Young: Bulls' secondary better than '07 group
USF senior safety Jerrell Young likes the depth and talent in the Bulls' defensive secondary this fall, so much so that he said Monday that this year's cornerbacks and safeties are the best unit he's been a part of, including the 2007 group that included future NFL draft picks Mike Jenkins, Nate Allen, Jerome Murphy and Trae Williams.
"In my eyes, in my opinion, I think this is the best secondary we've had since I've been here, even when Mike and Trae were here and Murph and Nate were all in the same secondary," Young said by phone from Vero Beach. "I think this secondary is better. Experience and depth, but it's not just that. Coach (Rick) Smith is really harping on certain things we should do, reading our keys and the quarterback, things we didn't do back then. It's like a whole different level we're looking at now, and I really think we're more talented."
The 2007 USF defense (which helped the Bulls rise to No. 2 in the national polls) set a school record with 23 interceptions -- 17 of those came from the secondary, with Williams getting six and Allen four. The Bulls returned a record five interceptions for touchdowns that year as well. Last year's Bulls had just 15 interceptions, with just nine from defensive backs; Young led the team with three picks and was the only defensive back to get more than one. Recognizing that, Young said this year's secondary must do a better job of holding onto potential interceptions and getting more turnovers than the Bulls were able to do last season.
"Turnovers are a critical part of the game," Young said. "You get a turnover, you're shortening the field for the offense. We didn't do such a good job of that last year, as far as creating turnovers. That's on the defense to create turnovers, stripping balls and making sure if we get an opportunity to catch an interception, we catch it. We were good in total defense (yards allowed) but our turnover ratio wasn't that good. They're harping on that right now, getting more turnovers."
The Bulls have two returning senior starters in Young and cornerback Quenton Washington, another returning starter in junior Jon Lejiste, as well as junior Kayvon Webster, who has 10 starts over the past two seasons. Young said he's been impressed by the top backups -- Mark Joyce and JaQuez Jenkins at safety, George Baker and walk-on Ernie Tabuteau at corner.
"We're really deep on that side of the ball," Young said. "One person goes down, we expect the 2s to step up up like 1s and the 3s to step up like 2s. There's going to be no dropoff in our game. Everyone is looked at as a starter."