Coach Clawson and staff will have their hands full trying to piece together a depth chart, after a wealth of roster attrition. Many of the Deacs starting positions are up for grabs and will be filled by players with limited experience. However, the secondary will not be in that category. In fact, the defensive backs will be returning three starters and many of the suspected contributors have already shown tremendous value.
Kevin Johnson - KJ is one of two returning starting cornerbacks from last season. He had an excellent junior campaign in which his 58 tackles (39 solo), 15 pass breakups and three interceptions landed him honorable mention All-ACC. In the spring game, Johnson picked up where he left off as he was rarely target and when he was picked off a pass and took it 41 yards to the house. I have high expectations for Johnson this season and I think he has a legitimate shot to be an All-ACC corner and receive national attention. The ACC will also be losing many top receivers to the NFL draft, so I expect to see some new faces lost on KJ Island.
Merrill 'Bud' Noel - Noel is the second lock down corner in the dynamic duo. He is a very physical corner that is coming off of a very productive junior season where he made 53 tackles (38 solo), broke up nine passes, picked off three passes and forced three fumbles. Noel's impact is tremendous, and he can change the game in numerous ways whether it is forcing a turnover or taking the opposing receiver out of the game entirely. Like Johnson, I believe Noel will have a monster season and should be in the picture for both conference and national honors. Opposing receivers will learn quickly why even Cheech and Chong fear this Bud.
Allen Ramsey - Ramsey should be a very solid contributor in the secondary. I believe we will see him in a variety of defensive packages as well as special teams. In 10 games last season he made 20 tackles, 11 of those being solo.
Brad Watson - Despite being a sophomore, Watson was of the more distinguished players during the spring game, leading the gold team with 7 tackles and a pass break up. I expect Watson to contribute in a few defensive formations and be one of the leaders on special teams.
Ryan Janvion - The Deacs will also be returning an All-ACC honorable mention at safety. Janvion had a ridiculous freshman season as he lead the team with 95 tackles (61 solo) and was a Freshman All-American honorable mention. As a strong safety Janvion provides and excellent combination of speed and strength. His coverage ability allows the corners to jam at the line without fear of being burned by the deep ball. However, Janvion's biggest strengh is his ability to get to the ball and help out in run support. I have very high expectations for the Rhino and expect him to be in the conversation for conference honors.
Anthony Wooding Jr. - Wooding Jr. is projected to be the starting free safety for the 2014-15 season. Anthony is a transfer from Air Force, which kept him out for the 2012 season. Last season, he amassed 36 tackles (25 solo) and forced a fumble despite playing in limited snaps through 10 games. Wooding should make a solid anchor for a very strong and experienced secondary. I also think his experience and ability in coverage will allow for some interesting blitz packages from the secondary.
Cameron Glenn - Glenn was a top 30 safety according to ESPN and recorded more than 150 tackles over his past two high school seasons. His tape shows a player that is more than capable of protecting against the pass and getting involved in run support. At 6'2 185lbs, Glenn has the size needed to contribute from day 1. I believe Wooding Jr. will get the majority of the snaps but I would not be surprised to see Glenn compete for significant playing time.
Thomas Dillon - Dillion is a very smart and instinctive cornerback from Houston, Texas. His greatest asset is his ability to track the ball and break up passes, his 16 career interceptions is evidence of this. I believe Dillon will be in line to redshirt, as Wake is stacked at corner. However, I believe this will be great for Dillon as it will allow him to make a smooth transition and better prepare him to fill the void that will be left next season.
Demetrius Kemp - Kemp was a highly recruited athlete coming out of college with skills to play either receiver or defensive back, however I expect Kemp to be listed with the DBs. As one of the best pure athletes in the class, I think Kemp will have good shot at early playing time. If Kemp is given the opportunity to play this season, I think it is on special teams but I also wouldn't rule out his participation in dime packages. As a senior, Kemp had 66 tackles, four interceptions, a safety, blocked three punts and two PATs and took two kickoffs to the house. Needless to say, I don't think the game will be to fast for him.
DaiQuan Lawrence - Lawrence was a top 50 cornerback and according to ESPN runs a 4.4 forty. During his last two seasons at Western Branch, DaiQuan broke up more passes (50) than a DEA agent at a Sublime concert. At 6'0 180 Lawrence has the size and speed to compete right away, but with the KJ and Bud at corner I expect him to redshirt his freshman season. Obviously it is a bit early to speculate, but I believe Lawrence will be a big time corner a few years down the line.
Overall, the defensive backs will be bright spot for the Deacs now and for years to come.