Jamar Wall started the 2007 season looking like a true sophomore but ended it looking like one of the premier cover-corners in the Big XII. Wall's transition from shaky starter to stalwart was one of the most dramatic changes of the 2007 season and his improvement should only continue. With another year under his belt and the confidence knowing that he can, and has, covered some of the better receivers in the country both in games and on a daily basis in practice.
Brent Nickerson has seen the most time working behind Wall working at left corner, though he can also play right cornerback and has done so with the injury to LA Reed. Nickerson isn't as fast as Wall but has the correct mental mindset and his height is an added bonus.
De'Shon Sanders is the wildcard here, having shown improvement as open practice was drawing to a close and could find himself on the field more often if Brent Nickerson moves to right corner.
When Daniel Charbonnet transferred to Texas Tech, it went almost unnoticed among the hype surrounding the start of the 2005 season. Yet, three years later Charbonnet has himself as the starting strong safety and while he isn't the strongest or fastest player on the field, he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time with a sure tackle along with him. If Charbonnet could learn to catch with some regularity, he could very well snag a half-dozen interceptions in 2008.
Behind Charbonnet resides Anthony Hines. Hines could easily be described as the personification of bad luck. After a brutal injury before the 2006 season he was knocked out of contention for the strong safety spot when he had a fairly legitimate shot at taking that spot from Joe Garcia. Fast forward to the 2007 game against OU and Hines suffered a knee injury that held him out for all of spring practice.
While now healthy, Hines seems to have lost about half of a step and just can't run as well in the open-field as he used to be able to and his lateral movement has also suffered. Yet for all of that, he has done a great job of getting back into shape and will play on passing downs when Daniel Charbonnet moves inside to cover the slot.
Darcel McBath is the starter here, no questions asked. He, along with Graham Harrell and Jake Ratliff, have the most consecutive starts on the team followed by Louis Vasquez who missed one game during the 2006 season. McBath hits like a safety but covers like a corner and could find a place in the NFL at the cornerback position.
Behind McBath sits Jordy Rowland, a player who has been buried on the depth chart but has recently made himself known. Not only can he play free-safety but he can also play linebacker in the nickel package and has also been extremely effective in that role.
LA Reed looked like he could be one of the best athletes on the field after moving from receiver-to-safety-to-cornerback but suffered what looked like a very serious injury on August 19th that looked like it could keep him out for an entire season.
The good news is that it now appears Reed will most-likely be back in time for conference play but the bad news is that he will not have taken a snap on defense. While a fierce competitor, it remains to be seen how this injury will affect Reed upon his return.
With Reed sidelined, LaRon Moore has split time with Brent Nickerson at right cornerback. It appears that the coaches would like him to take control of the position but he seems to have mental lapses. He's in a similar position to what Jamar Wall was facing last year with the athleticism and speed to play the position but lacking the experience and mindset to do so effectively.
The good news is that Moore will have a relatively easy non-conference schedule in which to hone his skills should LA Reed not be 100% by the start of Big XII play.
Left Cornerback: A-
Strong Safety: B+
Free Safety: A
Right Cornerback: B
Overall Grade: 9.1/10
This is the most talented and experienced unit on the Red Raiders defense. With not only the strength of Darcel McBath and Jamar Wall but also Daniel Charbonnet and his knack for making plays, this unit should be dangerous at the start of the season.
Add in the fact that four games into the season whomever starts for LA Reed will have that much more experience and Reed's eventual return, it could well be the best secondary that Mike Leach and Ruffin McNeil have ever had.