Pac-12 preseason position reviews: Safety

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
7:00
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The Pac-12 has two of the best safeties in the nation in Oregon's John Boyett and USC's T.J. McDonald, but how do things stack up across the board at the position?

Let's take a look.

By the way, if you want to review previous position reviews, go here.

Great shape

USC: The Trojans are stacked at safety. McDonald may be the best safety in the nation, and Jawanza Starling is a returning starter on the other side. Then there's Demetrius Wright, who might beat out Starling, Drew McAllister, touted JC transfer Gerald Bowman and Florida transfer Josh Shaw.

[+] EnlargeJohn Boyett
Chris Morrison/US PresswireJohn Boyett will be a fourth-year starter for the Ducks.
Utah: Brian Blechen and Eric Rowe return to anchor a secondary that led the Pac-12 in pass-efficiency defense. Both are former freshmen All-Americans.

Oregon: Boyett is slated to be a rare four-year starter. Not only has he been very good for the Ducks, he's improved every year. Replacing Eddie Pleasant is the biggest challenge for the Ducks defense, but Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson both have plenty of ability, as does Erick Dargan.

Good shape

UCLA: Tevin McDonald, brother to T.J., and Andrew Abbott are both back. They combined for seven interceptions last year. The depth behind them, however, is suspect.

Washington: Everybody is back at safety, but the big question is if touted incoming freshman Shaq Thompson will start beside strong safety Sean Parker. At the end of spring, Justin Glenn was the free safety. Travis Feeney, Will Shamburger and James Sample also are in the mix.

Washington State: Deone Bucannon and Tyree Toomer are back. Both are solid and experienced, even if the Cougars were bad against the pass last year. With more pressure up front, they won't be.

Oregon State: Leading tackler Anthony Watkins is back and Ryan Murphy, the nickel back in 2011, is the leader to replace Lance Mitchell. Tyrequek Zimmerman and Peter Ashton also will be in the mix.

California: Cal must replace both safeties, but fifth-year senior Josh Hill is a veteran leader with plenty of starting experience at both safety and corner. Alex Logan emerged during spring drills as the leader at the other safety spot, but Avery Sebastian and Michael Lowe are talented and in the mix.

Stanford: Other than quarterback, this is the Cardinal's biggest question. Both Delano Howell and Michael Thomas are gone. Devon Carrington has some starting experienced. Ed Reynolds is coming back from a knee injury, but he had a strong spring. And sophomore Kyle Olugbode had the best spring of just about anyone with 10 interceptions. Sophomore Jordan Richards, junior Brent Seals and incoming freshman Zach Hoffpauir could get into the picture.

We'll see

Arizona: Just as with cornerback, it's difficult to take a measure of the Wildcats due to their new 3-3-5 look. There figures to be some juggling between corner, nickelback and safety this preseason because there are enough talented players to put a solid five on the field. But where do you put sophomores Tra’Mayne Bondurant and Jourdon Grandon in the position ranking equation? As it is, the loss of Adam Hall to another knee injury hurts, and returning free safety Marquis Flowers was inconsistent last year. Jared Tevis and Mark Watley are the strong safeties. Oh, and Arizona gave up 299 yard passing per game in 2011, which ranked 119th in the nation.

Colorado: Colorado was terrible against the pass last year. As previously noted: The Buffs were last in the Pac-12 and 115th in the nation in pass-efficiency defense. They yielded 34 touchdown passes, which was six more than any other team. They grabbed just seven interceptions, which tied for last in the conference. Opponents completed nearly 66 percent of their passes. But Ray Polk is a good football player and Parker Orms can be if he stays healthy. Depth is a big question.

Arizona State: Both starting safeties are gone, and Clint Floyd was second-team All-Pac-12. Alden Darby has experience and athletic ability is a likely starter. Senior Keelan Johnson, who has six career starts, and freshman Ezekiel Bishop, who is coming back from a knee injury, are competing for the other spot. The Sun Devils gave up 273 yard passing per game last year, which ranked 108th in the nation.

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