The third week of Spring Practice continued this Thursday, and rain arrived to the practice fields at the Schmidt Complex for the first time which ended up canceling the session. Today, we are going over the defensive backs.
"I am blessed to bring my entire group back from last year," cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris (pictured bottom, standing right) said from a prior session. "We know what to expect, we know the expectations Coach [Herman] has for our unit, and we're just excited to play again."
Below is a quick glance at the makeup of the position for the Spring.
Key Returners: Romain Mungin (Sr. 5-9, 162), Justin Mckithen (Jr. 5-10, 157), Jayden Williams (R-Soph. 5-11, 182), Daedae Hill (Soph. 5-10, 190), Michal Antoine Jr. (Jr. 6-0, 190), Zeroun Skinner (R-Soph. 6-1, 173), Jahbari Hill (Soph. 6-1, 205), Tyrell Jones (R-Soph. 5-11, 180), Courtney Lamas-Lanier (Jr. 5-11, 190), Zoren Tobe (R-Soph. 6-1, 190), John Wester Jr. (Sr. 5-10, 170), Dai'Sean Stevens (R-Soph. 5-9, 180).
Key Losses: Michael Boone, Glover Cook.
Newcomers: Darius McClendon (Fr. 6-1, 175 - Recruit/NMMI), Jarron Morris (Transfer/Texas State, won't join the team until fall), Antonio Smith (Recruit/Gulliver Prep, won't join the team until fall), Chris Tooley (Recruit/Jones, won't join the team until fall).
Here is the eighth of our parliament Owl position previews, beginning with three names from the defensive backs, and some notes from today's media availability.
- Expected to Lead Romain Mungin: Mungin (pictured above) appears at the top of the depth chart for the position. He made 34 tackles (26 solo), got a sack for a loss of eight yards, and caught two interceptions for 20 yards total in 11 games of the 2022 campaign. He was particularly in his element against Ohio and UCF, combining for 11 tackles (eight solo) and the sack against the former, so it is expected he will remain a central leader role among the group. Following him would be Jayden Williams, and he is a player that deserves attention. After appearing in four games in 2021, Williams broke through the following year with 40 tackles (24 solo) and created two sacks for a loss of seven yards. His excellent tackling ability became apparent last September against Ohio and UCF where he combined for 22 tackles (14 solo) against the Bobcats and Knights. If he can keep up that level of play for a whole season, he has a good shot of becoming an elite star in the secondary.
- Keep An Eye On Justin Mckithen would be worth concentrating on with his recent development. After having a minimal role in his first two seasons, Mckithen stepped up in 2022. He finished the year with 24 tackles (17 solo) and two interceptions with one of them leading to a touchdown for 63 yards in the season-opener against Charlotte. Thanks to his defensive effort against the 49ers, he won C-USA's Defensive Player of the Week so he could continue his upward trajectory by using Spring Practice to build his game entering his junior year as one of the more experienced players in the position. Coming up next would be Daedae Hill (pictured bottom, left). Transferring from Central Michigan last year, Hill adapted quite nicely with the Owls by putting together 36 tackles (23 solo) with one of them creating a loss of four yards. He had a standout performance for the season-finale against Western Kentucky when he made a season-high eight tackles (four solo) against the Hilltoppers. With his solid campaign, he could see his workload increase in the rotation as a result.
- Dark Horse Candidate Zoren Tobe: Tobe (pictured below) has an opportunity to shift the coaches' eyes onto him. He may not have appeared in any game during the 2022 season, but he does showcase plenty of potential coming out of Fort Scott as a JUCO transfer. His last season there featured him making 12 tackles (seven solo) in seven appearances, and with his 6-1 height and 190 lb build, he has the strength and ability to make strong tackles against tough opponents if the Owls were to give him a role heading into the fall.
OwlBytes for March 30th
- Coming Through The Smoke From a recent session, cornerback Romain Mungin said he and the unit have been working on their eyes to read opposing offenses better. "Our eyes got us in trouble last year. Right now, we're focusing on our eyes and coaching each other up and do the right play," Mungin said. He has placed an emphasis on being a better leader for the group throughout Spring Practice. "Everything I mess up on, they're looking at it at the end of the day," he said. "If I'm getting coached on it, they're going to try to do the same so I need to do everything as best as I can do it."
- Gelling Together Having played at wide receiver earlier in his college career, cornerback Justin Mckithen is concentrating on playing the ball more, especially if he were to catch interceptions and get to the end-zone for touchdowns. "Whenever I touch the ball, I would like to score touchdowns," Mckithen said. "Everytime we get the ball, we always go for the end-zone because nothing's better than scoring a touchdown for our team." He said the unit is getting closer as a group as Spring Practice goes on. "Whenever something goes wrong, we don't down each other. We pick each other up to do our best on the next play, and that's the only thing that matters," he said.
Due to heavy rain in the area earlier this morning, we were unable to obtain footage for today's Video Play. Instead, here's a compilation of the defensive backs and safeties going through their drills together with cornerbacks coach Brandon Harris and safeties coach Derrick Gibson during Tuesday's session.
The team will return to the field Friday night for practice and won't hold a session or scrimmage for Saturday. They will return Tuesday to start the fourth week of Spring Practice.