Thomas DeCoud was the heart of the secondary and arguably the heart of the defense, and his presence will be hard to replace next season. The likely best scenario to do so is to break up the competition at rover between Bernard Hicks and Marcus Ezeff and move Hicks to free safety. Hicks started the final nine games at free safety in 2006 after DeCoud got hurt. Hicks and Ezeff had a spirited year-long competition at rover last season and it will strengthen the defense to have them both on the field.
It will be interesting to see where Brett Johnson fits in. Johnson started the Armed Forces Bowl because DeCoud was suspended, and DeCoud himself said he thought Johnson was a good candidate to replace him. Sophomore Charles Amadi, who brought some pretty big press clippings with him to Berkeley, also could be someone to watch at safety during the spring.
At cornerback, junior Syd’Quan Thompson is back on one side after starting the past two seasons. Thompson wasn’t great last year, but steady. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said Thompson could be a candidate to emerge as a team leader this season. Chris Conte, who started three games last year, is the leading candidate to be the other corner. It could be an important spring for Darian Hagan, who started becoming a better practice player at the end of last season. Hagan’s physical tools have never been in question. He could use the spring to really put himself in the conversation along with Conte at the other corner spot.
As most of you know, spring practice starts Monday. I’ll come back with a look at special teams and some general thoughts about spring tomorrow, then provide notes on the first practice Monday night. Should be fun!