Teams had no problem going over the top on us last year. One play that stands out in my mind in particular was the Ohio State touchdown bomb, which if my memory suits me well, was on their first offensive series. For me, that particular play was an indicator of sorts. From that moment on I knew that our pass defense would be an area of immense struggle. Things only got worse when injuries started to pile up.
Hopefully, next year the Bears can turn around their woes at secondary. I still believe Sebastian can be an elite player at the safety position, and I also liked what I saw from our young players who were forced to play early this year, particularly Cameron Walker.
That being said, what will make this situation immensely better in a short period of time is a strong recruiting class for next year. So let's see who we're going after.
Iman Marshall- Long Beach Poly, CB
Poly has produced some of the best athletic talent the college football world has ever seen, and Iman Marshall appears to be next in the line of greats. We offered him early, in April of last year to be exact. He appears to be high on USC, but given the fact that he's a So-Cal recruit, I wouldn't say that we have 0 chance at this guy.
It's pretty early on in the recruiting process, but he's already garnered offers from all the major programs in the country.
Five-star CB Iman Marshall offered by #Florida. Basically everyone has offered this kid.— Adam Gorney (@adamgorney) February 13, 2014
I was thoroughly impressed by just watching the first couple plays. It's rare to see a player who is his size (6'2, roughly 200 lbs), but who has the speed that he has. I love the way Poly uses him. They put him at receiver, and also bring him into run zone read plays as a QB. He truly deserves the title of "Athlete." However, I like him most at corner.
The very fact that he was put at corner is a testament to his speed. Just looking at him, you would think he would make a much better free, or even strong safety. Cornerbacks are generally the fastest guys on your team, and the fact that he plays that position at his size is truly impressive. He reminds me a lot of Richard Sherman; a player who has considerable size, but enough agility and awareness to stay with and effectively cover smaller, shifty receivers. Skip to 1:45. Not the most "eye-opening play," but it shows you that this kid is not just a good athlete, he knows what he's doing at the cornerback position. During this play he identifies the slant route immediately, and is able to cover the defender effectively without committing pass interference. It's a tough route to guard, especially for a high school player.
Skip to 2:00 minutes. I think the receiver he is playing against in this instance is actually pretty good, and puts a great move on him to get him to bite early. Iman showcases his great speed though, and is able to catch up to the receiver at the last second and avoid the touchdown. Thankfully for him the ball was underthrown; still an impressive play nonetheless.
2:55. Iman is playing a wing t option team. He recognizes the option to his side. Watch what he does with the blocker engaging him. Instead of catching him and waiting for the runner to approach him, he uses his size and pushes forward, actively forcing the runner inside of him (that's his duty in this instance, to make sure the play doesn't get outside of him). Even though he's already done his job, Iman is still able to disengage and make an impressive tackle at the last second.
Kendall Sheffield, Missouri City (TX), CB
Deemed the 2nd best corner in the country by ESPN, as well as no. 13 overall player by ESPN, Sheffield will be a tough target for the Bears to acquire in 2014. But boy is it fun to dream. As you may have guessed, Sheffield already possesses offers from the country's premier programs. We offered him last week. Most people will tell you that that offer won't do much because it's unlikely that this kid leaves Texas. Most sources have him going to Texas, and if not UT, then A&M.
A short highlight tape, but the kid is obviously a tremendous play maker with speed to burn. His speed is likely what accounts for his extremely high ESPN rating; I'm sure schools are drooling over that, and if I had to guess, he's probably a low 4.4, maybe high 4.3 already. However, I'm more drawn to his instincts as a corner. Check out 0:47. This is a classic play. Sheffield looks to be in a cover 3. The opposing team tries to get him to bite on the short hitch route, while having another receiver run by him deep. Sheffield doesn't bite on the pump fake, and ends up making an acrobatic interception. Plays like that are game changers. Another great play is 1:40, where Sheffield does a great job of shedding his blocker and making the tackle.
Kris Boyd, Gilmer (TX), CB
Espn top 100 recruit. Another future Longhorn in my mind, but he we also offered him just recently.
I love this kid's physicality. It seems like every play he's aggressively shedding a block or putting a big hit on a ball carrier. Check out 1:10 for a prime example of this. He looks to be lined up as a gunner for punt return. He puts his man on the turf; nothing cheap, all clean, and holds his block effectively throughout the play. Love to see players of this caliber giving it their all on special teams, that's a sign of a good character guy. At 0:22 Boyd puts a massive hit on the ball carrier.
Dechaun Holiday, San Marcos, Safety.
Not as highly touted as his out of state counterparts, Holiday still earned himself a ESPN top 300 ranking. He also is from California, which exponentially increases our chances of actually landing him. Like Iman Marshall, Holiday is roughly 6'2, 200 lbs, but he plays safety instead of CB. We offered him last month, and even though most people have USC being his top choice, I think we're in the running.
#Cal with a late-night offer to four-star DB Dechaun Holiday.— Adam Gorney (@adamgorney) February 14, 2014
Holiday's size really stands out to me on the defensive end. He looks massive, definitely taller than 6'2. His length doesn't encumber his speed though, and he's able to stay with speedy receivers much smaller than him. A lot of these plays have him lining up at corner. One of my favorites is 3:07. You can see here how his size really helps him get those 50/50 balls. 3:15 is also a great play.
Overall Holiday's experience as a receiver clearly helps him play defensive back. I believe it aids him both mentally and physically, in that he not only understands route combinations and what receivers are trying to do, but he also understands how to use his body and size to get in front of people and make athletic plays.