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Nevada football 2020 spring position preview: Defensive backs

San Jose State v Nevada
Austin Arnold (28) and Tyson Williams (6) lead the defensive back corps heading into 2020.
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Before I begin, I want to thank every single first responder, doctor, nurse, health professional and every essential worker around Nevada (where I reside) and the United States who are working to help us keep safe and defeat this pandemic. I hope everyone is, and remains safe during these troubling times.

Now lets get into it.

Nevada Football is coming off its second consecutive 7-win season. The team also reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2014-15, With spring football postponed for the foreseeable future, we will be breaking down each position group of the 2020 Nevada football team every Monday.

Today, we will be looking the defensive back unit.

Previous weeks:

3/30: Quarterbacks

4/6: Running backs

4/13: Wide receivers

4/20: Tight ends

4/27: Offensive Lineman

5/4: Defensive Lineman

5/11: Linebackers

Anyone departing?

Daniel Brown

Portland State v Nevada
Nevada defensive back Daniel Brown (25) charges towards the tunnel on the way to the field prior to the game versus Portland State.
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Brown, the Pack’s best corner last season, departs Nevada with 115 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, five interceptions and 23 pass breakups in his Wolf Pack career. Brown was named to the All-Mountain West Honorable Mention team in his junior and senior seasons. Starting in all 10 games he played in last year, the 5-foot-11 corner totaled 41 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, four interceptions and nine pass breakups. His four interceptions trailed only San Diego State’s Luq Barcoo (9) for the Mountain West lead and was T-17 nationally. Brown had two interceptions in the season-opener versus Purdue — the first and only multi-interception game of his career. He earned the team’s Golden Helmet Award (the team’s MVP) last year. As a junior, Brown totaled 53 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception and 12 pass breakups. His 12 pass breakups were the fifth-most in the conference in 2018.

Anyone returning?

Austin Arnold

San Jose State v Nevada
San Jose State running back DeJon Packer (21) gets tackled by Nevada defensive back Austin Arnold (28).
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Arnold finished fifth on the team last year in tackles with 51 in a breakout junior season. Starting in all 12 games he played in, he had one interception with five pass defections. The one interception came on a pick-six versus San Jose State — the only interception that Arnold has recorded in his career.

Mikael Bradford

Bradford — a transfer from Minot State, a Division II school in Minot, N.D. — sat out last season due to NCAA’s transfer policy. In two seasons at Minot State, Bradford totaled 30 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups.

Christian Swint

Swint, appearing in eight games, recorded four tackles and one pass breakup in his first season with the Pack last year. He also had snaps on special teams as a kick returner, returning four kicks for 64 yards. Prior to his stint with the Wolf Pack, Swint spent one year at Riverside City College. Swint totaled 43 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one sack, nine pass breakups, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his only season with Riverside City.

JoJuan Claiborne

Claiborne totaled five tackles, appearing in all 13 contests for the Pack as a sophomore last year. As a freshman, he failed to register a tackle in 11 games, appearing mostly on the special teams. Claiborne graduated from Bishop Gorman, a high school powerhouse, in Las Vegas, Nev. He won back-to-back state titles while with the Gaels.

Daylon Johnson

Johnson, entering his senior season, appeared in just five games (one start) with the Wolf Pack before suffering a broken arm that halted the rest of his season. He recorded six total tackles on the year, one more from his 2018 mark of five tackles (in nine games).

Emany Johnson

Johnson totaled 30 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one pass breakup across eight games last season as a redshirt freshman. His best came against Hawai’i, where he recorded a career-high nine tackles. He appeared in just two games before redshirting in 2018. Johnson earned first-team all-league honors for three consecutive season for Hercules High School in Hercules, Calif. He was a three-star recruit per 247Sports, choosing Nevada over New Mexico, Wyoming, San Jose State, Utah State and Montana.

Cam Stephens

Stephens redshirted in his first season with Pack last year. Stephens, a three-star recruit per, chose Nevada over Florida, Arizona, Nebraska, San Jose State and Colorado State, among others. He was a two-time first team all-league selection at Cajon High School in San Bernardino, Calif.

