Opening The Wimple's next examination of TCU and its 2009 opponents in piecemeal seriatim, is this survey of secondaries-- ranked from best to worst.
True to form, TCU is replacing one monster safety with another this season: experienced Sir Demarco Bledsoe takes over all-MWC first teamer Stephen Hodge's role as safety, and has impressed in practice. Tekerrein Cuba replaces Steven Coleman (all-MWC 2nd team). The Horned Frogs return the nation's most experienced tandem at cornerback, all-MWC honorable mention Nick Sanders and all-MWC 2nd-teamer Rafael Priest. Together the seniors have started 78 games. Starting safety Tejay Johnson, rounding out the starting five. Look for JUCO transfer Malcolm Williams, and Alex Ibiloye too see significant playing time as well. Greg McCoy and Jason Teague backup Priest and Sanders at the corners. This unit likely will see meet or exceed last year's unit-- which was 11th best nationally in pass defense.
BYU replaces half of its starters in the secondary: Kellen Fowler and David Tafuna (honorable mention all-MWC). Brandon Howard may or may not return to start at FS; look for JUCO S Brian Logan to join returning starter Scott Johnson in the secondary. With them will be experienced Brandon Bradley and Andrew Rich. Look for improvement over last year's torchable-set, with considerable experience returning this season.
Wyoming loses a couple safeties, only one of them started most games last year, Quincy Rogers. The Cowboys return both starting cornerbacks: Marcell and Tashaun Gipson, and their all-conference honorable mention safety Chris Prosinski. Jamichael Hall, a JUCO transfer, redshirted last year and replaces Rogers this season. While lacking proven depth, the Cowboys have a strong starting secondary.
Utah loses a pair of first-team all-conference corners, Sean Smith and Brice McCain. Coach Whittingham saw this coming, and added a couple JUCO corners to the team last season; this year we'll find out how well Whittingham's preparation worked. Transfers Lamar Chapman and Damilyn Tanner compete for starts at corner with R.J. Stanford and Justin Jones. At safety, starters Robert Johnson and Joe Dale return. While the Utes likely will not see first-team all-conference performance at the corners again, it will field a good pass defense again.
Colorado State also loses two starting safeties-- also half of its starting secondary. Mike Pagnotta and Jake Galusha graduate, taking with them 37 career starts. However, SS Klint Kubiak is back for a sixth year, and CB DeAngelo Wilkinson returns from suspension to backup returning starter Nick Oppenneer. Gerard Thomas and Brandon Owens battle to return as starter at the other CB position. The only new starter in the secondary will be FS Elijah-Blu Smith or Jarrad McKay. This unit-- while not nation-leading in experience like the offensive line- ought to be improved over last year's unlucky four, and may even be a strength for the team.
UNLV loses cornerback Geoffery Howard and safety Lorenzo Bursey, and is hoping to remodel its dismal secondary. Headlining the new crew are early-enrolled JUCO transfer corners Warren Zeigler and Kenny Brown. They join returning starting safeties Quinton Pointer and Chris Jones this season, and new QB-turned safety Travis Dixon. Experienced returners Will Chandler and Beau Orth will see the field as well. Substantially improvement from this group may push the Rebels into the post-season for only the second time since Reagan was the president.
AIR FORCE replaces half of the best secondary it's fielded in recent memory, losing FS Aaron Kirchoff to graduation and CB Reggie Rembert to indefinite suspension (Calhoun called him the most explosive player on the team, which at the time was thought to be a comment on his on-field performance!). Also graduating is top backup safety Luke Yeager. AFA returns starters Anthony Wright (CB) and 2nd-team all-conference safety Chris Thomas. Replacing Rembert at CB is experienced Brenton Byrd. Inexperienced, but impressive this spring at FS was the youngster Jon Davis. While this year's squad doesn't look on paper like it'll match last year's effort, Air Force has consistently beat expectations under Calhoun. Look for some dropoff in the Academy's pass D, but don't be surprised if it's not very much.
New Mexico loses an all-star and all-conference pair of corners, Quin and Wright. Four players are battling to replace them: Anthony Hooks, Bubba Forrest, Frankie Baca, and Freddie Young. No word yet who've caught the coaches' eyes. Converted safety (from the Lobo position) Ian Clark looks to start at SS. Starting safety Frankie Solomon returns. While less experienced at the corners, this unit may not experience much dropoff; that said, last year's secondary performed on the low side of average; the Lobos need improvement here. Whether they'll get it remains an open question.
SDSU loses its star, FS Corey Boudreaux (all-MWC honorable mention), and also starters CB Vonnie Holmes and SS TJ McKay. The Aztecs brought in Rocky Long to recreate his signature stifling 5-man secondary, using the recast Lobo (now "Aztec") back. Nick Sandford and Martrell Fantroy battle for the position; Sandford started as a safety last year. At the corners, Aaron Moore returns on one side, while experienced Jose Perez and Davion Mauldin compete to start at the other. SDSU is building a high-risk, high-reward defense and surely will have to win the communication battle before anything else. The Wimple expects this unit to underperform this season while it irons out its new identity.