When we previewed the other half of the defensive back corps a few weeks ago, we found out just how ineffective the SU secondary was at times last year. Ranking in the bottom 25% in the country in passing defense isn‚Äôt going to cut it in a very competitive ACC in 2018.
Luckily, though, it seems like everybody in the SU secondary is actually healthy heading into the fall and that could not be said the last two seasons with injuries to Antwan Cordy and Jordan Martin that really held down the DBs. Plus, unlike the safeties, who really lack in-game experience, the true CBs return both starters from last season.
Star of the Group: Scoop Bradshaw
Last year was certainly a year to remember for Florida native Scoop Bradshaw. After seeing his snaps on defense increase ever so slightly as a true freshman in 2016, Bradshaw was thrust into a starting role as perhaps the best corner on the team in 2017 and he did not disappoint. A year ago, Bradshaw led the Orange in pass breakups with six on the season and he leads the roster in careers PBUs (8) and passes defended (8). He was also very active on the tackling front which isn‚Äôt something you often see from your best coverage corner. Scoop tallied 21 tackles in 2017, including 5.5 for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Oh and don‚Äôt forget, he made history last season when he returned a blocked extra point for a two-point conversion for the first time in school history. He‚Äôs incredibly fast and what he lacks in height, he makes up for with impressive athleticism and decision-making. He‚Äôs dealt with some wrist injuries in the latter half of camp, but if he can stay healthy for the whole season, Bradshaw could be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball.
Something to Prove: Antwan Cordy
Cordy being placed here really come from two schools of thought. Firstly, he hasn‚Äôt played more than two games in a season since 2015 where he started all 12 games at strong safety. That means Cordy has missed 21 of SU‚Äôs 24 games over the last two years. In this case, the something-to-prove is that he can stay healthy. When he‚Äôs been on the field, Cordy has shown flashes of brilliance, most notably ranking second on the team in tackles in that 2015 season. However, the issue has been actually keeping him there. You can‚Äôt make a difference if you aren‚Äôt on the turf.
The other reason that Cordy‚Äôs got something to prove this year is that he‚Äôs moving to a completely new position. In 2015, Cordy was the team‚Äôs starting strong safety. Each of the last two seasons he was the starting free safety at the beginning of each year. Now he‚Äôs been moved all the way down the depth chart to a nickelback position that only comes out onto the field in specific defensive sets and packages. Now, those packages are becoming more and more common, however, he‚Äôs still got to prove that he can play his new role well. At one time Cordy would have easily been the star of this group, but now, he‚Äôs got to prove that he can live up to the Orange faithful‚Äôs previously lofty expectations for him, as well as his own.
Best Secondary I ever been on since I been at cuse. these young bulls is üî•
— Antwan (@CordyKidd8) August 15, 2018
Strength: Starting Experience
This one‚Äôs pretty simple. When it comes down to it, the most important part of the success of any unit is cohesion, chemistry and familiarity and that is abundant with Bradshaw and Christopher Frederick. They started 11 of 12 games together last season (Bradshaw missed the Miami game with a minor injury) so that chemistry and communication is already built in between the two of them. Plus, that kind of starting experience also means that the both of them have a year of contending with some of the best wide receivers in the ACC under their belts and that can only serve to help their prospects this season. There are a lot of question marks in the SU secondary this season, but it doesn‚Äôt seem like experience between the top two corners is one of them.
Weakness: Front-Line Size
While a lot of this unit‚Äôs strengths lie in Frederick and Bradshaw, so too does one of its most glaring weaknesses. Both Frederick and Bradshaw are listed under 6-feet tall at 5-foot-11 and, if anything, they‚Äôre probably over-listed and are a bit smaller than that. That smaller size among both of them means that opponents can really test them vertically with bigger, stronger wideouts and could hurt them downfield. For example, the top three wide receivers in the ACC in terms of yardage last season were Steve Ishmael (SU ‚Äì 6‚Äô2‚Äù), Kelvin Harmon (NC State ‚Äì 6‚Äô3‚Äù) and Jaylen Smith (L‚Äôville ‚Äì 6‚Äô4‚Äù). All three of those guys would tower over both Frederick and Bradshaw which would put the SU DBs at a serious disadvantage. For modern-day corners, both are slightly undersized and they‚Äôre going to have to find a way to make up for that fact.
There‚Äôs a lot to like about the front-line of this group. Frederick and Bradshaw both showed huge signs of improvement from last season and could both elevate their status with some more solid seasons this year. The overall success of this group is going to lie on those behind them, however. They can‚Äôt play every snap so it‚Äôs going to be up to a very young set of guys behind them to make sure they are ready to go if their number gets called. Two guys to watch are Trill Williams and Ifeatu Melifonwu. Williams was one of the top recruits for SU in the most recent cycle while Melifonwu‚Äôs brother, Obi, has shown signs of brilliance with the Oakland Raiders. Health is going to be the key for this group and if Frederick, Bradshaw or both go down, it could be another long season for the SU secondary.
Be sure to keep it locked here at orangefizz.net and on Twitter¬†@OrangeFizz¬†to keep up with all of our positional previews. Look out for our defensive tackle preview with Tim Leonard on Monday. Check out our other positional previews with the 2018 season right around the corner:
OFFENSE:¬†Quarterback¬†¬†|¬†Running Back¬†| ¬†Wide Receiver¬†¬†|¬†Tight End (8/10)¬†|¬†Offensive Line
DEFENSE:¬†Defensive End¬†| Defensive Tackle (8/20) | Linebacker (8/22) | Cornerback (8/17) |¬†Safety
SPECIAL TEAMS:¬†Punter/Kicker¬†| Return Specialists (8/24)