The defense has taken two huge hits to the depth chart in the first half of training camp.
Defensive tackle Regie Meant left the team indefinitely and free safety Darius West will be out for the season with a knee injury. West was competing to be the starting free safety with Blake McClain, leaving a hole in the centerfield of the defense.
In Meant’s case, finding a defensive tackle is difficult, but that’s not the case at free safety.
“It’s been an easy transition for our guys,” defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale said today. “We’ve been moving them around all summer long since camp started, putting guys in different positions — nickel, safety, corner. A lot of these guys have been here awhile, so they know the positions.”
Blake McClain is entering his fourth and final year, starting at the nickel position since his freshman season. Moving to the back of the defense will not be a difficult transition.
“Nickel’s more of like an outside linebacker where I’m blitzing, dropping back into the hook (coverage zone) and guarding people. At safety, I’m just back there roaming so it’s kind of fun,” McClain said.
Clinckscale is pleased with McClain’s play, and his leadership, filling a role West commanded.
“He’s doing a great job for us at safety,” Clinkscale said. “He’s been an unselfish player out here trying to bring everyone together.”
No longer at nickel, finding someone to fill his shoes shouldn’t be difficult either. Mark Stoops isn’t considering trying any of the freshmen at nickel because Kendall Randolph has been formidable through his first two years.
“He’s a good inside player. He’s a lot like Blake. He could play some corner, but he’s more efficient at nickel, dime and safety,” Stoops said.
Stoops said they’ve also used senior J.D. Harmon some at nickel. In Saturday’s scrimmage Harmon played corner, nickel and safety.
No matter which route they take to replace West, flexibility in the secondary will ensure a smooth transition.