ShaDon Brown took over a group last year that looked like a fairly deep group on paper. That didn’t totally end up being the case because injuries exposed the lack of versatility in his group of Safeties. Russ Yeast is a perfect fit for this defense but the other safety spot left some things to be desired. This year, Brown should have more to work with even though what he’s working with is inexperienced.
Yeast stepped in at Strong Safety last year and excelled in that role. His coverage skills as a corner helped him with covering slots and Tight Ends and his aggression made him a natural in run support. Yeast sounds like a truly driven player in the media availability that he’s had. His season ending injury seems to have really motivated him to have a strong senior campaign. With the potential of having more guys to work with and possibly better coverage from the rest of the secondary, Yeast could be used as more of a box safety or a blitzer.
Isaiah Hayes will be the front runner to replace Khane Pass at Free Safety and he will be the key to the versatility in the group. Hayes can cover pretty well which was not a strength of Pass’. I also feel that Hayes will be strong in run support as he’s a solid tackler even though he’s not a big hitter like we’ve become accustomed to. Hayes and Yeast should be interchangeable if needed. While I don’t think they’ll plan to play it that way, teams use motion and change formations on the fly so having two guys who can flip responsibilities will be helpful.
I really like the depth at Safety at both spots. Lovie Jenkins should be the primary backup for Yeast and he was one of my favorites in this past recruiting class. Jenkins fits the same mold as Yeast as he has the size and coverage skills of a corner while being an aggressive player against the run and a good open field tackler. The really exciting thing for me is that he was a ball hawk in high school. He can close on the ball to make a play as opposed to getting there in time to make a tackle. It’s one of those things that I think we need to see going forward, so I’m excited to see if that skill translates to college.
Jack Fagot and Trenell Troutman will be the backups at the Free Safety spot with Fagot likely being an option at both spots. Fagot is a former walk-on who played well in limited time last year. He came up with an interception on Trevor Lawrence and had 21 tackles. He is regarded as one of the best athletes on the team which probably helped him earn his scholarship.
If you’ve been reading my posts and/or following me on Twitter, you know my feelings on Troutman. He is an outstanding special teams player who just hasn’t had any luck finding his way onto the field on defense. He was moved to Outside Linebacker at some point last season but I’m happy to see him back in the secondary. Troutman isn’t great in coverage but he is an outstanding open field tackler. We saw how UofL used Pass as an extra defender in the box and I could see Troutman playing a similar role though he’s a bit faster. Louisville can “hide” a player at the Free Safety spot because they don’t have to cover nearly as much as the other Safety spot. That could help him get on the field.