Have a couple leftover bits from the Fred Holton story I wrote that ran in Monday’s paper. Aside from speaking with them about Holton, I asked secondary coach Charles Kelly a little about the position battles at the cornerback and safety spots (no starters return) and strength coach Neal Peduzzi about the work being put in by players this summer.
First, Kelly. As I think I mentioned in the story, Rashaad Reid and Isaiah Johnson finished spring ball as the starters with Holton just behind. Jemea Thomas is in the mix as well. Thomas will also get a look at cornerback.
As for Holton’s chances, “I think a lot of it depends on how much carryover he has from the spring,” Kelly said. “If you play physical like that, you’ll find somewhere for guys like that to play.”
Kelly said that the competition for the cornerback jobs is “going to be pretty open.” As you likely know, there’s some talent but also inexperience. Among the candidates — Rod Sweeting, Louis Young and Michael Peterson, who all lettered last season, and as well as Ryan Ayers and Thomas. Jamal Golden and Domonique Noble are incoming freshmen who will get a shot at cornerback.
Sweeting finished the season strong. Young didn’t get much playing time at corner last fall but played a lot on special teams and has good speed. They ended the spring as starters. For what it’s worth, Holton said Young has made a lot of progress this summer.
Thomas might have had the best spring of any secondary player. Peterson, a senior who graduated in December, probably has the best understanding of the defense. Ayers, who redshirted last fall, showed some promise in the spring.
I don’t get the sense that Kelly is sold on any of them. I’d say they’ve all shown the capacity to play but he’s looking for consistent performance.
“There’s some good competition,” Kelly said. “That’s what you always want.”
Peduzzi has been conducting testing for players this week in vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, squat, clean and pro agility drill. When I spoke with him last week, Peduzzi named four players who’d made notable progress – center Jay Finch, inside linebacker Daniel Drummond, offensive tackle Phil Smith and wide receiver Stephen Hill.
“I’m sure there’s some other people I’m forgetting, which is going to get me yelled at,” Peduzzi said with a laugh, “but those guys, they’ve definitely been working hard.