Secondary coach Dan Disch had one of the more scrutinized groups last year, giving up huge plays to start the Texas-San Antonio game down 21-0 and even the first half against Kentucky when USM was down 35-7 late into the second quarter before making a comeback.
After losing three secondary players, Disch will look to reload the cupboard, which he is prepared for.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Disch said. “But, we’ve got some young guys that are getting some reps. We’ve got some youth and inexperience at safety. It’s still early!”
Early is the perfect adjective. In only three practices, USM has been throwing out an abundance of new faces on the field in the defensive backfield. The new faces are making their first instances on the field, and for some of them, at the position that they are at.
“We’re just throwing a lot of different guys in there and seeing what shakes out,” Disch said. “We’re a work-in-progress all across the board.”
There are certainties in the secondary, although. Senior safety Tarvarius Moore took quality snaps last year, amassing two interceptions including one at LSU in a pivotal game. Although he did not start, Moore feels like the experience that he had in his reserve role prepares him for a bigger role this year.
“It feels pretty good to have a leg up,” Moore said. “I’m just trying to come in and lead a little bit — showing them how to lead. Giving them pointers here and there.”
Moore is also comfortable in his position coach, who oversees them in all of the spring practices and helps when asked.
“[Disch] being in this defense a long time with coach [Hopson]. He knows the defense in and out,” Moore said. “The extra film study with him is an extra advantage.”
Leader of the defensive unit is defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro, who says that technique and repetition are the most important themes of this spring. Last year, the defense was sometimes inconsistent and exposed gaps to reveal big plays.
“We have to clean up technique,” Pecoraro said. “For some of these guys, it’s the first time they’ve used any technique. Now, we have to keep on growing. As we watched some cut-ups from last year, we as a staff, towards the end of the year schematically, we understood what our assignments were, but our technique and getting the job down weren’t where they need to be. Fundamentals is what the spring is all about.”
For lasting effect, the head coach is someone who is not worried about his secondary, as he is enjoying the competition.
“I think our corner position is pretty strong,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson. “At safety, we’ve got some open competition. Tarvarius [Moore] has done a tremendous job, he’s got it really high-on. It’s fun to watch that competition.”
Spring practices will continue up until the Black & Gold Spring Game on April 22.