Position Preview: Defensive Backs

The defensive backs, particularly the cornerbacks, took the brunt of the criticism that was directed at the 2002 Texas Tech defense. With both starters gone at cornerback, a wide-open competition has finally finished, and the starters have been named. The only question at safety is the health of the returning starters.

The safety positions are pretty much set in stone, but the health of both starters is still a concern. Ryan Aycock will once again bring his hard-hitting style to the strong safety spot, while converted running back Vincent Meeks will be the starter at free safety. Both of these players have battled hamstring injuries, but they are slowly being reintegrated into the practices. At cornerback, the starters will be Chad Johnson at left cornerback and Marcus Boyd at right cornerback. Neither of these players has much experience at the collegiate level. Johnson is a freshman, while Boyd is a senior who has seen limited playing time over the past three seasons.

The backups at safety will be Micah Sweats and Byron Johnson. Freshman Joe Garcia may push his way up the depth chart after a good fall workout. All of the backups have seen significant time on the field during practices due to the injuries to the starters. At cornerback the backups will be SirDon Lewis and Jamaal Jackson. Other players who could see time at corner include Antonio Huffman and Tim Norman. Norman is still questionable pending a decision on his academic status.

This group brings a number of uncertainties into the season. The safeties should have another productive season, if they can stay healthy. At cornerback the question is how these players will respond to being in a real game. The other question is how secure these starting spots are. Johnson is probably safe at his position, but Boyd is a little less secure. It wouldn't be surprising to see one of the other corners step into that role at some point.

The defensive backs should benefit from this defensive scheme. Aycock and Meeks both gain some freedom to make big plays. This should suit be a big boost for Meeks, who has a ton of speed, and the ability to bake big plays every time he touches the ball. The corners will be able to play a more physical style, which should help them against some of the speedy receivers in the Big Twelve. Overall this group should show an improvement over last season.

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