Last line of defense: top safeties in 2016
Last week, The Cougar looked at one half of the secondary. For this week, the safeties are the focus.
This group is even more questionable as both safety positions were vacated last season and the returning players have limited experience on the Division-I college playing field.
Safeties coach Craig Naivar will have his work cut out for him, but he was able to help lead Trevon Stewart and Adrian McDonald to the American Athletic Conference first and second team honors in his first year.
This group will have little time to adjust to their new roles as they will face the first big challenge of the season: the University of Oklahoma.
Junior Khalil Williams
Williams has the most experience of all safeties, but not by much, and will likely get the starting nod at free safety.
Last season, he started in four games and had 18 total tackles. Williams was quiet during the annual spring game, but part of that was because the second-team defense received more repetitions.
Since joining the Cougars, Williams has added almost 20 pounds to his frame, which should make him a more physical safety. Coming out of high school, he was already labeled as an aggressive tackler and was effective in coverage and against the run.
Sophomore J.J. Dallas
Dallas is a transfer student from Blinn Community College. He impressed with a strong performance in the spring game with 11 tackles, including one sack.
He has the ability and quickness to play safety or corner, which will provide much-needed depth to the secondary. Because of Dallas’ flexibility in the secondary, he will make a great fifth corner when the Cougars play in a nickel package.
Dallas still has plenty of room to grow, and will likely receive opportunities to do so this season. With three years of eligibility remaining, expect Dallas to become a bright spot in the Cougars’ secondary.
Junior Terrell Williams
Like Dallas, Williams is another transfer player who will have the chance to immediately make an impact.
As a sophomore at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Williams accumulated 51 tackles and also had two interceptions.
He is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, which is massive for a safety. With his size, Williams should be able to play physically against any receiver. His height will also allow him to cover the middle of the field better than most safeties.
Sophomore Garrett Davis
Davis played 13 games last season after redshirting his freshman year. He did not get much time at safety, and all of his tackles were made while on special teams coverage.
Davis sat out during the spring game due to a foot injury, so there is still a lot to be seen as to what he can do on the field.
Due to his familiarity with the Cougars defensive scheme, there is a chance that Davis will start at the other safety position. Either way, Dallas and Williams will test him all season.
Similarly to the other safeties, Davis still has room to improve as a player, but should get ample playing time this season.