Berdale Robins

NCAA Football: UNLV at Nevada
UNLV Rebels wide receiver Steve Jenkins (84) runs after a catch against Nevada Wolf Pack defensive back Berdale Robins (1).
David Calvert-USA TODAY Sports

Robins returns for his senior season as one of the Pack’s top cornerbacks. He capped-off his junior year with a career-best 18 tackles in 12 games. Robins was second on the team with two interceptions, coming in back-to-back contests versus Utah State and Wyoming. As a sophomore, Robins tallied 16 tackles with one interceptions and three pass breakups. His first career interception came in the second game of the season versus Oregon State.

EJ Muhammad

NCAA Football: Nevada at UNLV
UNLV Rebels tight end Trevor Kanteman (9) is tackled by Nevada defensive backd Elijah Moody (18) and EJ Muhammad (4).
Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Muhammad was granted a sixth season of eligibility in March. Muhammad redshirted his freshman season and missed all but two contests due to a shoulder injury in 2018 as a junior.

He started in all 12 contests he appeared in last year. Muhammad finished second on the team in tackles (58) and pass breakups (6). The 5-foot-11 corner forced his only fumble, that he also recovered, in the Pack’s season-opener versus Purdue. He also totaled a career-best 10 tackles versus the Boilermakers. Muhammad, with 18 career starts, will likely pair with Robins at the Pack’s corners on the outside (without Brown) heading into 2020.

Tyson Williams

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Nevada at San Diego State
San Diego State Aztecs tight end Daniel Bellinger (88) fights off Nevada defensive back Tyson Williams (6).
Photo by Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Williams was a vital member to Nevada’s secondary last season, breaking out in his sophomore season. He registered a team-high 85 tackles, the 16th-most in the Mountain West. Williams registered two tackles-for-loss, one interception and seven pass breakups. His only career interception came against UTEP. Williams mustered up seven-plus tackles six times and double-digit tackles twice last season — including a career-high 12 tackles versus Purdue. As a freshman, the 5-foot-9 safety recorded 20 tackles with two pass breakups in 10 games.

Daiyan Henley

Nevada v Hawaii
Nevada’s Daiyan Henley (11) runs the ball versus the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors.
Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Henley played in just four games last season before suffering a season-ending injury. Last year was Henley’s first full year as a defensive back after converting from the wide receiver spot. He had just five tackles, including four tackles-for-loss. Henley hauled in eight pass for 103 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman in 2017 and caught nine passes for 129 yards as a sophomore. Henley has also been productive as a returner in his first three years with the Wolf Pack, averaging 22.5 yards in 25 career kick returns.

Jordan Lee

UNLV v Nevada
UNLV quarterback Kenyon Oblad (7) throws past Nevada defensive back Jordan Lee (13).
Photo by Jonathan Devich/Getty Images

Lee, who was awarded one of the team’s Newcomers of the Year, finished with 40 tackles in a breakout sophomore season in 2019. He played in all 13 games, starting in the final five games. Lee tied Henley for the most tackles-for-loss (4) among defensive backs — including a season-high two versus Fresno State. He also registered his only sack on the year versus the Bulldogs. Lee intercepted one pass — coming against UTEP — with two pass breakups on the year. As a freshman, Lee totaled four tackles in 12 contests.

Kacee Williams

Williams did not the see the field as a freshman last year. Williams, a two-star recruit per 247Sports, chose Nevada over Texas Tech, Washington State, New Mexico, Bowling Green, Stephen F. Austin and Illinois State, among others. A graduate of Central High School in Keller, Texas, Williams earned a first team all-district and first team all-state honors as a senior.

Maurice Wilmer

Wilmer appeared in just one game last season, playing against Purdue. Wilmer a three-star recruit from St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., earned first team all-league honors as a senior.

Jaden Dedman

Dedman, appearing in 10 games, tallied all three tackles as a redshirt freshman — all coming against Wyoming. In 2018, he played in just one game as a freshman before redshirting. Dedman, a three-star recruit out of Upland High School in Upland, Calif. per 247Sports, chose Nevada over Hawai’i, San Jose State and Montana. He earned second-team all-league honors as a junior and first-team all-league honors as a senior. As a senior, Dedman totaled 65 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, five interceptions, four pass breakups, a fumble recovery and blocked two kicks.

