Toledo defensive back DeJuan Rogers, right, breaks up a pass against Navy in 2013. Rogers is the only starter returning in UT's secondary. ASSOCIATED PRESS
As fall camp continues for the University of Toledo football team, the competition for starting spots and playing time is magnified, and perhaps nowhere on the field is that more evident than in the defensive backfield.
As new defensive coordinator Brian George prepares his team for a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, only one of the five defensive back spots is occupied by a returning starter.
Gone from the cornerback and safety positions from last season are Cheatham Norrils, Christian Dukes, Chaz Whittaker, and Rolan Milligan.
“The transition and the graduation of good players is part of college football,” George said. “We have plenty of good, talented guys coming back and newcomers that have come in. The key is to get those guys up to speed and ready to go for game one. We’ve spent a lot of time working and a lot of guys have gotten good reps and there is a ton of competition because there are a lot of good players at those positions.”
Senior DeJuan Rogers, the only returning starter, will play free safety. The other four spots will feature a mix of returning players and young talent.
“Everybody is competing,” sophomore safety Josh Teachey said. “Everybody is battling for their spot.
“There are a lot of new guys. A lot of seniors left last year, so a lot of new faces are going to be on the field.”
Teachey is in the mix at the star position, a spot George describes as a hybrid defensive back who can help support the run game, but can also cover a receiver man-to-man.
Also competing at the star position are converted running back Marc Remy and true freshman Jordan Williams.
“Those guys that are put in that position, that’s a pretty special place, because you have to have a unique skill set to play there,” George said.
At the strong safety position, seniors Connery Swift — another converted running back — and Delando Johnson are competing for a starting spot. Both have game experience over the past two seasons.
The cornerback position could be anchored by junior Trevon Mathis, who played in 11 games last season and started four. Mathis says he is ready for an expanded role and knows he still has to compete with a deep set of athletes to win his starting spot.
“I’ve been preparing,” Mathis said. “I’m trying to prepare and do all the little things right and I’m ready. We have a lot of talent in the secondary. I feel like any of our guys could be the guy.”
The other cornerback spot has three co-starters listed on the depth chart. Junior Jordan Martin missed last season with a leg injury, but has come back strong. Battling with Martin for the starting spot are junior Kennedy Frazier and redshirt freshman Aaron Covington.
“I think he is back to full speed,” George said of Martin. “As with anyone who goes through that kind of thing, it takes a little bit of time. I think we are starting to see flashes of his talent and his ability. Just like everyone else, he’s competing right now and he's learning and getting better with every snap.”
George is looking for the returning players to hit the ground running with their opportunity for increased playing time.
“The returners and the guys that have been through the battles before, the guys who have played in games, it is their time to step up,” George said.
“I think those older guys have really taken on that role. They spend a lot of time talking, watching film, and coaching those younger guys. They do a great job as far as their communication out on the field as well.”
Contact Brian Buckey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.