2009 Hornets preview: The secondary

This is the first in a series breaking down the personnel in each area of the 2009 Bryant Hornets football team.

By Rob Patrick

New Bryant Hornets secondary coach John Wells admits that, though he was excited about the talent of his corner backs, Tanner Tolbert and Sammill Watson, he was still a little anxious about their test on Monday, Aug. 24, against the high octane speed of the Pine Bluff Zebras receivers.

“I knew Pine Bluff would be a big test,” he stated. “But they handled it real well. Early on, a couple of times, (Pine Bluff’s speed) shocked us a little bit but I think we got a feel for the game. They pushed us deep and, overall, I think we did a good job of staying on top of them.”[more]

Tolbert, a 5-10, 170-pound junior, and Watson, a 5-10, 160-pound senior who sat out last year after transferring to Bryant, have as much speed or more than the Hornets have ever had at corner.

“I think too, something that I’m excited about is they’re tough,” Wells added. “I think that really frees us up where we can roll those corners up, play some cover two. (Season-opening opponent) Benton is going to run the ball so, hopefully, we can roll those guys up and play the run with them.

“Having speed at the corners really frees up a lot,” continued the coach. “If we can play those guys and lock them down when we need to and turn it into a nine-on-nine ballgame, we can do some things. (Defensive coordinator) Coach Grif (Steve Griffith) can blitz when he needs to. I think with Tolbert and Watson, we can bring five or six and feel good. Plus, our safeties can gamble a little bit with the run.”

Brady Butler (5-11, 175, senior) and Stanley Oxner (6-1, 175, senior) are working at strong safety. Oxner intercepted two passes in the scrimmage.

“I told them from the beginning, they’re going to need to compete for that starting position,” Wells related, “and, of course, the other night against Pine Bluff, Oxner came in and did some good stuff.

Wells called Logan Garland (5-9, 170, senior) his quarterback at free safety.

“He gets us lined up. He’s the kind of guy that takes charge,” noted the coach. “He’s got good range. We can play him to the field, he can play half, he can play quarter and we can man him up.

“Oxner and Butler are good run support guys, linebacker-type guys so we can stack them in the box and we can play them to the boundary over the top. But I think, to the field, Logan’s the player.”

As far as depth is concerned, Wells said, “I feel pretty good about our back-ups. Kendrick Farr and Dylan Blasi both came in at corner and did some good things (in the scrimmage).

“And Brandon Parish (6-0, 150, senior), who starts at wide receiver, is the kind of guy — I get him every so often — I have no doubt in my mind he can cover deep. But when we roll up in cover two, where we’ve got corner (run) support, when we want him to really jam up a receiver, those are some things I need to tweak a little bit with him. But there’s no doubt in my mind that, if something happened and we needed to move him to corner and move somebody else to safety, we wouldn’t miss a beat.

“A guy like Logan, we can put him anywhere,” he continued. “If we need, we can play him at strong safety or corner.

“I try to get these guys reps at every position back there so, right now, if Logan went down I’d feel good about Oxner and Butler back there. The next option would be Watson. He’s played some safety and has been getting reps there too.”

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