I’d planned to write about the suddenly evolving secondary before we found out the news yesterday about Chris Polk.
The Polk news scrapped that story, so I’ll try to get to some of it here.
The secondary appeared pretty set until the last few days, when first cornerback Quinton Richardson suffered a high ankle sprain that will have him out a few weeks, then Justin Glenn began to make a move at the free safety spot held by Nate Fellner. Sean Parker seems secure at strong safety and Desmond Trufant at the other cornerback spot.
The initial thought of many was that Greg Ducre would simply ascend to take over for Richardson as long as he’s out.
But junior Anthony Gobern has spent most of the past two days running with the No. 1 unit there, Ducre.
Cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin said Wednesday that “It’s open to competition, and it’s kind of good, because competition gets everybody better. Greg Ducre, Tony Gobern – those guys are stepping up big-time and fighting for the position…one has a good day, and the next one has a better day, and the next one has a better day. Everybody keeps getting better.”
Martin said the two would rotate with the starting unit so the coaches can evaluate each going against the starting offense.
“We want to see how it is when those guys are in there with the ones, the first d-line, that type of thing so we can see the different type of coverages and the different techniques they are
using,” he said. “It will all end up equal time. At the end of the day, they’ll both have equal reps with the ones and we’ll assess it from there.”
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said he’s confident in however the cornerback spot develops for the next few weeks.
“I’m not concerned about the guys that are out there, because they are playing really good,” he said. “In the long run they are going to make us better. They are going to help our depth. Tony Gobern’s done a really good job, he’s really improved. He’s always had a lot of quicks, good speed – now he’s learning how to play football. Greg Ducre is good. We could not have to like to use some freshmen, but it’s one of those things where we’re getting thin and we might have to use Marcus Peters, or some of the other guys there. But they’ve been doing a good job, but it hasn’t been affecting our defense whatsoever.”
Indeed, true freshman Peters is a wildcard in this. Holt said on Thursday that two true frosh — tackle Danny Shelton and safety James Sample — seem certain of not redshirting.
“James Sample looks like he could play early because physically he’s there,” Holt said. “But the other kid – Travis Feeney – has a lot of ability. But we have a some depth at safety, so hopefully we don’t have to use both of them. But it looks like James Sample and Danny Shelton might be the freshmen that play as true freshmen. We might not have the luxury of redshirting those guys. They are pretty good players.”
But Peters could also join the ranks of those not redshirting depending on how he plays and how quickly Richardson returns.
“Marcus Peters is stepping up,” Martin said. “He’s a young guy, but he is very promising. I’m excited to see how fast he grows within the scheme; he’s still swimming right now, as most of our freshman are – but athletically he can do it. It’s just grabbing the scheme, and doing that type of stuff.”
Martin had hoped to have a few more bodies to call on at cornerback, but JC transfer Antavius Sims has yet to make it into school, and Adam Long is recovering from a knee injury suffered during off-season conditioning.
“That’s another guy I’m missing,” Martin said of Long. “Can’t wait until he gets back soon. I’m not one to go about how fast the rehab of the knee is, but he’s rehabbing his butt off in California, and he’s on his way back. He called me super-excited…as a matter of fact today (Wednesday)…’coach, I’m watching film and I’m seeing stuff the way I’ve never seen it before, I can’t wait to get back’…so I’m excited for him to join the crew back again.”
Martin said juggling bodies at the spot is a little challenging. “I can’t say that it’s not…juggling reps and watching guys, we feel like we do the most running on the football team, as far as special teams and all that stuff combined, it gets taxing on us. But it’s football. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so whoever is quote unquote, the weakest link, gotta step up. …you have to get back on the road recruiting. That’s the only way we can fix it.”
(By the way, Tre Watson, a transfer from Central, is not eligible this year, Martin said, due to transfer rules since he was on scholarship at CWU last year. Said Martin of Watson: He’s going to be a good one…too bad he’s got to sit out this year per the transfer rules…he has to redshirt, but he’s a great pickup.”)
As for the free safety spot, the intrigue there is mostly that Glenn — a junior who is 100 percent after suffering a broken leg against Notre Dame in 2009 — is simply playing so well that he is working his way into consideration. Odds are, both Glenn and Fellner see time at that spot this year.
“He’s having a really solid camp, I’m really happy for him,” Holt said. “…staying healthy and doing some really good things. Very coachable.”