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POSITION BREAKDOWN: SAFETY

Marco Nelson breaks up a pass last year.
Marco Nelson breaks up a pass last year.
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Aug. 20, 2012

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The starting safety position returns two players that between them have started 55 of 63 games. Senior bandit Dexter McCoil and junior free safety Marco Nelson are the two fixtures at the safety positions for the Golden Hurricane.

Safeties Coach Jess Loepp described how "the free safety has to be very good in space, make open field tackles, cover the middle of the field all the way to the sideline. We put pressure on them and they probably have to run faster. The bandit guys have got to be physical and be able to run more to make plays.

McCoil enters the 2012 campaign needing one more interception to hold the school record by himself. He currently has 13 pick-offs and is tied for the school record with Jeff Jordan and Nate Harris. McCoil has 225 career tackles and 16 pass break-ups in three seasons, while Nelson has tallied 159 tackles and 11 pass break-ups in his two years with the Hurricane.

Both McCoil and Nelson were thrown into the lineup as true freshman and each made a significant number of starts in their rookie campaigns.

"Dexter and Marco have gotten better, which is surprising. You've got a guy that's a three-year starter and one that's a two-year starter and they keep getting better," said Loepp. "I've been here since 2003, off and on, and I'd say depth-wise this is the deepest we've been at the safety position over that time span."

A pair of sophomores, Luke Snider and Kwame Sexton, and red-shirt freshman Michael Mudoh gives the Hurricane solid depth at the safety position.

Snider and Seton saw limited playing time last year, and mostly on special teams. Sexton had 20 tackles and Snider snagged six stops.

 

 

"Michael has continued playing well from the spring," said Loepp. "I messed him up early as I tried to play him a little bit on both sides, and that's tough, but now we've focused with him at free safety and he's gotten better for it.

"Luke is in his third year as a red-shirt sophomore and he's starting to grow and learn what he's doing. The biggest thing with him is continuing to understand our defense and how we do things. Sexton has had a great fall camp. He's very athletic and has done some great things," said Loepp.

"Luke will focus at bandit. He's such a good sure tackler. Kwame will play more at free safety with Michael," Loepp said.

There's no question that the last defenders have to be solid tacklers and that's what Loepp has had his guys concentrating on during fall camp.

"We have to have sure tacklers at the back-end. We work on tackling everyday. It doesn't matter what we have we've have for the day, we're going to work on tackling just because we have to be sure tacklers back there. If we miss a tackle, it's a big play," said Loepp.

Blankenship is also thrilled about the depth at the safety position for the Hurricane.

"I really like the depth. I think the trust in the guys that can play, not only the starters, but guys like Mudoh and Snider, is really encouraging. They have good speed, are really smart and are good tacklers," said Blankenship. "You really have to love the leadership you get from Dex and Marco. There's not going to be much that they see in a game that they haven't already seen."