Donald Manns is the lone senior scheduled to start in Liberty's defensive backfield for the 2010 season.
Throughout the month of August, LibertyFlames.com will be running previews of each position on the Flames' roster as part of its Countdown to Kickoff coverage, leading up to the home opener against St. Francis, Pa., on Sept. 4. The web site's position previews continue today with a look at Liberty's defensive backs, as we try to prepare you for Saturday's defensive Flames Football Preview Show on Victory FM (88.3 FM at 1 p.m.). Liberty's defensive backfield could be key to an altered defensive scheme for the Flames in 2010, as head coach Danny Rocco has made some adjustments because upon this position's speed. Defensive Backs Speed is the key to Liberty's new "adjuster" linebacker position as well as the backfield, as the new role in Liberty's defensive scheme is going to play right alongside the Flames cornerbacks and safeties. However, Rocco is not worried in the least bit, as he returns considerable experience to Liberty's last line of defense. Rocco will first look to the senior leadership of Donald Manns, a player who has been with the program for the last five years. After sitting out the 2008 campaign because of an injury, Manns returned to play in 10 of 11 games last year and post 18 tackles. "Donald has had a great career here at Liberty," commented Rocco. "He got hurt two years ago with a severe ankle injury, but he has put all of that behind him and he is getting better every time he steps on the field. We are certainly excited to see what he can do with his senior year." Manns will be stationed at what Rocco is calling a "boundary corner" on one side of the field, while returning all-conference selection KaJuan Lee will be roaming the opposite side of the gridiron at "field corner." "KaJuan is coming off a great sophomore season and we are only looking for things to get better for him in 2010," added Rocco. Lee caught national attention last year as a sophomore, finishing the year with five interceptions, which ranked No. 19 nationally in interceptions per contest (0.45). As a team, Liberty finished the year with 17 interceptions, which ranked No. 16 in the country, and in turn helped the Flames lead the nation in turnover margin (+1.91). Playing behind Manns and Lee will be a pair of sophomores in Ron Hobby and Kevin Fogg. Hobby only saw time in two games after transferring from Pittsburgh, but Rocco is looking for him to contribute much more in 2010 saying, "Ron is a very good cover corner with good hands and he is one of many players who had a good spring." Fogg on the other hand gained valuable experience in all 11 games last year, finishing the season with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, which he picked up in the end zone to score his first collegiate touchdown against VMI. "Kevin is a good athlete," stated Rocco, "who has the combination of speed and physical type of play that you need to play an outside position." Hobby is slated to back up Lee at the "field corner," with Fogg behind Manns at "boundary corner." Adding depth at the outside cornerback positions will be newcomers Kenny Scott and Sorie Bayoh. "Kenny is another local product, who had a good high school track career," said Rocco. "He should bring a great deal of speed to this position." On the inside, Rocco will be looking for leadership from Larry Claiborne and Brandon Robinson, two players who will be looking to take over after the graduation of Chris Rocco. Rocco was Liberty's No. 3 defender in 2009, as the Academic All-America safety finished with 57 tackles and three pass break-ups. "The safety position is going to be held down by Larry Claiborne and Brandon Robinson," commented Rocco. "Both are juniors and should give us great play out of this position during the next two years." Claiborne was the third-best tackler among the defensive backs in 2009, finishing the year with 39 stops, including 20 solo tackles and an interception. "Larry played a lot of football for us last year at safety," commented Rocco. "Brandon, on the other hand, will be looking to make a slight adjustment, as he played mostly cornerback for us in 2009." Robinson saw playing time in all 11 games, finishing with 22 stops, including 77 percent of the solo variety (17-of-22). He also added two tackles for loss, an interception and three pass break-ups. Behind Robinson and Claiborne will be several individuals looking to pick up playing time, including the likes of D.J. Edmond, Chris Mayo and Jacob Hagen. "Overall, I'm very pleased with the returning players we have on defense and especially in the defensive backfield," stated Rocco. "We've got great speed at this position, which is going to allow us to do a lot of things this year." Defensive Backs at a Glance Front Runners BCB - Donald Manns (R-Sr., 5-9, 185) WS - Brandon Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 165) FS - Larry Claiborne (R-Jr., 6-0, 190) FCB - KaJuan Lee (R-Jr., 6-0, 185)
Contenders D.J. Edmond (R-Fr., 6-1, 200) Kevin Fogg (So., 5-10, 175) Ron Hobby (R-So., 5-10, 180)
Up-and-Comers Sorie Bayoh (R-Fr., 5-7, 165) Aaron Dial (R-Fr., 5-11, 200) Jacob Hagen (Fr., 6-3, 195) Jeffrey Henderson (R-Jr., 6-0, 190) Jason Kollock (Fr., 5-10, 220) Chris Mayo (R-Fr., 5-11, 205) Thomas Nelson (R-So., 6-1, 205) Kenny Scott (Fr., 5-10, 165)
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