Mar’Quette Jackson

Appearing in all 12 games (two starts), Jackson recorded a career-high 20 tackles last year as a junior. Jackson had six tackles (in eight games) as a sophomore and four tackles (in five games) as a true freshman. His best game last year came against Hawai’i, where Jackson totaled a career-best seven tackles.

Jayce Godley

Godley totaled 12 tackles as a true freshman last season — notching a career-high of two tackles on four separate occasions (UTEP, Hawai’i, Wyoming, Ohio). Godley was a two-star prospect according to 247Sports. As a graduate of Arlington-Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, Godley totaled 200 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, four interceptions and 15 pass breakups in his high school career. He also set the District 4-6A record for the longest fumble return ever at 100 yards. Godley chose the Pack over Oklahoma State, Air Force, McNeese State, Texas State, Houston and Fordham, among others.

Avery Carrington

Carrington did not log a tackle in one appearance as a freshman last year. Carrington, a three-star recruit from Chandler High School in Chandler, Ariz., was Arizona’s 44th-best prospect in its 2019 class per 247Sports. He helped lead Chandler to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2018. He chose the Pack over New Mexico State, Liberty and Northern Arizona.

Any new faces?

Marquese Allen-Patmon

Allen-Patmon, a three-star recruit from Lincoln High School in San Diego, Calif., was Nevada’s fourth-highest recruit in its 2020 class per 247Sports. The 6-foot-1 corner totaled 109 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss, one sack and intercepted six passes in his senior season. He chose Nevada over San Diego State, Air Force, Montana State, Navy, Howard, Idaho and Portland State, among others.

Here is Mountain West Connection’s site manager and recruiting guru Mike Wittmann said about Allen-Patmon in Nevada’s 2020 recruiting breakdown:

“Marquese is an athletic and versatile defensive back in this class. The first thing that jumps out is his size in the backfield, which allows him to match wide receivers in both side and in the air. Allen-Patmon isn’t just a high safety type, he also makes a regular habit of stepping up to stop the run and can blitz off the edge. He should be a real asset if they maintain the 3-3-5 defense or even in a two safety scheme. Marquese will likely redshirt to begin his career but should see the field sooner rather than later.”

Devin Gunter

Gunter was Nevada’s second-highest recruit in its 2020 class. A three-star recruit from Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, Texas, Gunter totaled 23 total tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one interception as a senior.

Here is what Wittmann said about Gunter:

“Devin is a two-way player being brought in to play defensive back. He is a well-rounded, physical corner who can play a variety of coverages. Gunter flashes great speed in the open field, which helps him defending the deep ball and as a returner. He is a sound tackler in space which suits him well being out on an island in coverage. Devin has a lot of potential to be a productive starter at the college level.”

Ezekiel Robbins

Robbins is a junior-college transfer from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. Robbins tallied 39 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and two pass breakups as a sophomore.

Here is Wittmann’s profile on Robbins:

“Zeke comes in from the junior college ranks. He is a physical DB who reads the field well in diagnosing plays and steps up to help out in the run game. Robbins tackles extremely well in the open field and packs all of his force into each hit. When in coverage, he often succeeds in knocking receivers off of this routes. Zeke is probably best as more of a box safety and should see the field next year.”

Angel King

King is a two-star prospect from Locke High School in Los Angeles, Calif. Here is Wittmann’s profile on King:

“Angel is another defensive back in this class. He shines playing off in coverage and closing in to make a play. King is a ball-hawk in coverage, and shows determination after the interception to make a big play even bigger. His time on offense allows him to track the ball well in the air and he displays great hands. Angel could potentially develop into a real play-maker in the secondary.”

My Thoughts:

This group struggled last year. Nevada’s pass defense (250.8 ypg) ranked No. 99 nationally last year and third-worst in the conference. The Pack also ranked No. 100 in pass defense efficiency and allowed the third-most touchdowns (31) in the nation. On the flip side, they did intercept 11 passes, T-5 most in the conference and T-46 in the nation. The Pack lose their best cover corner in Daniel Brown, but retain vital experience with Robins and Muhammad on the outside. They return all three of their safeties with Williams, Claiborne and Lee — who all have two years of eligibility remaining heading into 2020. Ronnie Wheat, who was LSU’s lead defensive analyst beginning in 2013 until its National Championship season last year, enters as the Pack’s new safeties coach as the group looks to build upon its rough 2019 year.