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2011 Football Training Camp: DB Preview

August 14, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Leading up to the Flames' season-opening football battle against N.C. State on Sept. 3, LibertyFlames.com will be previewing each position around the gridiron.

Today, we continue our position-by-position preview by taking a look at the defensive backs. During today's video package, Flames Sports Network correspondent Nick Pierce had a chance to speak with defensive coordinator Tom Clark, who has direct oversight of Liberty's last line of defense.

Around August Training Camp, the Flames enjoyed their first day off today since opening camp on Aug. 4. Liberty will begin what head coach Danny Rocco is calling "Phase Two" of training camp tomorrow with practice No. 13 at 2:20 p.m.

Cornerbacks
Liberty's most experienced group of defenders for the 2011 season will be its last line of defense, with three of its four starting defensive backs returning for their final season.

"I really think this is the group that should be the best secondary that we have had at Liberty since I've been the head coach," commented Rocco.

"I say that for a lot of reasons, but it all starts with the fact that we only lost one player from last year's program," added Rocco. "Donald Manns (boundary corner) has been a very solid player for us the last several years, both as a reserve player and starter and is the only player that graduated from this group last year."

Manns finished the season ranked ninth on the team and third in the secondary with 34 tackles (20 solo, 14 assisted), to go along with three pass breakups.

"We've certainly been stock piling some depth and talent in this group, so that we will have a very deep and experienced crew for the 2011 season," continued Rocco.

Returning at field corner will be two-year starter KaJuan Lee, who finished the 2010 season with 12 of his 17 tackles being of the solo variety. "KaJuan was an all-conference player two years ago, but didn't have as much of an acclaimed season in 2010," said Rocco. "However, going into his third season as a starter, he is a big, tall and athletic player with a 40-inch vertical jump."

Competing behind Lee at the field corner position will be Ron Hobby for the second year in a row. The Pittsburgh transfer finished his first season with the Flames with 11 tackles and three pass breakups. "Ron is really coming into his own as a player and fits into our program."

The Flames coaching staff is also excited about the development of Kenny Scott, who redshirted this past year. He is coming off an impressive winter workout session, where he posted some stellar numbers including a 4.4, 40-yard dash. "Kenny is a very good football player with a bright future for our program."

Looking to fill the vacancy left open by Manns' graduation will be Illinois transfer Walt Aiken, an All-Big Ten freshman selection for the Fighting Illini in 2009. According to the coaching staff, Aiken is "very talented" and has the most promise of any player in this position in recent history.

Kevin Fogg will look to challenge Aikens at boundary corner, following a stellar sophomore season. During his second year with the program, Fogg finished 2010 with 33 tackles, 26 of which were solo, to go along with four pass breakups and two interceptions. "Kevin Fogg has done a lot of good things for us during his first two years with the program, giving us two solid players at this position."

"With Walt and Kevin, along with Pierre Hawkes, we are very excited about this position," added Rocco. "We are also excited about the things we are going to be able to do with our corners because of their size and speed."

Cornerbacks at a Glance
Front Runners
Walt Aikens (BC) (R-So., 6-1, 200)
Ron Hobby (FC) (R-Jr., 5-9, 185)
KaJuan Lee (FC) (R-Sr., 5-11, 190)

Contenders
Kevin Fogg (Jr., 5-10, 185)
Kenny Scott (R-Fr., 5-10, 170)

Up-and-Comers
Lewis Bailey (So., 5-9, 190)
Sorie Bayoh (R-So., 5-7, 165)
Pierre Hawkes (Jr., 5-10, 170)

Safeties
The safety position returns all but one key player from last year's roster. In addition, the coaching staff has added additional depth with some newcomers to the program.

Larry Claiborne is the lone safety not returning, as the would-be senior had to leave the program following a personal hardship. Claiborne had a career year in 2010 at free safety, finishing fifth on Liberty's roster with 40 tackles (25 solo and 15 assisted), to go along with three pass breakups.

Brandon Robinson will now look to lead this group from his weak-side safety position. "Brandon has been a solid player for us for several years now, commented Rocco. "He is the type of player that I expect to walk out on "Day One" of training camp ready to start."

Last season, Robinson played opposite of Claiborne and behind Brent Vinson. Robinson seems ready to assume the starting role now with Vinson being reassigned to the "adjuster" position this upcoming season. In 11 games, Robinson recorded 29 tackles and three pass breakups.

Backing up Robinson at weak safety will be Chris Mayo, who certainly excelled for the Flames in his first season after coming to Liberty from football powerhouse Fork Union.

"Chris played a lot last year and has done nothing but get better since joining the program," commented Rocco about the player who finished the year tied for seventh on the team with 37 tackles.

With the departure of Claiborne, the free safety position will be up for grabs during August training camp, with Jeffrey Henderson and Jacob Hagen being the front runners. Adding additional depth at this position could be freshman newcomer Andrew Jauch
Henderson, the older brother of quarterback Gabe Henderson, transferred to Liberty from North Carolina Central and had to sit out last year. He has one year of eligibility left. "Jeffrey was a two-year starter at safety for North Carolina Central, so he brings a level of experience with him and to this group," added Rocco.

"Jacob Hagen is a player that I think is going to be fantastic. He is a big and talented athlete with a long body and the ability to run. If he doesn't end up a safety, he has the makeup to play outside linebacker," stated Rocco. "Andrew is a young man that we greyshirted and have brought him in at the midyear. He started at corner, but we are going to move him to safety where we can look at him this spring."

A late summer addition to the Flames' roster came just before training camp opened when former Georgia Tech defensive back Ryan Ayers decided to transfer to Liberty. Ayers redshirted last season at Georgia Tech and will be looking to make a slight position adjustment with the Flames. Because of Liberty's depth at cornerback, Ayers, a Top 25 ranked Georgia recruit out of high school, will have his best chance to impact Liberty's depth chart at safety.

Safeties at a Glance
Front Runners
Jacob Hagen (FS) (R-Fr., 6-2, 205)
Jeffrey Henderson (FS) (R-Sr., 6-2, 205)
Brandon Robinson (WS) (Sr., 6-1, 180)

Contenders
Ryan Ayers (R-Fr., 5-9, 175)
Andrew Jauch (Fr., 6-1, 195)
Chris Mayo (So., 5-11, 195)

Up-and-Comers
Kirby Anderson (Fr., 5-10, 170)
Darec Brooks (Fr., 6-0, 215)
Aaron Dial (R-So., 5-11, 200)
D.J. Edmond (R-Fr., 6-1, 210)
Miles Hunter (Fr., 5-10, 190)