What was a severe liability two seasons ago has become a fairly reliable unit in the Rebel defense. While I wouldn't say that safety is our strongest group defensively, I would hardly call them a liability. A lot of this unit's improvement has to do with the surprising progress Cody Prewitt made leading to his sophomore year. Prewitt put on good weight, seemed to up his speed a bit, and showed an ability to read and react unlike what we saw out of him as a freshman. Playing in all 13 games as a free safety, Prewitt was second on the team with 80 tackles. He also contributed 5.0 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
At the rover spot, Trae Elston surprised a lot of us as a true freshman. Elston was, as freshman are wont to be, a bit undersized, but he didn't look unseasoned. He demonstrated a real understanding of the defense, garnering 61 tackles, six pass breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery. He was also suspended for the Texas game by Mike Slive because Mike Slive frowns upon (PERFECTLY LEGAL) tackles which knock the wind out of UTEP receivers.
Charles Sawyer moved to safety from his cornerback spot and made a significant impact (before moving back to corner later in the season). He had a particularly strong performance during the Arkansas game where he picked off a sure touchdown pass and blocked a Razorback punt before scooping it up himself.
Expect more of the same but, uh, better? I guess that's all we can do considering that all the aforementioned return to the team this fall. We do expect Trae Elston to be ejected for, like, seven or eight games for "targeting" because that's precisely how he plays. I think we should also expect to see a little more Chief Brown, as he's been pushing for time at both the rover and free safety spots (he is listed as the backup for both in the post-spring depth chart) . Also expect to see a lot of Mike Hilton in the huskie role, as he showed real promise last year. He is a very smart player, but undersized, so it is conceivable that he is passed up by...
The Incoming Class
...South Panola's Antonio Conner, who is the standout defensive back of this class as he was rated a five star prospect and one of the top safeties in high school football for 2012. He played all over the field at South Panola, as his athleticism is, for that level, truly special. He has ideal size and skills for any of the safety spots, but he is best suited for shallow coverage and run support. He should contribute right away at the huskie position, and could wind up owning that spot by the end of the season.
Derrick Jones and Trey Bledsoe, a pair of 6'2", 190 pound prospects out of Eupora and Grenada, respectively, have been working out at safety this summer. While unproven, these newcomers all add much needed depth to the position. Ideally we'll see Jones and Bledsoe redshirt to better prepare them for their futures in the defensive backfield.