Friday, August 1, 2008

Vanderbilt Football Preview: DB Breakdown

The Sports VU's position-by-position football preview winds down today with a breakdown of Vanderbilt's talented defensive backs. In case you missed anything, here's what we've looked at so far.

QB Breakdown
RB Breakdown
WR Breakdown
TE Breakdown
OL Breakdown
DL Breakdown
LB Breakdown

Talent and experience. The secondary has a chance to be special this fall, and with the Dores replacing four starters in their front seven, it will need to be for them to be successful. Junior cornerbacks D.J. Moore and Myron Lewis are future pros, as is senior safety Reshard Langford, who's as reliable as they come. Moore is a preseason first-team All-SEC selection after recording 83 tackles and six interceptions in a breakout 2007. Lewis flew under the radar playing opposite Moore, but was equally impressive. At 6'3", Lewis had a team-high 12 pass breakups to go along with 49 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one INT. The hard-hitting Langford has started all 35 games of his career and always seems to be around the ball. Redshirt junior Darlron Spead is a premier nickelback who should be fully healthy after playing through arm and leg injuries in '07, while redshirt junior Ryan Hamilton improved significantly in his second year as a starter at free safety.

WEAKNESSES: If you find one, let me know. In all seriousness, it's hard to find faults with a unit that excelled a year ago and should only improve '08. If you're wondering about depth, the Commodores are fine. Redshirt junior Joel Caldwell and junior Brent Trice are capable reserves at safety, redshirt sophomore Alan Strong has a promising future at cornerback while redshirt seniors Josh Allen and Jared Fagan are former starters. If we're nitpicking, I think that Hamilton could be more consistent and take better angles.

TOP QUESTIONS: While most good defenses feature a dominant front four, can the Dores rely on their secondary to carry them? Will Moore be able to live up the ridiculous hype? Is Spead going to be able to hold up physically for an entire season? Will the secondary come up with enough turnovers and big plays to help jump-start the offense?

INSTANT ANALYSIS: It's hard not to be excited about this unit. Moore is one of the most electric players in college football with incredible instincts and ball skills, while Lewis has the ideal build for a corner. Opposing quarterbacks will have a tough time deciding what side to throw to. The fact that Strong can contribute will also allow Moore to slide into the slot on occasion. Both safeties can pack a punch and have a wealth of experience that is invaluable in the SEC. While the rest of the defense is full of unknowns, coach Bobby Johnson knows he is set in the secondary. That hasn't always been the case.

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