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Falcon Positional Unit: Previewing the Defensive Backs

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Following the same theme as the D line and the linebackers, turnbacks return, and the young players from last year have a year under the belt

I could have written the same intro to each of my first three positional analyses. “Strong players return from turnback, young starters from last year should improve from plenty of playing time last year, forming a solid and deep group.”

For this unit, I expect three of the starters will be returning turnbacks, and the fourth will be a first time starter from last year.

Last year was not a stellar year for the secondary, although opponents only averaged 167 yards per game. The average was skewed by the game against Army, who only threw two passes for 0 yards. Especially early in the season, the young secondary had several broken plays on deep passes and were gashed for long gains. San Jose State’s Nick Starkel and Boise State’s Jack Sears each completed more than 75% of their passes and moved the ball at will through the air.

By the end of the year, however, the DBs were more successful at keeping receivers in front of them and containing plays. The starting four DBs at that time were Elisha Palm, Demani Hansford, Corvan Taylor, and Ethan Erickson. Freshmen Camby Goff, Jadon Pearson, Jayden Goodwin, and Zion Kelly were all getting a good amount of playing time. Junior David Eure was getting a lot of playing time as well.

For 2021, seniors Elisha Palm and Demani Hansford will have graduated. David Eure and Jadon Pearson are no longer on the team.

Depth Chart

Cornerback 1:

  1. Tre Bugg
  2. Camby Goff

Cornerback 2:

  1. Trey Taylor
  2. Zion Kelly

Strong Safety

  1. Corvan Taylor
  2. Ethan Erickson

Free Safety

  1. James Jones
  2. Jayden Goodwin

There is a good amount of fluidity in this depth chart. Trey Taylor could play safety, and James Jones and Jayden Goodwin could easily play cornerback. My linebacker preview had Erickson as the spur linebacker, but he played safety last year. In the event of injuries or a breakout young player, some of these players could move around.

Milton (Tre) Bugg III

Bugg has seen a lot of quality playing time. He first saw action as a sophomore in 2018, and he appeared in all 12 games, accumulating 20 tackles and 2 pass breakups. He had a big year in 2019, making 49 tackles, 7 pass breakups, and intercepting 3 passes, one of which he returned for a 99 yard touchdown. He is the leading playmaker in the secondary, and will be looked to for leadership in the backfield.

Trey Taylor

Taylor was a three star recruit in 2019, but has yet to see the playing field. He was expected to start last year but decided to take the turnback option when the season was postponed. We’ll have to wait until fall to see his performance during a game.

Corvan Taylor

Corvan Taylor was solid in a backup role as a sophomore in 2019, coming up with 13 tackles. Last year he was third on the team with 33 tackles. He showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time with 2 interceptions, returning each for more than 40 yards.

James Jones

Jones has seemingly been in the Falcon football program forever. He was recruited to Air Force in 2015 and then spent a year at the Prep School. As is customary at Air Force, he didn’t play as a freshman, but broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2017. That year he was fifth on the team in tackles with 52 tackles and had an interception to boot. Unfortunately he suffered a major knee injury and missed the entire 2018 season and received a medical turnback from the Academy. In 2019, he played sparingly, still not fully recovered from the injury.

He was poised to start last year when the season was delayed and he took another turnback to have a chance to play another year. It would seem his effectiveness will depend on the status of his knee.

Camby Goff, Zion Kelly, and Jayden Goodwin

All three were freshmen who started several games last year, and based on the results for the year, did an admirable job for first timers at Air Force. A year of Mountain West action and a spring and fall practice season should set the stage for productive careers at Air Force.

Ethan Erickson

I already previewed Erickson in my linebacker preview since he will most likely fill the spur linebacker position, but he started as a safety last year, so I have him here as a backup. This is something coach Troy Calhoun likes to do - develop players who can move around to provide depth and to allow for the most athletic and disciplined players to be on the field at all times.

This article concludes my review of the Falcon defense - a unit I expect to be a positive force in a successful season. Next up I’ll begin analyzing the offensive personnel with a preview of the running backs.