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Position breakdown: Defensive backs



I'll do my best in the next week to run through each position going into preseason practice, outlining starters, position battles and the rest of the players, one area at a time. To keep you guys coming back, I'll start at the defense and save the running backs and quarterbacks for last, though truth be told, cornerback is arguably the best position on the team ...

STARTERS: Cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams combine for 59 starts and could both land first-team all-conference honors. Williams led the Big East with seven interceptions last year, and the speedy Jenkins will likely be the first Bulls player drafted in April. Safety is less established, with promising sophomore Nate Allen stepping into a major role at free safety, with junior Carlton Williams ahead of Louis Gachette for the strong safety job.

POSITION BATTLE: Williams has the edge at strong safety after starting nine games last year, so the real battle is for the nickel defensive back. It looks like sophomore Jerome Murphy, arguably inheriting Jeremy Burnett's title as the unit's hardest hitter, could step in at nickel and even push Allen for the starting free safety job. The next option at nickel would be junior Tyller Roberts, who had 25 tackles in a limited role last season. If Jenkins or Williams should go down, senior Ryan Gilliam, a track standout, is the top backup.

AND THE REST: True freshmen Charlton Sinclair and Quenton Washington are among the most talented players in the incoming class, but the depth of returning players would make it hard for either to play a major role. Redshirt freshman Dylan Douglas will likely help on special teams, where junior Jamaal Jenkins has been a standout for the past two seasons. The new addition is former quarterback Carlton Hill, who will be playing defense for the first time since high school. I'd think of this as a transition year for him, so I'd be surprised if he's on the field much as a safety. He can help on special teams. Just as a reminder, junior Danny Verpaele is ineligible this season but will return as a senior in 2008. With three of the top four corners being seniors, it's easy to see a young secondary in 2008, much like USF had in 2004 when Jenkins and Williams played prominently as redshirt freshmen.

Thoughts? Questions? The floor is yours for d-back discussion ... Oh, two small notes: Mo Esseghir, the 6-foot-11 basketball walk-on we've been writing about, likely won't be eligible to play until the end of the fall semester, meaning he'll miss the first six games or so, same as transfer guard Aaron Holmes. Again, Stan Heath's club will have depth issues in the post early on. ... USF has a new season-ticket offering for alumni (and alumnae) who have never bought a season ticket. You get a base-level season ticket ($129 value), a year's membership with the alumni association and a USF specialty license tag, all for $99. Alums should be receiving information by direct mail. ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:32am]


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