USC’s Jackson cleans up during NCAA award season

Adoree Jackson

Adoree Jackson

While one part-time defensive back will sit among the finalists for college football’s Heisman Trophy on Saturday and find out where he finishes in the voting, one full-time defensive back who does spot duty in other areas claimed what is usually the biggest prize available to DBs on the NCAA level.

USC junior cornerback Adoree Jackson won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, at Thursday’s College Football Awards show.

Jackson beat out fellow finalists Tre’Davious White of LSU and Jourdan Lewis of Michigan, both senior cornerbacks. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama (NCAA) — I have to wonder how many NCAA Division-1 teams the Crimson Tide could beat if their offenses didn’t score at all. Alabama’s defense and special teams are so potent, you could pair them with South Carolina’s offense (the worst in the SEC) and they’d probably still be playing for a national championship next month.

After surprisingly falling behind 7-0 to Florida in Saturday’s SEC title game, ‘Bama responded with a field goal, then took the lead on Fitzpatrick’s interception and 44-yard return for a touchdown. Soon after that, they extended the lead with a blocked punt return for another touchdown and cruised to a 54-16 victory. Continue reading

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Coaches Corner: Attacking with a 2 high shell

Treasure Coast Bengals

In this column, coaches at the high school, college, semi-pro and professional level will provide insight, tips and strategies designed to help you improve — whether you play defensive back, coach defensive backs, or just want to learn more about what defensive backs do on the football field.

Devin Russell is the defensive coordinator for the Treasure Coast Bengals, a semi-pro team in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that competes in the United Football Federation of America.

Coach Russell talks about how to attack an offense with a quarters-based system: Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Adoree Jackson

Adoree Jackson

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC (NCAA) — Defense was actually the least impressive of Jackson’s multi-faceted feats in USC’s 45-27 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

Jackson had two tackles and two pass breakups against the Irish. He also had a 52-yard touchdown catch while playing offense, a 55-yard punt return touchdown, and a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown.

The junior cornerback and track star will either be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, or he’ll be a preseason pick to contend for the 2017 Heisman Trophy. And don’t be surprised if he also competes in the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials as a long jumper. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Xavier Rhodes

Xavier Rhodes

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Vikings (NFL) — Clinging to a 13-10 lead late in the first half and backed up against their own goal line, Minnesota needed a big play to avoid falling behind to the Cardinals in what could’ve been their fifth straight loss.

Rhodes made that play.

His interception at the goal line and 100-yard return for a touchdown allowed the Vikings to go ahead 20-10, and they would never trail in Sunday’s 30-24 victory. Rhodes had another interception in the second half, finishing the game with three tackles and two picks. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Eric Berry

Eric Berry

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Eric Berry, SS, Chiefs (NFL) — After spending three quarters as supporting cast members on a Cam Newton highlight reel, Berry and the Chiefs defense stepped up in the fourth quarter on Sunday to pave the way for a stunning 20-17 comeback victory over the Panthers.

Kansas City was trailing 17-6 before Berry intercepted a Newton pass and took it back 42 yards for a touchdown. During the return, Berry broke three or four tackles and used two spin moves to get free.

That would turn out to be the Chiefs’ only touchdown of the game, sandwiched between four field goals. Berry finished with a team-high nine tackles, including one tackle for loss, and two pass breakups to go with the pick-six. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Byron Maxwell

Byron Maxwell

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

1. Byron Maxwell, CB, Dolphins (NFL): Outweighed by about 30 pounds and giving up three inches in height to the monster of a receiver that is Brandon Marshall, Maxwell already had a tall task ahead of him in Sunday’s game against the Jets.

It was made worse in the days leading up to the game, as Marshall dragged Maxwell into a one-sided war of words by complaining about Maxwell’s physical style of coverage and accusing Maxwell of constantly holding and grabbing.

Maxwell didn’t return fire in front of the media. He just went out and held Marshall to six catches for 45 yards in Miami’s 27-23 victory. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Bradley Roby

Bradley Roby

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Bradley Roby, CB, Broncos (NFL): Starting in place of injured All-Pro CB Aqib Talib on Sunday, Roby came up with seven tackles and an interception, which he returned 49 yards for a touchdown in Denver’s 27-19 win over the Chargers.

With the Broncos trailing in the second quarter, Roby allowed Chargers WR Tyrell Williams to get a step on him on a drag route across the middle. But the ball popped out of Williams’ hands and Roby was in the right place to catch the deflection and take it to the house untouched. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Grant Haley

Grant Haley

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Grant Haley, CB, Penn State (NCAA): Grant Haley isn’t slow. According to his Penn State bio, he lettered in track and field in high school, and he’s already set football records as a kick returner for the Nittany Lions. His mom, Carla Neal-Haley, ran track for Penn State, so we know he doesn’t come from slow genes.

And yet I’ve never been so worried that a defensive back was going to get caught in a 60-yard sprint by a kicker and a punter as I was when Haley juuuuust beat Ohio State’s Tyler Durbin and Cameron Johnston to the end zone in Penn State’s 24-21 upset win over the 2nd-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week

Ronnie Harrison

Ronnie Harrison

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Ronnie Harrison, FS, Alabama (NCAA): I might as well reserve a spot on this list every week for one of Alabama’s defensive backs. The top-ranked Crimson Tide have made scoring defensive touchdowns a habit — they have 11 this season to lead the nation — and it seems all of their DBs have been getting in on the act.

Sophomore safety Harrison, senior safety Eddie Jackson, sophomore cornerback Marlon Humphrey and sophomore “Star” Minkah Fitzpatrick have all found the end zone this season. The only ‘Bama starter who hasn’t yet scored a touchdown from the secondary is junior CB Anthony Averett.

In the first quarter of Saturday’s 49-10 rout of 9th-ranked Tennessee, Harrison was lined up alongside the linebackers when he jumped the route on a screen pass, intercepted QB Joshua Dobbs and coasted 58 yards for a touchdown. Harrison finished the game with seven tackles and two pass breakups. Continue reading

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