Looking at the defensive back situation for every SEC West team
The offseason inevitably turns into a great time to break down the strengths and weaknesses for each team, and what can be done to be better in 2016.
For the seven teams in the SEC West, one of the critical areas that needs attention is the secondary. A lot of quality players are heading out the door after 2015 and for those that are coming back, many units are coming off disappointing seasons where they gave up far too many yards through the air.
Here we take a quick look at the defensive back situation for every SEC West team:
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Leaving: Cyrus Jones, Geno Matias-Smith
Returning: Eddie Jackson, Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tony Brown, Ronnie Harrison
The skinny: Losing seniors is always a sad thing, and Jones and Matias-Smith have been special players in this great Alabama run. But having Jackson come back for his senior year is huge and the young rising stars in the secondary, sophomores-to-be Fitzpatrick and Humphrey, should content for all-conference honors next year. Jones’ coverage ability will be missed, but his punt return skills will really be missed.
Leaving: Rohan Gaines
Returning: Everyone else
The skinny: Arkansas struggled against the pass in 2015, ranking last in the conference in pass defense. But the Arkansas secondary was also young. Look for the Razorbacks to be older and wiser in this department in 2016. Here Tolliver, who played mostly nickel, led the secondary in tackles with 55 and should have a big year in 2016. Jared Collins and D.J. Dean, who will be seniors, need to take a step up.
Leaving: Jonathan Jones, Blake Countess
Returning: Johnathan Ford, Carlton Davis, Tray Matthews, Joshua Holsey
The skinny: While the Tigers are losing some cornerstones of the secondary, they also still have starters returning and future stars in the making on the roster. Additionally, there’s a good chance that Holsey will be back on the team next year, after having to sit out in 2015 with a medical redshirt.
Leaving: Jalen Mills
Returning: Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, Kevin Toliver II, Dwayne Thomas, Corey Thompson, Rickey Jefferson
The skinny: It was not a banner year for the self-proclaimed DBU of the SEC West this past season. LSU’s pass defense ranked 12th in the conference. However, the return of White and others is a good sign that the LSU secondary will be ready for a nice bounce-back season. LSU has a lot of stars coming back at every level of their defense, which should give the Tigers a great chance to dominate on the defensive side of the ball once again.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Leaving: Taveze Calhoun, Will Redmond, Kendrick Market
Returning: Tolando Cleveland, Kivon Coman, Deontay Evans, Cedric Jiles, Jamoral Graham
The skinny: Injuries made it a rough year for the Mississippi State secondary, but talent still abounds amongst the ranks of returning defensive backs. This could be one of the Bulldogs’ better position groups in 2016.
OLE MISS REBELS
Leaving: Trae Elston, Chief Brown, Mike Hilton
Returning: Tony Bridges, Kendarius Webster, Tony Connor
The skinny: The Rebels are taking a serious hit in the secondary this offseason, losing several players who have made big contributions the past few years. However, Ole Miss has recruited well in this area the past few years and should have plenty of guys ready to step in. Tony Bridges should be primed to have a big 2016 season.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Leaving: De’Vante Harris, Brandon Williams
Returning: Donovan Wilson, Armani Watts, Justin Evans, Noel Ellis, Nick Harvey
The skinny:The Aggies are deep in the secondary, which several ball-hawks back there who should shine in 2016. Additionally, they have some ESPN 300 commits coming onto the scene at cornerback, which should give them plenty of depth if the injury bug hits.