Hoo Preview 2013: Safeties Show Experience

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Safety Anthony Harris recorded 87 tackles last season.

One of the most seasoned units on the Virginia football team is the secondary where six players with significant experience return from 2012. Anthony Harris , Demetrious Nicholson , Brandon Phelps , Drequan Hoskey, Maurice Canady , and Rijo Walker all picked up playing time last fall. Walker is the only senior in the group.

Those DBs were productive in the tackles department too. Those six players each made at least 20 tackles as they combined for 275 stops on the season. Harris led the way with 87 tackles and he is the leading returner tackler on the team. Still, the secondary tallied just 3 interceptions. Harris, who had one of those picks, said the time on the field helped the players develop.

“I think we learned a lot from last year as far as stuff that’s happened to us in a game, different looks, and different situations,” Harris said. “Working together this summer, we think we’ve really developed a chemistry where we kind of know what each other is thinking and we just play off of each other back there.”

Harris and Phelps have started fall camp with solid play at the back of Virginia’s defense. Part of the reason for the early success can be credited to Jon Tenuta’s new defensive scheme, which included a flip-flop at safety. Harris moved from free safety to strong safety in the offseason, while Phelps made the shift in the opposite direction.

As subtle as the move is, it does play to the strengths of both players. Harris (6’1″, 185) is a good tackler as noted above and he provides good run support. As the strong safety, he will be walked into the box with the linebackers more frequently in Tenuta’s scheme where he may be able to use that skill to the defense’s advantage.