Bryan Douglas talks to the media Wednesday (more video below).
By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
Here is my defensive backs preview, which is accompanied by a story in tomorrow’s paper:
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 178, R-Jr.
3 Cleshawn Page, 5-8, 179, Jr.
19 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 196, Jr.
34 Promise Amadi, 5-9, 185, R-So.
5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 151, So.
6 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 176, R-Fr.
16 Dionza Blue, 5-11, 186, Fr.
30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-9, 175, Fr.
21 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-9, 188, Fr.
37 Ebo Makinde, 5-10, 185, R-Sr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 190, R-Jr.
29 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 167, R-Jr.
24 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 212, R-So.
4 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 200, R-So.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 207, R-So.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 205, R-Fr.
47 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 192, Fr.
Projected depth chart
Cornerback: Douglas, Maston/Anderson
Cornerback: Deayon, Page/Moxey
Rover: Ioane, Lukehart
Free safety: Thompson, Makinde
Storyline: Four of the Broncos’ top six cornerbacks have not played a major college football game and three of them joined the program this year. All of them likely will play, at least early in the season, as coaches try to identify the starters. Junior Bryan Douglas, coming back from a torn ACL, and sophomore Donte Deayon, whose redshirt was pulled late last season, have the experience and are the favorites to start the opener. But junior college transfers Mercy Maston and Cleshawn Page and true freshman Jonathan Moxey have impressed in camp. Redshirt freshman Chaz Anderson, who had a strong spring, also is in the mix. “It’s been exciting to watch, really, for me,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “It’s very, very competitive every single day — everybody is just fighting and scratching trying to make plays.”
Keys to success: The Broncos’ defense has thrived in recent years in large part because of stellar cornerback play. Kyle Wilson, Brandyn Thompson and Jamar Taylor have been selected in the past four NFL Drafts. The Broncos will be hard-pressed to match that play with such a young group — but they can’t afford a repeat of 2011, when busted coverages became a common occurrence in a young secondary. They’re replacing Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. “Last year we had a couple of guys that we could really lean on and they never came off the field,” Lake said. “We could eventually get to that point this year as well, but right now we’re going to throw those guys out there and let them battle and then the cream is going to rise to the top.”
Reason for concern: Other than youth at cornerback, the other issue that could present itself is the targeting rule. Safeties Darian Thompson and Jeremy Ioane are aggressive hitters who will need to be careful to avoid ejection. Thompson made two hits last year that found their way into video presentations on hits that would lead to ejections this year. “I’ll be ready,” Thompson said. “You’ve just got to be more careful. You can’t take the big hit that you always dreamed about when you were little. You’ve got to really think about what you’re doing and take the time to perfect it in practice so when it comes game time you don’t have to think about not targeting — it just happens automatically.”
Star player: Thompson has shown maturity above his experience level and seems to be on a star path. He became the starter at free safety unexpectedly midway through last season. He finished eighth on the team with 43 tackles while adding three interceptions and three pass breakups. Ioane also is a returning starter. He was second on the team with 70 tackles last year. He added three interceptions. He made a commitment to conditioning in the offseason, Lake said. “They made some big plays for us,” he said. “So we’re really leaning on those guys for a lot of leadership.”
Breakout performer: One of those cornerbacks is going to emerge from the intense competition. Douglas was pushing Jerrell Gavins for playing time before he got hurt last year, so he’s the obvious choice. “He took this setback, this little adversity that hit his life,” Lake said, “he took it and said, ‘OK, I’ve just got to get bigger, faster, stronger. I’m not going to let this hold me down.’ We’re excited to watch him.”
Newcomer to watch: Moxey, of West Palm Beach, Fla., likely will be the latest in a long line of true freshman defensive backs to play for the Broncos. That list includes Deayon, Lee Hightower, Taylor, Thompson, Orlando Scandrick, Marty Tadman and Chris Carr. Usually, those guys grow into very good players. “Usually for a freshman it’s can they pick up the defense, not only in the classroom, but also when they take it out on the field,” Lake said. “Can they transition that and make plays as they’re also doing exactly what we’re telling them to do. He has a leg up right now on those other (true freshmen) and it’s showing up on tape — he’s getting interceptions, getting pass breakups, he asks intelligent questions, he knows the little insides and outs of our defense that maybe take a year or two for other guys to learn.”
— Junior Deon’tae Florence has moved from cornerback to safety. He and sophomore Taylor Loffler are the third-team safeties.
— Lake said he expects to play four to six corners in the season opener.
— Lake on Douglas’ health: “Bryan looks great. We’ve had to spoon-feed him a little bit, but now basically the straps are off. He can run around as much as he wants. The trainers are like, ‘You have him.’ And he’s been doing a great job, so I don’t envision any setbacks.”
— Deayon, on his weight: “I’m definitely trying to get bigger, put on more weight. I’ve put on some weight since last year, but my metabolism is just working real fast. I can’t let that affect me. I’ve got to play at a high level.”
— Deayon: “Last year, since we had two older seniors, they set the level we need to play at. They set the bar pretty high, and we all have the mindset that that’s the level we need to play at to be a great secondary.”
I’m looking for fans who are making multiple road trips with the Broncos this season to talk to for a story and possibly participate in a photo shoot. If you’re interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleshawn Page talks to the media
Donte Deayon talks to the media
Page in the “strike zone” drill, where coaches emphasize hitting within the targeting rules.
Darian Thompson in the “strike zone” drill
S Jeremy Ioane’s interception vs. WR Kirby Moore