We’re taking a look at where each Pac-12 team stands coming out of spring ball on a position-by-position basis. Today, we end with the defensive backs.
POSITION GROUP OF STRENGTH
Arizona State: Jordan Simone is back so he’ll help ease the post-Damarious Randall transition from a leadership perspective. From the actual boundary safety position perspective James Johnson is looking good and Todd Graham expects him to be a big part of this year’s defense. Look no further than the fact that Johnson was one of a select number of players who wore the Pat Tillman jersey this spring. With Kweishi Brown and Lloyd Carrington back at the cornerback spots, the ASU secondary is looking scary good.
Oregon: Safeties Reggie Daniels and Tyree Robinson as well as cornerback Chris Seisay have plenty of starting/playing experience to give this group a tremendous baseline from which to start. The other cornerback spot could be possible two-way player Charles Nelson, Arrion Springs or Ugo Amadi. As long as this group stays healthy it is a very strong group, but if anyone gets hurt, this group could drop into a lower tier.
UCLA: We can understand why Jalen Ortiz decided to transfer from the Bruins. This squad could be even better and deeper than it was last season with talents like Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth, Jaleel Wadood, Marcus Rios, Ishmael Adams, Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis. Finding playing time amidst this group’s two-deep is going to be tough. Heck, this team’s backups could make this list in the "potentially solid, but questions persist" category.
USC: Kevon Seymour and Adoree' Jackson at the cornerback spots gives USC crazy athleticism that makes any receiver wince at the idea of going up against them. Safety John Plattenburg started six of the final seven games for the Trojans. He didn’t play in the spring game because of an ankle injury, but coach Steve Sarkisian seems happy with him. With Leon McQuay (who started nine games last season) at the other safety spot, you basically have second-year starters at both safety spots.
Washington: This group is likely going to be far and away the Huskies’ best defensive position group (expectations like that should help elevate play). They have a true playmaker in Budda Baker, who should provide plenty of highlight-reel worthy moments for the Huskies. Darren Gardenhire, Sidney Jones, Naijiel Hale, Kevin King and Brian Clay give this group a great base around Baker.
POTENTIALLY SOLID, BUT QUESTIONS PERSIST
Colorado: Colorado lost four-year starter Greg Henderson, but returns experience with Ken Crawley, Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson. And yes, the Buffs were the fifth-best pass defense in 2014, but was that because everyone was able to run against them (they had the league’s worst run defense)? After all, Colorado only recorded three interceptions all season.
Stanford: The Cardinal have a lot of formerly highly touted recruits, but does that mean it pans out? Coach David Shaw surely hopes so. But how steep will their learning curve be? They lost a lot off that No. 1 pass defense from a season ago.
Utah: Kind of strange that the two top pass defenses from a season ago would be in the "potentially solid" category, but that’s where we’re at. Coach Kyle Whittingham has to replace two four-year starters in Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen, and some of the top candidates in the secondary are either coming off an injury (Reggie Porter, Tevin Carter) or were previously playing other positions (WR’s: Dominique Hatfield and Brian Allen, QB: Jason Thompson).
Arizona: Jarvis McCall, DaVonte' Neal and Cam Denson are all duking it out for the cornerback spots while Jamar Allah (free safety), William Parks (spur) and Tellas Jones (bandit) fill out the secondary. Outside of McCall and Parks, the other players accounted for two interceptions (both by Denson) and three pass-breakups in 2014.
Cal: Sorry, it’s just not there for the Bears yet. When one of your main, non-injured defensive backs is a recently converted quarterback, you’re not going to be far up this list.
Oregon State: Larry Scott is one of the two returners to the Oregon State defense, but with three new faces starting in the secondary as well as everyone playing in a new defensive system, it’s not looking like it’ll be a breakthrough season for the Beavers' defensive backs.
Washington State: This was a team that only recorded three interceptions and allowed a league-worst 8.3 yards per attempt in 2014. And off that defense, they lost a lot. Sorry Cougars, you’re not moving up this list quite yet.