this August and while they do have a handful of really talented and quality veterans, the Ags' will undoubtedly have to rely on a few new faces for one starting corner spot and for the overall depth of the secondary. Much like linebacker, this is an area where A&M really needs some newcomers to step up this August and it will be a very interesting area to track throughout camp.


He may not be the most talented as a pure corner in regards to his physical attributes, but sophomore Terrance Frederick makes up for it with ridiculously sound technique far beyond his years. He has put on some needed weight this off-season, which should serve him well in future Big XII battles. His coverage skills are amazing and the Ags' have a sound starter here in Trent Hunter's Katy teammate. Given his skill set, a year under his belt and what should be a much-improved overall defense, keep an eye on Frederick to have a big year.

University of Houston transfer Justin McQueen entered spring as a squad guy who helped round out the depth chart given the lack of bodies, but ended up impressing coaches and observers alike with his blazing speed (one of the fastest players on the team) and coverage skills. Another positive note here as Hop also pointed in a spring observation, is that you are seeing signs of good technique out of even the squad guys, meaning evidence of some sound coaching in our secondary, which has clearly been absent for so long (as displayed by years of simply inexplicable things going on back there). McQueen will actually be a crucial component of our depth chart whether or not he hangs onto his starting spot opposite Terrance Frederick.

Senior Jordan Peterson finds himself back at corner. He was a bit small for safety and it was also quite apparent he struggled making one on one tackles in space. His hips aren't quite what you want in a corner but he has great instincts and covers well. After an off-season slowed by injury, he is now reportedly back at full strength, so he should have a much stronger camp than he did in the spring. The smart, scrappy DB is probably best suited at nickel back where he won't be matched against taller WR's or forced to take on RB's running downhill at him up the middle, which you saw him struggle with last year at safety.

Newcomer Dustin Harris has already generated a buzz this summer following summer 7 on 7 workouts and his THSCA All-Star game performance in Austin last month where he racked up 307 all purpose yards primarily as a defender and return man (including a 99 yard kickoff return, a 95 yard fumble return and 37 on a pass reception . . . oh yeah and those 307 yards don't count a 63 yard punt return negated due to penalty). The versatile freshman (high school QB and CB) will be aided in his bid for the corner job by his obvious physical attributes (tall, fast twitch) and athleticism (agile, good hips). His reach will give him an advantage when coaches' hone his press technique but needs to add some strength towards that end. In short Harris is a very exciting newcomer to keep an eye on this fall and will be an odds on favorite to contribute early.

Coaches, observers and fans with their finger on the pulse of things, have long anticipated and worried about the arrival and admission of the very highly touted national juco cornerback, Coryell Judie. The concern about his entrance is warranted, as the corner situation is so thin and he brings so much to the table. Judie may very well work his way into the starting job by the end of August or during the early season and his physical attributes and technique will give him a great shot at doing just that. He's a fast twitch guy and so much so that he is also expected to step in as one of the featured return men (something he's also excelled in). Not only is his press coverage impressive, but he has a superb vertical and accompanying ball skills to aid him downfield. From all accounts, he's expected to make it in but it may not be until camp is well under way, potentially setting him back in his bid to take over the starting job and leaving us with either a freshmen like Dustin Harris or Justin McQueen until he can get up to speed.

Another newcomer looking to make some waves at corner is the extremely fast and athletic freshman Steven Terrell. Like Dustin Harris he has good height for matching up with today's tall wideouts on jumpballs, and a reach that aids him in press coverage. He's yet another fast twitch guy that has a great burst in breaking on the ball. He has good hips in man but can also drop back into zone coverage. The very physical Terrell also does well in stepping up against the run.

Desmond Gardiner is a freshman DB with sound technique and physical attributes, excelling in man and zone coverage. He is physical at the line and also has a good vertical and ball skills when attacking the ball in the air. A great athlete, Gardiner also possesses great speed for both recovery and breaking on the ball. He will certainly be a newcomer to keep an eye on this August.


Jordan Pugh moves back to free safety, which Sherman has noted as a more natural fit for him. As a safety he provides excellent coverage on slot receivers and will do a great job in run support. He's also playing much more physical and with a simple confidence. Look for a big year out of the senior who has started the last 25 games for the Aggies.

Starting at strong safety will be Trent Hunter, who is coming off a very impressive freshman year that saw him hit the ground running (posted 17 tackles in his first start against Army, 65 tackles on the year, 46 of which were solos) both on the field and establishing himself in the locker room as a true leader who's pedigree of winning was quite apparent (the kind of leadership this team needs badly in breaking a culture that had grown to accustomed to losing). Hunter is a natural instinctive player and form tackler that makes few mistakes. He was recognized for his breakout freshman season by College Football News, as they named him a first team Freshman All American.

Backing Jordan Pugh at the free safety spot, at least that is the plan heading into camp, will be freshman Steven Campbell. The young man is intense, plays with good instincts, and loves to attack the line of scrimmage. Campbell plays downhill and is eager and effective in blowing up running backs and receivers. He uses his speed to cover lots of ground in zone, to break on the ball and in pursuit. As much as he loves to hit, he is equally aggressive in going up for jump balls. As all members of this freshman class, he has been on campus this summer for voluntary workouts and is already creating some buzz amongst the veterans.

Colton Valencia is a versatile secondary talent with coverage skills of a lockdown corner and though on the smallish side, he has the strength and physicality of a safety and is a sure tackler capable of bringing down ball carriers in space. Valencia will begin his camp backing Trent Hunter at strong safety. He has good speed, hips, instincts, a nose for the ball and a knack for breaking on passes.

Bringing further depth to the safety mix will be DeMaurier Thompson, who to date has primarily been utilized as a special teams guy, senior Chevar Bryson (who returns to safety where he played as a FR and SO) and converted receiver Chris Caflisch who similar to Bryson will bring his athleticism and ball skills to defense.


With the big exception of the one crucial corner spot still up for grabs, the Aggies' secondary is an area on the roster that has overall high level-proven starters, but is counting on inexperienced (though talented) youth to provide quality depth. Cornerback has more potentially quality candidates but again desperately needs to fill that starting role, while safety has two great starters but only has a handful of players to step in behind them. The group will be much improved but can't afford injury and need the freshmen, Juco Coryell Judie and perhaps one of the under the radar veterans to step up. That's asking a lot on both counts; let's keep our fingers crossed on the starters staying healthy.

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