One annoying - yet entertaining - feature of fall camp is that once the whistle blows, a lot of old assumptions get tossed out the window. You have this nice simple worldview and it has to get all complicated once the coaches start deciding things. No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
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The biggest one so far this year: the secondary. No surprise, that. It's full of young'uns whose on-field abilities aren't yet fully known. Before the year we went in with the assumption that the safeties would be Anthony Harris and Rijo Walker, one cornerback would be Demetrious Nicholson, and then Brandon Phelps and Drequan Hoskey would battle to see who would start and who would be the third corner.
Maurice Canady is blowing that up with prejudice. Four practices in and he's running with the first team already. To me that's a bit of a surprise; Canady made a huge impression, pressed into duty as Varina's emergency quarterback last year, and his athleticism opened a lot of eyes. But as a cornerback, I expected he'd need some time to acclimatize back to defense. Apparently not. I'm not allowed to pass on paywalled practice reports, but let's just say that if they're right, the newspaper is way underselling this dude.
Add to that the revelation that Phelps "may see time at both corner and safety" according to Jeff White, and you have the makings of a slightly new pecking order in the secondary. Truth is, with the makeup of the group, Phelps isn't likely to be much of a cornerback anymore. If you have three cornerbacks you like, that's all you need for 90%-plus of the snaps. Phelps is sliding over to safety and looking more and more likely to stick.
So let's possibly overreact to four practices none of which were in full pads. What this means for all the personnel involved:
- Nicholson: Still the man. Duh.
- Canady: If he keeps going gangbusters like this, the second cornerback.
- Hoskey: The third cornerback, at that rate. But still a major piece who will play plenty of snaps.
- Phelps: A safety of some variety, and of the three safeties in the mix, the highest-profile as a recruit, therefore a major threat to nose in on someone's playing time.
- Walker: Free safety, for now.
- Harris: Strong safety, for now.
A starting four of Nicholson, Canady, Phelps, and Harris would be the most freakily inexperienced secondary I have ever seen. Three true sophomores and one true freshman, with only one of them ever having actually played defensive back in a real game with real footballs. That makes this a scary, scary year, in a thank-God-we-don't-play-Clemson sort of way. But the idea of that group being together for three years is also droolingly appealing.