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|Tech Sports News|
In our last look at the returning players in the ACC, we'll take a look at the conference's defensive backs. The secondary might not be as loaded as the front seven for many ACC teams, but there is still plenty of talent to go around.
The bell cows of the Boston College secondary return for the 2007 season. Cornerback DeJuan Tribble and free safety Jamie Silva return as starters. Tribble had seven interceptions last year, and Silva is known for his hard hitting. Former head coach Tom O'Brien thought he stockpiled some talent in the secondary at BC before he left. We'll find out this year if he was right, because new starters have to be found at one cornerback spot, as well as strong safety.
Clemson loses starting cornerbacks Duane Coleman and C.J. Gaddis. They will replace them with sophomores Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor. Butler is especially talented, but this group will suffer from inexperience. R-freshman Byron Maxwell and true freshman Marcus Gilchrist could very well find themselves as the primary backups. If there is an injury to one of the starters, the Tigers could become susceptible to the pass.
The Tigers return two very experienced safeties. Junior Chris Clemons will start at free safety, and he was second on the team in tackles last year with 102. CAT safety Michael Hamlin could have a future in the NFL.
Duke's weakness on defense is their secondary. They'll slow down or stop outright the running games of most opponents this year, but they probably won't be able to stop them through the air. Cornerback John Talley is gone, along with his 18 career interceptions. First year starters Leon Wright and Jabari Marshall will man the cornerback positions, and they'll be attacked mercilessly. Chris Davis and Adrian Aye-Darko return as the starting safeties.
Florida State's secondary has a nice mix of youth, experience and talent, and they should play a lot better this year than they did a year ago. Tony Carter is a possible 1st Team All-ACC selection, despite his 5-9, 160 frame. Jamie Robinson will probably start at the other cornerback position. Sophomore Myron Rolle will start again at rover, and he has All-American potential. Experienced senior free safety Roger Williams rounds out the starting secondary.
Georgia Tech returns three senior starters for the 2007 season, and part-time starter Jahi Word-Daniels is back as well. That will give the Yellow Jackets a lot of experience in coverage behind their blitz-happy front seven. However, GT's corners have struggled in the past, as they are often left all alone because of the amount of blitzing from the linebackers.
It will be important for Word-Daniels to play better than he did a year ago, or senior corner Pat Clark could steal his job. Either way, Clark will be in the rotation, and he needs to improve as well.
The Maryland Terrapins lose the services of Josh Wilson, their outstanding cornerback from 2006. He's off to the NFL. Cornerback Isaiah Gardner needs to pick up the slack. Gardner, a senior and returning starter, has the potential to play better than he has in the past. Christian Varner is on the move from free safety to strong safety. It shouldn't be a difficult switch for the returning senior starter. The Terps will probably start three seniors in the secondary, so the experience will be there. But will the talent and depth?
Miami has a talented, if inconsistent secondary. Safety Anthony Reddick tore his ACL in the offseason, so Lovon Ponder should start at strong safety. That shouldn't be a problem, as Ponder has started in the past. Kenny Phillips will be the starter at free safety, and some thing he'll be the next great Miami defensive back to move on to the NFL.
Miami's corners are very solid, but not spectacular. Glenn Sharpe will be a rare 6th-year senior, but will he be able to overcome his injury problems? Randy Phillips returns to start at the other corner spot, but he was inconsistent last year. The 'Canes badly need some playmakers in their defensive backfield. They intercepted just 12 passes last season.
UNC will get a major boost this year with free safety Trimane Goddard returning. He missed last season with an injury but should be the leader of the secondary in 2007. He'll have to be, as the Tar Heels could start as many as two freshmen and a sophomore around Goddard. Senior corner Quinton Person could also start again for UNC. It will be a long year for the Heels, but the future doesn't seem so bleak for the defensive backfield.
NC State's secondary could possibly be their best unit defensively this year. They return a lot of experience. Their top player is senior free safety Miquel Scott, a three-year starter. Joining him will be junior rover DaJuan Morgan, who has been a major playmaker for the Wolfpack. Jimmie Sutton will be a returning starter as a senior at cornerback. NC State could have the most undervalued secondary in the ACC in 2007.
Virginia should have more talent and depth in the secondary in 2007, although that depth took a major hit recently when cornerback Mike Brown tore his ACL. Now former highly-touted quarterback Vic Hall will have to step into the starting role opposite Chris Cook. There are three safeties with starting experience in Nate Lyles, Byron Glaspy and Jamaal Jackson. The Cavalier secondary still isn't quite as good as their front seven, but they should have a solid 2007 season.
Virginia Tech returns three starters in the secondary, including junior All-American cornerback Brandon Flowers. Junior Macho Harris will start opposite of Harris at field corner. D.J. Parker returns for his third season starting at free safety. Kam Chancellor will see his first significant action at rover, and he is the only question mark heading into the season.
The Hokies have perhaps the deepest and most talent group of cornerbacks in the nation. Flowers and Harris are NFL caliber, and backup Roland Minor started on the 2005 defense. Stephan Virgil is perhaps the best player that most Tech fans haven't heard of yet.
Wake Forest will take a big hit to their secondary because senior
starters Josh Gattis and Patrick Ghee are gone. Former starting cornerback Kevin Patterson will start at strong safety,
and he should be fine there. Cornerback Alphonso Smith is one of the most aggressive corners you'll see. He's talented
enough to be an All-ACC player, but his aggressiveness will get him in trouble as well.
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