Friday, July 23, 2010

MWC unit previews: SECONDARIES

The Wimple's ranking of the MWC's secondaries, best to worst:

Air Force's corners are the conference's best returning tandem: Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert were 1st- and 2nd-team all-MWC. Jon Davis joins returns as safety with them, and the only newcomer is Phil Ohili, who has two years' experience as a backup. Air Force and TCU had the best pass defenses in the MWC last season, holding opposing squads to 154 and 157 ypg, and 57.6% and 47.4% completions. AFA returns 75% of its starters secondary; TCU only 40%-- although new starting cornerback Jason Teague played lots and often in '09. AFA's and TCU's secondaries are the class of the conference in 2010.

See TCU's and the rest of the MWC's secondary ranking after the jump.

TCU features "new" starting corners, but Greg McCoy and Jason Teague are familiar faces in the secondary. McCoy was the fastest Frog until Skye Dawson enrolled; he has a knack for interceptions. Teague is another NFL cornerback prospect, one of several to come through TCU since the revival. The leader of the back five is safety Tejay Johnson. Alex Ibiloye is the other returning starter at safety. Jurell Thompson is challenging last year's starters Tyler Luttrell and Colin Jones for the third safety spot. Look for Thompson to emerge as Johnson's heir presumptive.

Wyoming returns its entire secondary and will be very sound. Gipson, Gary, Prosinski , and Gipson are a frightful foursome, Gary being a freshman all-American and Prosinski tallying 140 tackles last season, tied for 10th nationally. They'll be on the field less, (thank you, improved offense) and three of their four backups saw action last season. This unit has 87 starts' experience.

BYU returns three starters to the four-man secondary, including standouts S Andrew Rich and CB Brandon Bradley. Replacing S Scott Johnson is the Cougars' biggest task on pass defense. Redshirt freshman Jray Galea'i may be called on to fill Johnson's shoes.

Utah had to replace the all-conference CB duo last season, and this year returns one of the replacements, Brandon Burton. JC transfer Conroy Black, who was penciled in to start last season was instead injured and redshirted. Likely he'll start in '10. This year the Utes must replace both safeties, including first-team all-MWC Robert Johnson. Justin Taplin-Ross stepped up in the spring, nailing down one starting spot. Chris Washington, who redshirted last season, appears poised to start in the other spot if he has a strong fall. Early-enrolled freshman Damian Payne is his main competition for the spot; likely they'll both see lots of PT.

Colorado State returns one of the conference's best safety tandems, in starter Elijah-Blu Smith and Ivory Herd. Herd was baptized by fire in Fort Worth, when he had to fill in for injured Klay Kubiak. Gerard (now "Momo," officially) Thomas returns at one CB spot, while DeAngelo Wilkinson begins starting at the other.

San Diego State's five-man secondary (one of just two in the conference) made major strides in '09, and with four returners (LB Preston has moved to Aztec back, but I'll call him a starter because he's started 20 games). Dey Juan Hemmings and Brandon Davis return at safety; Jose Perez at corner. Leon McFadden starts at the other corner spot, and saw plenty of PT last season. Improved corner play this season will allow Rocky Long to use more of his playbook on the defense, and greatly aid the Aztecs' offense. Look for SDSU's defense to be significantly improved, again, and challenge for top billing in the MWC.

New Mexico was utterly hapless defensively last season (and offensively, too, for that matter). CBs Emmanuel McPhearson and Anthony Hooks return, bookending new starters at safety-- Bubba Forrest and Freddy Young. Forrest and Young both saw significant PT last season. Look for improvement this season, largely because the front 7 in Albuquerque will be much, much better.

UNLV is the conference's biggest question mark going into 2010. The wholesale change in coaches means we don't yet know what to expect from the new Rebels. We do know that 09 starting corners Will Chandler and Quinton Pointer return, as does 09 starting safety Mike Grant. Alex De Giacomo got the first team snaps at the other safety spot in the spring.

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