The Pokes finished in the top two in the Mountain West Conference in pass defense each of the last three years, but with the loss of safeties John Wendling and Dorsey Golston, it should be a challenge for the squad to maintain its high level of play this season. Perhaps most of the pressure will be felt by Cowboys cornerbacks Michael Medina and Julius Stinson, the only returning starters in the unit.
Today we'll take a look at Medina, a swift-footed senior from Lakewood, Colorado.
A key player on a secondary that finished first in the MWC last year in pass defense, Medina started off 2006 with a bang, picking off a tipped pass and returning it for a score in the Cowboy's 38-7 season-opening route of WAC bottom-dweller Utah State. Unfortunately, he had to wait more than two months to grab his next interception (also his last of the season)—a 10-yard pick that set up a fourth-quarter field goal in a 27-24 victory over San Diego State on November 4. It was a timely play, offering Cowboys fans a momentary glimpse of the speedy corner's potential as a clutch performer.
In the end, a 2006 stat line of 31 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes broken up doesn't make Medina worthy of all-star honors, but it's nothing to scoff at either, especially considering he was purely a special teamer until his junior season. Already having displayed phenomenal speed, Medina is listed at 190 pounds—nine more than last year. And with a year of starter experience, the 6-foot senior should not only be more physical on the outside, but a more intelligent coverman as well. Look for him to be a leader on a secondary that needs to take some pressure off a young defensive line and make up for the loss of NFL rookie Wendling.
Medina's 2007 keys to success:
1. Make more big plays. Two picks simply won't be enough this year if Medina wants to distinguish himself as a lock-down cover corner, and with concerns still being raised about UW quarterbacks' tendencies to turn the ball over, the pressure may be on the secondary to give the offense more second chances.
2. Be more physical. NFL cornerback Derrick Martin recorded 60 tackles his sophomore year and 47 in his junior season with the Cowboys. Fellow corner Julius Stinson posted 57 last year, nearly doubling Medina's total of 31. And while Medina broke up far more passes than any other UW defender in 2006, he'll need to step up his tackling in order to help Stinson and safeties Michael Ray and Quincy Rogers take the heat off the Cowboys' front seven, which finished seventh in the MWC in rush defense last year.
Medina's 2006 stats:
12 Games Played (all), 22 solo tackles, 9 assists, 31 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss for -12 yards, no sacks, 2 interceptions for 30 yards, 7 broken up passes (most on the team)
DBs at a Glance: Michael Medina
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