2011 Position Previews: Defensive Backs
New season. New format. Instead of a digestible combo of factoids and opinions, I am going to write in a more narrative, free style post. As always, feedback is appreciated.
I've read that NFL GMs don't like to draft Nick Saban's defensive backs because they never know if the guys are great or just so well coached that they appear great. BC suffers from a similar problem. Our DBs are so well coached and well schemed that no one really respects their individual talent.
It is a relatively simple formula. Our DBs have specific assignments. We play mostly zone coverage. They are drilled to keep their players infront of them. They read the QBs to make smart plays on the ball. And they all tend to be good tacklers. Spaz and McGovern deserve credit for this, but so does Mike Siravo. Under Siravo we've plugged in a series of players and rarely seen a dropoff in performance. [Criticism for Siravo's working as a recruiting coordinator is a different conversation for another time.]
For something so functional our fans tend to bemoan our defensive strategy. People kill the cushion that our DBs allow. It can be frustrating and against good QBs we get picked apart. I understand the frustration, but you cannot argue with the end results. We rarely allow big plays. We make bad QBs look really bad. We frustrate the other offense more often than we frustrate our own fans. But because we are not pressing coverage it often appears that our DBs are slow and not difference makers.
Even by BC standards, this year's crop of defensive backs is really lacking in star power. I expect that to change by season's end. Donnie Fletcher is our most experienced corner. He's played since day 1 and will play the field corner position this year. Fletcher tackles well and can make plays on bad passes. I expect an All-ACC season from him. CJ Jones and Jim Noel will fight for the other corner spot. Based on recent years, I think they will probably split snaps. True freshman Albert Louis-Jean is also expected to play as a freshman.
While the fundamental philosophies are shared, the BC safeties are asked to do some different things. They support the run and also have more freedom to leave their zones, either to help or pick off a pass. The Safeties are expected to be Okechukwu Okoroha and Dominick LeGrande. LeGrande has played all over at BC and been good in most spots. Okoroha came on late last year and was solid.
Other guys who could see time include Sean Sylvia, Dominique Williams, James McCaffrey, Ameer Richardson and Spenser Rositano. And don't expect the top guys to stay strictly in their corner or safety designation. Noel could move back to Safety and LeGrande has played corner in the past. My guess is that we'll play the best guys and interchange them.
As I write these previews I start wondering how the season will turn. In a way, I think the DBs capture the confusion. I think things will be very good. I think the talent is better than outsiders think. Yet I don't know if other factors (the schedule, the offense, Spaz) will undermine the DBs's (and team) end results.