Spring Review: Defensive backs

Bonus review: Punters/kickers

Welcome to the final edition of “Spring Review.” Today, we’ll take a look at how the Northern Illinois defensive backs performed during spring football and tell you who came out ahead, which back needs more work and what you can expect during fall camp.

As a bonus, we’ll throw in the punters and kickers at the end and give you a note about tonight’s NIU baseball game at Road Ranger Stadium in Rockford.

Cornerback arguably took the biggest hit in terms of losses to graduation for the Huskies. Bradley Pruitt, Melvin Rice and Chase Carter are all gone and junior Patrick George remains as the only corner left with any experience. George impressed the coaching staff from the start with his improvement in the past few months, prompting NIU coach Jerry Kill to say a couple of weeks into spring ball that George “looks like a pro corner.”

As of now, junior Kiaree Daniels is likely the other starting corner opposite of George. He’s fast but is a little on the small side (listed at 5-10.) After Daniels is Chris Smith, a junior college transfer. The coaches like his athleticism but Smith couldn’t display it because he was injured for most of the spring.

Depth is a concern at corner, and the coaches moved redshirt freshman wide receiver Tommy Davis over to cornerback midway through the spring and Davis looked pretty good but still has to relearn a position he played in high school.

At safety, senior David Bryant and junior Mike Sobol, last year’s starters, return after their first year on the job. Bryant has developed a swagger and improved his ability to make plays on passes. He still delivers the big hits, too.

Sobol hasn’t shown the same improvement and redshirt sophomore Tracy Wilson could take some playing time with the way Wilson has improved. Wilson has gotten better at putting himself in better positions to make plays and reads the game quicker.

Most improved: Patrick George

I wrote before the 2008 season that George’s development was going to be key for 2009 because he will be depended on so much at corner. Consider George a lock to start as he’s improved every facet of his game.

Need to see more: Any corner not named Patrick George or Kiaree Daniels.

I’ll say this, if either George or Daniels have to miss any significant amount of time, the cornerbacks are in trouble.

As for the kickers and punters, Mike Salerno has his job at placekicker set. He turned in an All-MAC-worthy performance last season and should do the same this year.

Punter is the interesting battle and won’t be settled until the final weeks of fall camp. Salerno has experience at punter but junior college transfer Josh Wilber was brought in for a reason. Wilber has a cannon for a leg but has to figure out the wind patterns at Huskie Stadium. Ryan Neir turned in a couple of nice punts that were downed inside the 5-yard line as well.

Incoming recruits: Dominique Ware, Sean Evans, Ryan Salerno (K/P)

Video interview:Patrick George (4-14)

That’s it for the spring reviews. I hope you enjoyed them and that you’re set for the start of fall camp. We’ll continue to have some football coverage over the summer and a few special things on the blog and then it’s time for the season to start. Can you believe it?

Also, I’ll be at tonight’s NIU baseball game against UW-Milwaukee at Road Ranger Stadium in Rockford. You can follow along on our Twitter feed (click on the Twitter box on the right side of this blog.)

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