|Depth chart beginning of April:|
|Depth chart start of August:|
RC: Brandon Hughes, Patrick Henderson
LC: Keenan Lewis, Tim Clark, James Dockery
SS: Daniel Drayton, Greg Laybourn, Suaesi Tuimaunei, Austin Hall
FS: Al Afalava, Bryan Payton, James Dockery, Gerard Lawson
- Coye Francies - missed several practices with knee and is on indefinite suspension for violating team rules
The most experienced unit on the team is the secondary where three starters return along with several part time starters. Junior Keenan Lewis has the most playing time under his belt with 24 career starts, including six straight, that dates back to his freshman year.
He had eight pass deflections, good for second last year behind Sabby Piscitelli, and tops among returning players. The lanky 6-foot-1, 199-pounder has excellent range with his long legs and arms, but oftentimes has trouble getting his body in position to pick off a pass which explains why he has zero interceptions in his collegiate career.
The key for Lewis is to stay fully hydrated as he cramps up almost every game. Manning the other cornerback spot is longtime teammate Brandon Hughes who has started 19 career games including the last 12. Hughes is the smaller of the two, both in height and weight, but is more physical and has grown by leaps and bounds.
Hughes has really started to settle into his starting spot and is getting better at turning around and locating the ball. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now.
Even with their experience there is still concern about the cornerbacks as they still gave up gave up over 250 yards through the air six times last year. What defensive coordinator Mark Banker is, excuse me for the cliche, banking on is that both are more consistent. That is to say with two seasons of experience that they won't go through the extreme lows they have gone through the last couple of seasons.
Unfortunately, the cornerbacks took a major blow during the summer as top backup Coye Francies was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Francies started five games last year and was the first off of the bench. He quickly made a name for himself with bone jarring hits forcing a team high four fumbles in addition to numerous drops that don't show up in the boxscore.
Many felt that by the end of the year Francies was the top corner on team. Rumor has it that Francies will just be out for the first three games of the year, but only time will tell. In Francies abscence, sophomore Tim Clark and redshirt freshman James Dockery will compete for the top backup spot.
This is Clark's third year in the system. He played primarily on special teams last year playing in 10 games will harnassing two tackles. He is similar in size to Hughes, but is still working on getting his hips turned in the right direction. Many times this spring receiver Aaron Nichols made him look just plain silly.
Dockery redshirted last year and played both free safety and cornerback in the spring. He is small at 168-pounds, but still has a lot of room to grow and pack on muscle. He is a great leaper with a nose for the ball. Sophomore Patrick Henderson is also in the mix as well, although he faces an uphill battle for playing time.
The deepest position and one of the most consistent units in the spring were the safeties. The hard hitting Al Afalava has the most starts with 13, including six straight. Afalava was slowed down a year ago after suffering a concussion against Washington State.
When Afalava is heathly he is a player to be feared and could blossom during his junior year. But he must split time with Bryan Payton who is one of the team's top playmakers. He had the most interceptions this spring showcasing his long strides and quick closing speed. The Afalava-Payton combination is one of the better one-two safety punches in school history.
Senior Daniel Drayton confidently and firmly secured the strong safety position in the spring. Drayton was good for an intercpetion almost every practice.
He received valuable experience a year ago in the nickel package and has been an intregal part of special teams for a few years. Drayton is confident, knows what he is doing and is setting himself up for a big final year in Corvallis.
Backing up Drayton is the heady Greg Laybourn. The walk-on is a quick learner who loves dealing out punishment. He earned the coaches attention on special teams and proved he is worthy of playing time. Another hard hitting Suaesi Tuimaunei is also in the mix and could be a special teams star.
Senior Gerard Lawson is set to play in the nickel package, although his coverage skills are suspect.
|Top spring performer:|
Daniel Drayton. The senior took the starting strong safety position firmly in his hands and never looked back. He looked like an experienced veteran directing his teammates and making plays. Good things are in store for Drayton and the Beaver secondary this year.
|Secondary spring summary in three sentences or less:|
The cornerbacks took a hit with Francies being suspended, but should be more consistent as the unit continues to learn and grow. The safeties are one of the top units on the team with experience and depth.
On the conrerbacks - "Our corners - it is really neat to see - because all of those who have watched our team have seen those corners come from young freshman that were getting burned to really reliable, good, consistent players. That is one of the most exciting parts to me."
On the safeties - "One of the positions I am most pleased with is safety. We've got the guys that played last year - Al Afalava and Bryan Payton - and then we've got two other guys that are really good players and that have had really good springs - Daniel Drayton and Greg Laybourn - and then we've got a young guy today who played secondary and corner - James Dockery
On using the nickel package again - "Absolutely. We will do that again. It helps more people get on the field in a different way."
On Lewis and Hughes - "We remember back when Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis were freshman. We took some lumps and everybody’s wondering about those guys. But we really didn't wonder - we talked positively that these guys were talented, hard working and they have high character - so the chances for them to be good were good. And we are seeing the fruits of that now."
On Drayton – “Daniel every year continued to work hard and gain more and more confidence. Right now, above all, he is a confident guy. You can tell he feels very good about what he is doing. He’s got good knowledge of what we do. I’ve always thought of him as a very intelligent player. He’s been our personal protector for our punt team and has done a great job…kind of a quarterback type of guy playing in the defensive secondary. He’s an impressive guy and has made a lot of plays this spring.”
|Who's coming in the fall:|
All newcomers will redshirt, although the coaches think highly enough of Ross that he could see some early action - if he gets to Corvallis this fall.
CB Josh LaGrone is going to grayshirt.
|Additional links :|