As the summer heats up and college football kicks off in just over three months, Impact Sports figured it is time to start getting hype for the 2014 season.
To help with that, we are starting a weekly position group breakdown, where we provide some names on the roster to look out for and give a preseason grade for each group.
This week, we start with the safeties, who account for half of the “No Fly Zone”.
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Key Departure: Isaiah Lewis
Lewis, a three-year starter at safety, was one of the main leaders of the Spartan Dawg defense last season. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals to join fellow Spartan Darqueze Dennard. Although there are younger players with the talent to fill the gap his departure creates, his leadership and experience will take time to be replaced.
Key Returner: Kurtis Drummond
The senior has the most experience of all the returning safeties, boasting a team-high 21 consecutive starts. Drummond initially put himself on the map with a ridiculous one-handed interception in last season’s opener against Western Michigan. He continued to flaunt his receiver-like hands throughout the season, recording four interceptions which tied for third in the Big Ten. Those interceptions combined with 91 tackles helped him earn a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Look for Drummond to help fill Lewis’ leadership role as he should be a legitimate All-American contender.
Other Contributors: RJ Williamson, Demetrious Cox and Jalyn Powell
The Spartan with the most experience at the safety position after Drummond would be junior Williamson. He is the most likely candidate to take over Lewis’ spot at strong safety opposite Drummond, who will start at free safety again. He should be one of the fastest players on the field every game, no matter the opponent.
Sophomore Cox has drawn praise after spring ball and recorded an interception in the spring game. He will help provide good depth next season.
Redshirt freshman Powell has also made a name for himself this spring. In perhaps the most surprising selection of the spring game draft, Powell was the first safety selected (Drummond was a captain, therefore unable to be selected).
“Powell is an aggressive safety,” senior receiver Tony Lippett told the Detroit Free Press. “He plays hard, he plays fast, he makes plays, he always plays with a chip on his shoulder, no matter what. So that’s why we wanted him on our team.”
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Preseason Grade: B+
Drummond will be one of the best safeties in the Big Ten as well in the nation, and Williamson is more than a serviceable replacement for Lewis. Those two will combine to be one of the most feared starting safety units in the Big Ten.
The reason why this unit did not receive a higher grade is the question marks surrounding Cox and Powell. While both players have garnered positive attention this spring and are expected to provide good depth, they have very little experience between the two of them.
Both of them, however, played with experience beyond their age in the spring game. Do not be surprised if this unit receives a better postseason grade.
Dan Tyler is the host of the Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports