One thing Bob Stoops has never been
short on is his ability to attract top rated DBs. The
Sooners have stockpiled seven players with starting
experience - five of those have recently earned some
form of All-Big 12 honors, and all of them are in their
third or fourth years...truly, an unbelievable stat.
Even the backups have combined for 31 career starts,
and each was a highly touted prep star. Junior nickel
back Nic Harris led the team in INTs and was third in
tackles. Corner Lendy Holmes uses his 6’1 frame
to shut down any size receiver on the outside while
tightly securing the corner on runs. William and Smith
form possibly the best safety pair in the land, and
the depth here means new, top-quality prospects are
stacked and waiting. Any of these players could be a
star on other Top 25 teams. There is no backfield that
is (even close to) as deep as the one the Sooners field.
You won't find the Scarlet Knights’
secondary ranked this high in many other 2007 previews.
Simply put, Coach Schiano's pass coverage finished ranked
6th for total pass defense and 8th for pass efficiency.
This was a major reason they did so well so suddenly
during last year's infamous climb out of the longtime
Big East basement. SS Courtney Greene, who led all freshmen
in the NCAA in tackles (116) two years ago, returns
once again as the team's leading tackler (82 tackles).
His efforts last year were good enough to earn him All-Big
East honors and place him on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch
List. Greene led the team in interceptions, too, with
four. FS Ron Girault also earned All-Big East honors
in '06, giving Rutgers two of the best safeties on the
east coast. The McCourtney twins will man both CB spots.
Jason has been tabbed this preseason as an All-Big East
honoree by many prognosticators. Greene, Girault and
the entire secondary will be another reason the Knights
can hang with Louisville and West Virginia atop the
Frank Beamer knows defense. Taking a
look at the numbers reveals just how good this 2007
group can be. In each of the last three years, the Hokies
had to replace three DB starters, but they still managed
to finish No. 5 in 2004, No. 3 in ’05 and No.
1 last year in total pass defense. The nation's best
only loses one starter this time around. The Hokies
have three CBs who have been full time starters, though,
Roland Minor missed most of '06 with injury. CB Brandon
Flowers earned All-American status as just a sophomore.
His cover skills have progressed dramatically with each
'passing' game. If history is any indication, Beamer
Ball – of which good defense is an important element
- will allow this team to play with and cover anybody.
Leaving the Hurricanes out of these
rankings would be similar to leaving eggs and flour
out of your cake mix...just can't do it with the talent
annually found in Coral Gables. Something is certainly
remarkable about the way this part of south Florida
has put so many big-time cover men into the NFL, and
the Canes have reaped the benefits with tight secondaries
seemingly every year (though, they were only 24th in
pass efficiency defense last campaign). Miami will climb
back near the top of the pass defense ratings as 2007
will prove. Seven of their top eight are back in the
mix, four with starting experience from 2006. Anything
short of a top 10 finish in these same ratings would
be a shocker. Kenny Phillips made our NationalChamps.net
preseason All-American team. Like many Canes before
him, some consider Phillips to be the best safety in
college football. Backups such as Willie Cooper and
Chavez Grant have made their share of game changing
plays. This unit will be a huge reason Miami bounces
back as a team.
The so-called ‘pass happy’
Pac Ten did not seem to bother the Duck defense last
fall. They finished No. 1 overall in Pac Ten pass defense
(20th nationally) and return three players (from this
five DB set) who earned All-conference status. The Ducks
on the corners both garnered Freshman All-American honors;
Jarius Byrd also earned Pac Ten Co-Freshman of the Year
and led the team in INTs (five). Junior rover Pat Chung,
the third all-conference member of the secondary, cleans
up as well on running plays as he does in coverage (four
INTs). DB coach Neal compares Chung to the San Diego
Chargers' Shawne Merriman...ouch! Receivers going across
the middle will have to keep their head on a loose swivel.
Auburn, Georgia Tech, Ohio State,
Penn State, South Florida, TCU, Wisconsin