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Projected starters

21 | Caesar Williams; 6-0; 188; Jr.; Grand Prairie, Texas

1 | Faion Hicks; 5-10; 185; So.; Miami


5 | Rachad Wildgoose; 5-11; 197; So.; Miramar, Fla.

8 | Deron Harrell; 6-2; 182; So.; Denver

The rest

4 | Donte Burton; 5-10; 180; Fr.; Loganville, Ga.

11 | Alexander Smith; 5-11; 182; Fr.; Culver City, Calif.

26 | Travian Blaylock; 5-11; 200; Fr.; Humble, Texas

27 | Christian Volpentesta; 5-9; 185; Jr.; Highland Park, Ill.

6 | Dean Engram; 5-9; 164; Fr.; Columbia, Md.

24 | James Williams; 5-10; 182; Fr.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

20 | Semar Melvin; 5-11; 166; Fr.; Pembroke Pines, Fla.

36 | Kobe Knaak; 5-9; 189; Jr.; Franklin


Projected starters

9 | Scott Nelson (above); 6-2; 204; So.; Detroit

2 | Reggie Pearson; 5-10; 197; Fr.; Inkster, Mich.


25 | Eric Burrell; 6-0; 195; Jr.; Severn, Md.

18 | Collin Wilder; 5-10; 194; Jr.; Katy, Texas

31 | Madison Cone; 5-9; 182; Jr.; Kernersville, N.C.

The rest

19 | John Torchio; 6-1; 205; Fr.; Lafayette, Calif.

30 | Tyler Mais; 6-1; 196; So.; Waunakee

12 | Titus Toler; 5-11; 192; Fr.; Long Beach, Calif.

38 | Dante Caputo; 5-11; 181; Fr.; Pittsburgh


Every cornerback returns from a group that saw six players start at least one game last season. Caesar Williams, Faion Hicks, Rachad Wildgoose and Deron Harrell all could make a good case as a regular starter, while plenty more promising talents are pushing for snaps behind them. Safety also stands out as a deep group. Eric Burrell may continue to challenge Reggie Pearson for a starting role alongside Scott Nelson. Houston transfer Collin Wilder should play a role after sitting out last season, and Madison Cone will help in nickel packages after moving from cornerback to safety this offseason.


The cornerbacks, who mostly played well down the stretch last season, go up a level as a group and become a strength of the team. Nelson and Pearson fit well together as a pair, and competition from Burrell and Wilder push them to improve further. Cone makes a smooth transition and finds a role in the defense.


The cornerbacks, still a relatively young group, don’t progress as expected and put together an up-and-down season. A starting role comes too soon for Pearson, who experiences some growing pains. Wilder shows some rust after nearly two years away from the field, and Cone never quite fits in as a safety.


0 | Amount of senior defensive backs on the roster.

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