The Morgan State secondary that took the field at Hughes Stadium on Wednesday with the rest of the first defense consisted of junior cornerbacks DeShaun Summers and Delonta Hall, junior free safety Peterson Janvier and senior strong safety Nathan Ayers.
Of that foursome, however, only Ayers started a game last season.
The lack of starting experience in the defensive backfield might be alarming to some, but coach Lee Hull said it doesn’t bother him.
“They’re a little green, but I’m not too worried about them,” Hull said after Wednesday’s practice. “They’re pretty savvy. [Defensive backs] coach [Brawley] Evans does a great job with them, and I’m sure he’ll have them prepared and ready to go.”
A secondary that graduated starting cornerbacks Joe Rankin and Lafredo Brady and free safety Darien Irby ranked eighth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last season in passing yards allowed per game (191.4) and was in a three-way tie for the second-most passing touchdowns surrendered (11).
But their replacements fared well last year. Janvier ranked sixth on the team in tackles (42), and Summers was tied for the lead in interceptions (three). And senior Paul Eatman Jr., who split 12 starts with Ayers at strong safety, tied Summers in interceptions and was tied for fourth in tackles (43).
Ayers, who finished with 23 tackles and two fumble recoveries, said the players’ experience should be invaluable this season.
“Even though they didn’t start, we had a lot of people play last year,” said Ayers (Dunbar), who can also slide down to outside linebacker. “Although we’ve got a lot of young guys coming in, that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me. We’re just communicating on the back end and everything will be OK.”
The Bears are relying on Ayers, a team captain, to get the secondary in the right formation. But Hull said he has been impressed with the play of Ayers’ teammates.
“We’ve got Delonta Hall who is having a good camp,” Hull said. “DeShaun Summers is having a good camp. So I think we’ll be good, we’ll be fine. Paul Eatman was a little dinged up and didn’t go through spring ball, but I like what I’ve seen from him so far. I expect our secondary to be pretty good.”
Ayers said he has no qualms about the secondary. In fact, he made a bold prediction about the group.
“I think it’s going to be our strongest unit,” he said. “Yeah, we lost three great starters, but it’s going to be cool. We’re learning every day. We’re watching film and doing everything we can to be stronger.”