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February 12, 2010
Signing day analysis: defensive backs
(Editor's note: For six years, Dave Childers has provided a position by position analysis beginning the day after National Signing Day. In an eight part series, he breaks down the class for RebelSports.net. A look has been provided for quarterbacks, tight ends running backs, wide receivers, linebackers, and the offensive line (see links below) and today defensive backs are reviewed. The series will conclude on Monday with a look a the defensive line.
The skinny … Houston Nutt has said he likes to have two sets of eyes watching his secondary and that's the reason Ole Miss has Chris Vaughn coaching cornerbacks and Kim Dameron watching over safeties. During the coaches first two years, they enjoyed success making the secondary effective, mostly with inherited talent from the previous staff, while dealing with shortage of options when it came to the number of position players on the roster. While a lot of talent is now gone that they used over the last two years, when it comes to numbers, they'll certainly have more options beginning this fall.
Ole Miss signed five secondary prospects in 2009 who are on the roster - Dele Junaid, Charles Sawyer, Frank Crawford, Darius Barksdale and Ryan Campbell, and a sixth (Terrell Grant) will get a look at safety this spring. All five, except Barksdale, who never officially enrolled until this semester due to a medical condition, will benefit from a redshirt season. For 2010, the Rebels followed those roster additions by adding five more prospects - junior college transfer Damien Jackson (already enrolled) and high school prospects Brishen Mathews, Tony Grimes, Eric Mitchell, Cliff Coleman, and Cedric Smith.
From among those eleven prospects, Ole Miss will look for three or four to contribute immediately and ease the sting of the loss of departed cornerbacks Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn and safety Kendrick Lewis. However, for the redshirt freshman or true freshmen to see the field, they'll have to beat out some upperclassmen including Jeremy McGee, Fon Ingram, Marcus Temple, Derrick Herman, Julian Whitehead and Rudy Wilson. With both starting cornerbacks gone along with safety Kendrick Lewis, the only returning starter is veteran Johnny Brown, an underrated hard-hitter, who should emerge as the leader. While the loss of three starters suggests reason for concern, McGee, Temple and Ingram have played extensively, leaving the major challenge to identify quality depth.
The ones that got away ... Ole Miss would have liked to have inked junior college cornerback Dequan Menzie, who opted for Alabama close to signing day, but may have landed a sleeper to replace him in Cedric Smith.
Overall assessment ... Ole Miss has seriously upgraded its numbers in the secondary with the last two recruiting class and has improved in terms of recruiting prospects to play that position with better size and speed. The Rebels lost three key starters in the secondary, but can still field four upperclassmen in the defensive backfield that have significant playing time. A group of freshmen and true freshmen, like Charles Sawyer and Brishen Mathews, may be talented enough to come in and complete for significant playing time next fall and challenge the more established players. One player expected to impact immediately in the fall is junior college Damien Jackson, who will battle for Lewis' free safety position. Also expected to be in the rotation at safety next fall is Barksale, and any of the players from the 2009 class like Campbell and Junaid could impact, but spring practice will be key to see which ones emerge. Temple and McGee have the upper hand with experience at cornerback, but Sawyer and Crawford could challenge. Based on sheer numbers, ratings and talent, it appears the Rebels are well on the way to establishing the most talent and depth they've had in the secondary in years, if not decades.
Cliff Coleman, DB, 5-10, 170, Lauderdale Lakes (Boyd Anderson HS), FL. Named to the PrepStar preseason All-Region team ... Rated the No. 67 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com ... Ranked the No. 39 player in Florida by the Miami Herald and No. 43 player in Florida by the Orlando Sentinel ... Listed as the No. 90 CB in the nation and the No. 96 player in Florida by Scout.com ... Rated as the No. 43 CB in the country by ESPN.com ... Earned third team All-Broward honors from the Miami Herald as a senior ... Participated in the Broward vs. Dade All-Star Game ... Coached in high school by Mark James.
Tony Grimes, DB, 5-11, 160, Hollywood (Hollywood Hills HS), FL. A SuperPrep All-Region pick and rated the No. 110 player in Florida ... Named to the PrepStar preseason All-America team and the SuperPrep preseason All-Region team ... Earned second team All-Broward honors from the Miami Herald ... Rated as the No. 16 CB in the country by ESPN.com.... Ranked the No. 43 player in Florida by the Orlando Sentinel ... Listed as the No. 25 CB in the nation by Scout.com ... Participated in the Team USA vs. The World All-Star Game and the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl ... Ranked the No. 40 CB in the nation and No. 72 player in Florida by Rivals.com ... Posted 64 tackles and five INT's as a senior ... Totaled 41 tackles and five INT's as a junior ... Coached in high school by Scott Barnwell.
Brishen Mathews, DB, 6-1, 190, Monticello (HS), AR. A SuperPrep All-Region pick and rated the No. 3 player in Arkansas ... Selected to the Orlando Sentinel All-Southern team ... Named to the SuperPrep preseason All-America team and the PrepStar preseason All-Region team ... Named first team All-State and Arkansas Mr. Football by ArkansasVarsity.com ... Earned Southeast Arkansas Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Pine Bluff Commercial as a senior ... Helped lead Monticello to a state championship as a senior and was named the game's MVP ... Named the 2009 State Farm 5A Defensive Player of the Year for Arkansas ... Ranked the No. 4 player in Arkansas and the No. 36 safety in the country by Rivals.com ... Listed as the No. 7 player in Arkansas and the No. 65 safety in the nation by Scout.com ... Posted 51 tackles and two INT's as a senior ... Recorded over 900 yards rushing, 120 tackles and five INT's as a junior ... Father, Gwaine Mathews, is the head football coach at Arkansas-Monticello ... Coached in high school by Van Pascal.
Eric Mitchell, DB, 5-11, 170, Cape Coral (Mariner HS), FL. A SuperPrep All-Region pick and rated the No. 98 player in Florida ... Named to the PrepStar preseason All-Region team ... Rated as the No. 60 CB in the nation and the No. 74 player in Florida by Scout.com ... Posted 34 tackles and 10 passes defended as a senior ... Also rushed for 773 yards and four TD's ... Coached in high school by Chad O'Brien.
Cedric Smith, DB, 5-10, 170, Prattville (HS), AL. Ranked the No. 22 player in Alabama and the No. 61 CB in the nation by Rivals.com ... Rated the N0. 81 CB in the nation by ESPN.com .... Earned first team All-Metro honors from the Montgomery Advertiser as a senior ... Helped lead Prattville to the 6A state title game as a senior ... Posted 38 tackles and two INT's as a senior ... Coached in high school by Bill Clark.
Damien Jackson, DB, 6-3, 195, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Perkinston, MS. Jackson, a native of Pineville, La., joins the Rebels after two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast. The two-time MAC All-State pick collected 33 tackles and picked off a pass in nine games and helped the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record and a No. 8 national ranking this season. Jackson was rated the No. 12 junior college player in the country by Scout.com and No. 26 by Rivals.com As a freshman for the Bulldogs, Jackson posted 54 tackles and 6.0 TFLs. He also recorded seven interceptions, which tied for second in the nation, and earned All-Region 23 honors from the NJCAA.