Now we look at safety. We dealt with injuries to entrenched starters, Ray Polk and Anthony Perkins here, so we actually got to see glimpses of the future at this position. It wasn't always pretty, but there were some good things to see from them. Ray Polk looks like he'll be our free safety to start the year, but the other spot is still up for grabs.
- Vince Ewing, Sr - He spent most of last year recovering from the knee injury that knocked him out before the 2010 season. He's been a special teams guy when he's been healthy for us.
- Ray Polk, Sr - He battled through a bunch of injuries in 2011, and was able to play through most of them. But by the end of the 13 games, he was definitely struggling. Hopefully offseason surgery on his wrist and time to let everything else recover will set him right for 2012. He's still learning as a safety, but he's a very good athlete and often the fastest guy on the field for our defense. He still hasn't turned the corner like we want him to, so hopefully this offseason will see that happen. He could be pretty darn good if the light ever comes on for him. Consistent cornerback play and a pass rush will help him, too.
- Terrel Smith, Jr - He's a feisty little guy who was asked to play some cornerback and some nickleback in 2011, but he's definitely most comfortable at safety. He's got a solid shot to take over for the departing Anthony Perkins, but he'll have to fight off Kyle Washington. He's practiced at both safety spots in his time here, so he could eventually take over for Polk as the free safety in 2013. But he brings a lot of energy every time he steps onto the field, and shows no fear out there. He's small (5'8" 180 lbs), but he hits about as hard as anyone on defense, so you have to overlook his height a little bit. He's still a work in progress in coverage, but settling into one position will help him there.
- Paul Vigo, Jr - He's a pretty good athlete who was moved to safety under the new coaching staff. I think that was a good move, because he didn't quite have the speed outside to see the field. He's got okay size, but he can run at safety. He's practicing behind Polk at free safety, so he won't crack the depth chart in 2012, but he could be a candidate after that. Again, he's a guy who could develop pretty well if he's allowed to stay at FS and work there the next year.
- Justin Gorman, So - Walk on. Most of you know him as the staring holder/pinner, but he also practices at strong safety. He was a do-it-all QB/DB in high school, so he's got a chance to provide solid depth here. He's a good athlete, and showed some of his speed (not top-notch, but not bad) on kick returns in 2011.
- Jordan Marquez, So - Walk on. Don't know much about him.
- Kyle Washington, So - He saw a good amount of playing time, and might've seen even more down the stretch if he hadn't suffered a concussion. He's got great speed and looks very strong. He's got a pretty good shot to take over for Perkins at strong safety. Spring should be great for him, so watch his development. He could be a pretty good one for us here soon. If he can work on keeping his hips square and on taking proper angles (read as: If they can ‘coach him up'), he'll get there.
- Jermane Clark, RFr - He redshirted, but is supposedly a great athlete. Watch him in the spring to see which safety spot they like him at, and to see how high he rises on the depth chart. With all the issues our defense had in the speed department, I wouldn't be surprised to see a guy like Clark to figure for some playing time next season.
- Will Harlos, (RFr) - I saw a little of him in the summer, and he looked like he might be competing for some playing time in 2011, but a concussion sidetracked him this year. He's got a great blend of height and speed, and could eventually move to linebacker. It will be interesting to see how heavy he is and where he lines up come spring time.
- Richard Yates, RFr - Walk on.
We actually don't need to bring in any pure safeties, depth-wise, especially if Orms eventually can move there. And it's never a bad idea to move CBs to safety if you're trying to increase your team speed, which is exactly what we're trying to do. I think Washington ends up starting at strong safety, but I actually see Clark overtaking Smith as the next guy in line to see the field at free safety. But bringing in a new guy at safety wouldn't be terrible this cycle, only because we're going to have such a small class in 2012. Bold statement? Jermane Clark gets some serious playing time in 2012.