Colonel fans will be hard pressed to find an area of the team that brings back as much experience in 2017 as the secondary. Of the 16 defensive backs, 11 have game experience at EKU. In addition, four of the five primary starters return from last season.
“So far, so good,” co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Shannon Morrison said. “I’ve got a veteran group. I like the way they’re attacking the first couple of days of practice. We have a lot of energy.”
The returning starters are nickel back Ben Bascom, cornerbacks Nigel Bethel and Jared Tucker, and safety Kobie Grace. Kiante Northington, a second team All-Ohio Valley Conference safety a year ago, is the lone starter lost to graduation.
Bascom started seven times and totaled 43 tackles, two sacks and eight pass break-ups. Bethel, a transfer from Texas Tech, had 40 tackles, one interception and six pass break-ups last season. Tucker, a transfer from Kentucky, started six games, had 32 tackles and one interception. Grace was fourth on the team with 57 tackles.
“This group of guys that I am coaching right now are older, so they’ve got to be the leaders of the defense,” Morrison said. “Right now they’re doing that and I’m really pleased with the way they’re leading. I expect to see an experienced group that is going to play with reckless abandon, be aggressive with the ball in the air, play with a lot of energy and be the rock, the cornerstone, of this defense.”
Other returning players with game experience at Eastern include Buck Solomon, Jordan Whitfield, Cornelius Floyd, Tre’ Moore, TJ Comstock, Omari Alexander and Eric Reed.
Solomon started two of the first three games of the season before suffering a season-ending injury. Whitfield missed the entire 2016 season with an injury. He played in all 11 games in 2015 and had 21 tackles. Floyd joined EKU from Arkansas just days before the 2016 season started. He made six starts and had a team-high nine pass break-ups.
AJ Jackson redshirted as a freshman last year. The newcomers include Malik Bell, Kevin Hyde, Bryce Wilson and Zay Yeast.
“We have a couple of guys that played but are coming off injuries, so we’ve got to knock the rust off of those guys,” said Morrison. “You want to make sure before we move on that all these guys know every detail of what we are doing coverage wise.”
The first scrimmage, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been moved to Sunday at 3:45 p.m. All practices are will be held at Roy Kidd Stadium and are open to the public. Those who attend are asked to sit in the stadium seats.
The Colonels will open their 2017 season at Western Kentucky on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET. Eastern’s first home game is slated for Sept. 23 against Tennessee Tech. For season ticket information, contact the EKU Athletics Ticket Office at 844-3-GOBIGE.
The Eastern Kentucky University football program has won two national championships, 21 conference titles and has made 21 playoff appearances. No other Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team has won at least two FCS national titles and 20 or more conference championships.