Football analysis: Secondary poised to lead defense

On a defense full of question marks and new faces, the only group that even comes close to resembling how it looked last season will be the Frogs’ secondary.

Thanks to the team’s unique 4-2-5 alignment, five defensive backs frequently populate the field for the team. Three of five from last season’s starters in the secondary will return for the Frogs in 2009.

In 2008, the Frogs’ passing defense finished eleventh in the country, allowing just 170.69 passing yards per game. If you take out the 35-10 loss to the University of Oklahoma – when the Sooners passed for 411 yards – the team would have had the second best pass defense in the country. The team finished first in passing defense in the Mountain West Conference when it allowed just 138.2 yards per game and held opponents to a 46.5 percent completion percentage.

Two standout defensive backs, seniors Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders, will return for their fourth straight season as the team’s starting cornerback duo. Both have started every game at the position during the past three seasons.

Priest had 11 pass deflections and one interception last season. Sanders deflected 14 passes and had two picks in 2008. Both were All-MWC selections and should be defensive cornerstones for the Frogs once again in 2009. Fans should be thankful they don’t have to worry about who will replace the two cornerbacks until next season.

Other cornerbacks on the roster include juniors Jason Teague and Alex Ibiloye and sophomore Greg McCoy, the team’s fastest player.

The safety position will be without departed starters Steven Coleman and Stephen Hodge, but the unit’s third starter, junior Tejay Johnson, will be returning – albeit at a different position.

Johnson is expected to be relocated from weak safety to free safety. He was sixth on the team in tackles last season with 47.

Sophomore Sir Demarco Bledsoe is expected to start at strong safety while senior Corderra Hunter will likely take the reigns at weak safety.

Players providing support at the safety position include sophomore Johnny Fobbs, junior Colin Jones, sophomore Tekerrein Cuba and senior quarterback/safety Marcus Jackson.

Returning starters: CB Rafael Priest, CB Nick Sanders, S Tejay Johnson

New starters: S Sir Demarco Bledsoe, S Corderra Hunter

Starters lost: S Steven Coleman, S Stephen Hodge

Other returning players: CB Jason Teague, CB Greg McCoy, S Johnny Fobbs, S Marcus Jackson