We all remember last year's excruciating secondary woes. It was one of the most steadily referenced points of doubt in the preseason, a concern that was exacerbated by Akeem Auguste's and Brison Williams' injuries. The ECU game did little to assuage our anxiety, and it seemed we were in store for more of the same. But since then, Stephon, CC and crew have answered the critics in a big way.
Last year, here's where we ended up in overall Pass D:
97. South Carolina
Duke? Yeesh. Halfway home, here's where we are this year:
2. Michigan St.
3. South Carolina
Ain't that a sight? Worth noting, UCF and MSU have each had a bye week, i.e. one less chance to blow that ranking. Now, I'm not naive. Naysayers will be quick to point out caveats here–that Navy never passes, that UK and Vandy's offenses are non-existent, etc. Granted, our ranking is a bit inflated due to the competition, but the fact remains: we're showing up to play. We're not winning despite our secondary, which was often the case last year. Horrible offensive competition or no, It was such a joy to watch our boys flying around out there, having fun, breaking up passes, and snagging bad throws.
Which reminds me: We're tied for 2nd in interceptions, behind Vanderbilt (which is our own fault, really.) Last year? We had 10...total. It's not that we didn't have opportunities; we just dropped so many would-be picks, squandered so many turnover opportunities. It was often that I did the ol' "half-spring off the couch, only to slump dejectedly back down" move after I watched one of our secondary let an errant pass slip through his fingers. But this year, we're making the plays, getting the ball back to the offense. It's a beautiful thing.
Our biggest tests remain, of course. Arky, UT, and Clemmy all boast top 25 passing attacks--the Hogs are top 10. Tennessee looks to tumble in that category with the loss of Bray, but I doubt they let up on the pass. And obviously, we've all seen by now that Tajh Boyd is a highly capable passer. Will we hold up against these kinds of arms?
The word "identity" has been tossed around here liberally as of late, and with good reason. As important as it is for our offense to establish one, the same goes for the D. Last year, our defensive identity was "big up front, but nothing out back." This year, however, the secondary has decided to come along for the ride. The defense is a thing to behold, and that wouldn't be the case without our high-flyin' DBs. Three cheers to you, boys.