The Coast’s crop of top defensive backs heading into the 2017 season is highlighted by a collection of athletes who are either tackle machines or shutdown cornerbacks.
Many of the safties run down hill in a hurry and act like an additional linebacker, while some of their cornerbacks give their coaches enough confidence to leave them alone “on an island” in coverage while they send the safety elsewhere.
Here are some names you should know at the start of the 2017 football season.
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2016 defensive stats: 30 tackles, 4 INTs
The breakdown: The Pascagoula Panthers are expecting big things out of returning senior Leterrance Addison. The safety’s four interceptions a year ago ties him with Resurrection’s Patrick Roth as the top returning South Mississippians in that category. Addison flashed his athleticism Friday night when he opened the rivalry game against Moss Point with a 76-yard kickoff return to set up a short touchdown.
School: St. Stanislaus
2016 defensive stats: 104 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 6 passes defended
The breakdown: There will be plenty of new faces at St. Stanislaus this year, but a familiar one — much to the chagrin of opponents — is J.D. Rutherford. The senior strong safety did a little of everything as a junior with 104 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions and six passes defended. He’s back to lead a Rockachaw defense that new coach Jeff Jordan hopes can set the tone in 2017 for SSC. Rutherford got off to a good start in Friday’s Shrimp Bowl win, recording 10 tackles.
School: East Central
2016 defensive stats: 172 tackles, 14 TFLs, 1 sack, one forced fumble
The breakdown: Andrew Seward is coming off of a year where he led the Coast in tackles and was seven off of the leader in Mississippi. One thing that jumps out about Seward is his ability to finish tackles. There weren’t many instances in 2016 where he got his hands on a ball carrier only to slide off. Often times, Seward came down field on the runner, set his feet and stuck the tackle, driving the offensive player backward. ECHS coach Seth Smith considers Seward an extension of his linebackers although he’s technically listed as a free safety.
“Seward is as good as any defensive player I’ve coached,” Smith said during the preseason.
2016 defensive stats: 26 tackles, 2 INTs, 7 passes defended
The breakdown: Although Poplarville is inexperienced up front on defense, the Hornets should be able to rely on D.J. Travis and Tyson Holston to help set the tone in the secondary. At 6-foot, 155 pounds, Travis isn’t the biggest player but he makes up for it with his athleticism and high-end speed. He’s considered more of a coverage corner than a hard hitter. Travis picked up an Arkansas State offer during the spring and also holds a Jackson State offer.
School: Long Beach
2016 defensive stats: 16 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 passes defended, one forced fumble
The breakdown: Long Beach coach Forrest Williams swears by Derek Young. The senior Bearcat certainly has the confidence and swagger to be a top-end cornerback, but he also has top-end athleticism. He’s a player Williams feels comfortable leaving alone on an island to shut down the opposition’s top receiver. Over the past two seasons, Young has recorded 81 tackles, five interceptions and 11 passes defended.
But wait, there’s more
Here’s a few more names to consider: Long Beach’s Tim Duncan, George County’s Jonovan Jackson, Harrison Central’s Brandon Billingsley, Stone’s Enrique Whaley, Biloxi’s Brandon Walker and Riko Carter, D’Iberville’s Fred Green, Gulfport’s Chad Crenshaw, St. Stanislaus’ Delvin Henry and Resurrection’s Patrick Roth.