Bearcats Position Preview: No fly zone

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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The Bearcat defensive back group plans to use its speed to shut down their opponents’ passing this season. 


Cornerback Coach Brad Almon and Defensive Coordinator/Safety Coach Joe Dollar lead the group — consisting of cornerbacks and safeties. Dollar said his safeties play an essential role in the defense. He expects them to play the position as a hybrid assignment, acting as a pseudo-linebacker when needed. 

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“They’re a big piece of what we do on defense,” Dollar said. “ We do a lot of different things with our safeties. I ask them to do a lot of different stuff,… they’re not just ‘get on a hash and backpedal’ guys.”


Almon chimed in to explain they expect the safeties to play different coverages — man and zone — and help in various positions — linebacker and cornerback. 


Coach Almon said the linebacker group has some experienced players coming back this season and a group of young guys under them. Senior cornerback Jace Weaver said he’s looking forward to playing with a returning group of starters.


“Knowing that we ain’t lost nobody, and now we know the coverages and how to communicate with each other, it’s gonna be pretty good to see,” Weaver said.


Almon said that some cornerbacks also play on the offensive side of the ball. According to Almon, building depth is important to keep the defense from tiring out.


“A lot of those guys we’ve got at corner, they’re also playing receiver,” Almon said. “We got to be able to move them in and out and keep them fresh.”


Dollar said the cornerbacks have an advantage by playing wide receiver. At corner, the two-way players can understand the thought process of the receiver they’re covering.


“It helps them to know what [the receiver] is trying to do on the other side of the ball,” Dollar said. “They can anticipate on defense.”


The coaches said the secondary is full of athletes. According to Almon, some guys are coming back weighing 20 pounds heavier, mostly in muscle.


“We’ve got some kids that were 160, 165 pounds, and now they’re 180 pounds,” Almon said. “They’re benching 300 pounds and power clinging over 300.”


The coaches work in tandem, and Dollar said he can trust Almon to coach his safeties when he has to take on defensive coordinator responsibilities.


“Coach Almon takes a lot of responsibility when it comes to the position group,” Dollar said. “When I need to go do something else, he can take the whole secondary.”


They said they both want to see effort from the guys over the summer. Almon stressed that he wants his guys to be coachable and have their coverages down.


“I want them to be knowledgeable of coverages and what the offense will do,” Almon said. “What the weaknesses of the coverages are and strengths, and what they need to do to help offset that.”


Dollar said he wants the secondary to be on the same page with communication. Almon said it’s important because a simple error can lead to a score for the other team.


“If they miss a tackle, it’s a touchdown. If they blow a coverage, it’s a touchdown,”  Almon said. “We’re the umbrella of the defense. We’ve got to keep everything in front of us. If we make a mistake, that could cost us six points.”


The coaches said they don’t put that pressure on their players, though.


“I try not to put too much emphasis on that,” Almon said. 


“They just want to play. I don’t think they focus on the stress of it too much,” Dollar added.


Weaver said the team looks out for each other if they make mistakes, and that its biggest strength is “brotherly love.”


“When something bad happens, or a bad play happens, we motivate each other to come back the next play and do better,” Weaver said. 


The senior cornerback said he only wants to see one thing once the season starts: “Go to the dome, win it all, and be undefeated.”