Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Preseason position reviews: Safety

By Ted Miller

Though both first-team All-Pac-10 safeties -- UCLA's Rahim Moore and California's Chris Conte -- are off to the NFL, safety is a position of strength in the conference.

Even the two teams listed as "We'll see" here don't seem desperate at the position. Only Utah doesn't welcome back a safety with starting experience.

That said, 10 teams have at least some question at the position, whether that's a new starter, depth or returning starters who were inconsistent in 2010.

So how do things stack up? Read on.

Great shape

John Boyett
John Boyett had five interceptions and 67 tackles in his second season with the Ducks.
Stanford: The Cardinal have second-team All-Pac-10 strong safety Delano Howell and honorable mention all-conference free safety Michael Thomas back. Depth isn't certain, but that's a strong combination.

Oregon: Free safety John Boyett is a big hitter and ball hawk -- see five interceptions -- and earned honorable mention all-conference honors. Rover Eddie Pleasant was solid last season after moving from linebacker to safety, and he's expected to take another step forward in 2011.

Good shape

USC: Second-team All-Pac-10 safety T.J. McDonald is a top NFL prospect, and someone should emerge from the competitive gaggle opposite him at strong safety. Still, the Trojans fall short of the top category because they got beat deep a bunch last season.

UCLA: It's possible by season's end we will consider the combination of free safety Tony Dye and strong safety Dietrich Riley the best combo in the conference. And the depth looks solid.

California: Sean Cattouse was honorable mention all-conference, while D.J. Campbell is experienced. There are some intriguing young players, including freshman Avery Walls and redshirt freshman Michael Coley.

Washington: Free safety Nate Felner had five interceptions last season. While there's some experience around him, the most intriguing option at strong safety is Sean Parker, a touted 2010 recruit who's competing with Will Shamburger and Taz Stevenson.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils have everyone back, but they weren't terribly consistent at safety in 2010. Alden Darby, Clint Floyd, Eddie Elder and Keelan Johnson each have plenty of experience.

Oregon State: Lance Mitchell is an NFL prospect, but there's not a lot of experience around him. Junior Anthony Watkins, who had 27 tackles in 2010, topped the depth chart at the end of spring practice.

Arizona: The Wildcats are replacing both starting safeties, but feelings were pretty good entering the spring with free safety Adam Hall and strong safety Marquis Flowers, both up-and-coming young talents. Then Hall went down with a knee injury. Still, with Robert Golden moving back to safety from corner and Flowers, the Wildcats are above average at the position.

Washington State: Deone Bucannon made a major impact as a true freshman and Tyree Toomer is an experienced veteran. They ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in tackles for the Cougs last season. There's solid depth behind them. Still, ranking 110th in the nation in pass efficiency defense keeps the Cougs down here.

We'll see

Colorado: Cornerback is a far bigger concern, but the Buffaloes had two NFL corners last season and they were terrible against the pass. That said, junior Ray Polk and senior Anthony Perkins, who's knee injury is often cited as a big reason the pass D stunk, are experienced and have skills, while Terrell Smith and Travis Sandersfeld have seen action.

Utah: The Utes lost all four starters from their secondary, though safety Brian Blechen moved up to linebacker. While things seemed to go well this spring, there's little to no experience here. Terrell Reese and Damian Payne are competing at free safety and both are redshirt freshmen. Michael Walker is ahead of Quade Chappuis at strong safety, and he had eight tackles last season.