2019 Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Backs
2018 was not very kind to the Georgia State defensive backfield. Injuries took away star corner Jerome Smith and limited cornerback Cedric Stone to just 3 games, forcing defensive coordinator Nate Fuqua to play more freshmen than he likely intended to. While admirable in their efforts, the Panthers were young, and it was very apparent that the secondary was not as stout as originally expected. As a team, the unit gave up 13 passing yards per catch and 238.5 passing yards per game. The total numbers don’t get much better. The Panthers allowed a 73% opponent completion percentage, gave up 26 touchdowns and came down with only 6 interceptions, which placed them near the bottom of the pack for Sun Belt defenses.
It’s unfair to put the entire weight of Georgia State’s defensive struggles on the secondary – ultimately, the unit had a tough time getting the job done, but it was an incredibly young unit. Freshmen Quavian White, Tyler Gore, Chris Bacon and Jacorey Crawford each were called upon to play significant minutes for the Panthers, each playing at least 9 games. Redshirt sophomore Trey Chapman contributed as well to the Panther youth movement, playing in 10 games himself. While the performance wasn’t stellar, it is easy to see why the Panthers struggled so much in the secondary given just how young a lot of the players were.
One of the few bright spots for the secondary was the play of redshirt junior Remy Lazarus. After Smith went down due to injury, Lazarus was tasked with filling in as the captain of the defensive backfield. During his time leading the secondary, Lazarus proved himself to be a very capable safety, leading the entire defense with 42 solo tackles. He also notched two pass deflections in coverage and usually forced opposing quarterbacks to look in other directions. Lazarus returns in 2019 for his redshirt senior season, and should see the majority of starts at the strong safety position.
It will certainly be a tough task for the Panthers secondary to change their perception from a year ago. Another year of Lazarus and the continued development of White, Gore, Bacon, and Crawford, as well as the return of Stone, should provide some stability to a group that saw a revolving door in 2018. Also every freshman who had significant playing time a year ago has gained invaluable experience which should help remove some of the pressure and expectation from their shoulders. The key for the 2019 Panthers is going to fall on health – if the Panthers can stay healthy and limit the number of true freshmen they have to play, that would go a long way to improving their secondary and overall defense.