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2016 Red Raider Football Position Preview - Defensive Backs

We start to look at the different position groups for your Red Raiders. First up are the defensive backs.

The defensive back position is one of the deepest on the team by pure quantity, with 19 players on the official site listed as a DB. It is a very young group of players, with only 3 seniors in the mix, but it is also an experienced group, with most of the predicted starters returning from heavy action last year.


The official 2-deep published by the team was slightly interesting as 2 of the 4 DB positions had an OR listed. This most likely indicates that the spot is still heavily contested and will not be decided until after camp concludes.


Justis Nelson (Jr) or

Tevin Madison (So)

Free Safety

Starter: Jah'Shawn Johnson (Fr)

2nd string: Payton Hendrix (Fr)

Strong Safety

Keenon Ward (Jr) or

J.J. Gaines (Sr)


Starter: Nigel Bethel II (So)

2nd String: D.J. Polite-Bray (Jr)

Key Returning Starter

The 2 players competing to start at SS have the most experience of the group and it will be interesting to see who wins that battle going into opening day. After starting and playing in the first 10 games of 2014, Gaines is returning from season-ending shoulder surgery, and Ward was 4th on the team last year in tackles, despite missing 2 games as well.

Player to Watch

Jah'Shawn Johnson (RS-FR) is currently penciled in as one of the 2 starting safeties. This is big since he was a backup corner for 4 games last year before his season was over due to shoulder surgery, and now watches 2 veterans compete for the other safety spot. At only 5-10 and 179, he is lighter than the other safeties, but was a highly touted recruit out of Ennis just one year ago with lots of interest from other Big 12 schools.

Biggest Question Mark

How will such a young secondary perform, and can they handle the highly potent Big XII passing attack? Did the experience of the corners getting thrown right into the fire last year help with their development? The secondary is a very athletic group, and definitely has the ability to get the ball back to the offense.

Key Stat

After yielding over 250 passing yards per game in 2014, and learning a new scheme under a new coordinator, what kind of improvement will we see? Last year there were only 6 interceptions as well, which should definitely change under Gibbs' scheme that touts turnovers.

Next Up:

Ryan looks at the linebackers