DB coach Duane Akina evaluates starters, backups through 3 games
Stanford's defensive back unit is a mostly experienced unit with fifth-year seniors Alijah Holder and Alameen Murphy leading the way. Senior safeties Ben Edwards and Frank Buncom are improved from last year and redshirt freshman Paulson Adebo is a rising star at cornerback.
Defensive backs coach Duane Akina spoke with Cardinal Sports Report after practice WEdnesday about how the unit is playing together, and the development of several players who don't see the field much because of how well the starters are doing.
How do you grade out the starters through three games?
"I think we're playing solid ball. Our safeties -- Ben (Edwards), Malik (Antoine) and Frank (Buncom) -- have just been absolutely outstanding in terms of understanding the game plan and executing the game plan through the formational alerts and from the tendencies they're dialed into.
"I think we're getting really good play out of our corners ... but I think what makes it all work is that it's been great team defense. I think the front is playing really well stopping the run and getting us in some third and long. We're getting good pressure on the quarterback, which helps the coverage. And there are times when great coverage helps the pressure. It's all working together.
"Probably for me, since I'm so big on situations, we're really playing great situational defense. Look at last year, the red zone really let us down in the championship. We made a big push with that. We saw how we were in the past couple games in the red zone. We played really well. Last time I looked points still determine the winner, not yards.
"We did a great job in 'sudden change'. We had three sudden change situations and walked out of there with no points. You win the momentum battle, too. We're playing really good team defense. We just have to keep growing and eliminate big plays. Every now and then that's been the Achilles' heel."
How is Obi Eboh doing?
"Obi is doing really good. He's a very solid player. He's in a very competitive situation with Alijah (Holder), Alameen (Murphy) and Paulson (Adebo). He's right on track. He's very solid. He's an outstanding Pac-12 player but those three guys are a little bit ahead of him."
Treyjohn Butler: "Treyjohn played, too, (against UC Davis). Treyjohn is in the same situation as (Eboh). He's battled a little bit of an injury, which has held him back. He was making tremendous progress. You love his speed and his athletic ability. Once again, his time will come but it's a very competitive room."
Coach Anderson told me a couple weeks ago that Kendall Williamson and Ethan Bonner are competing to take advantage of the new redshirt rule and get some playing time at corner. How are they doing?
"I would say they're both going to be outstanding players, too. I think in a lot of programs they'd be playing. We guessed right on both of them. Even Donjae (Logan) he's a little more undersized much like Alijah when he got in. He needs the weight room. He's very explosive. That 24-foot long jump was right. He's a really explosive kid. All three will be playing for us in the future."
Ethan strength is his speed. But what else have you seen from him now that you've had a chance to work with him more?
"He learns very well, which is something you never know. He's very quiet but there is a lot of confidence in there. We had to hold him out of a lot of tackling (in camp) so you didn't know about how his physicality. There have been a couple opportunities that have been presented and I think he has the toughness that you need. That's a high priority for us that we're a physical secondary, set the edges in the run game. He's not just a one-trick pony. He's not just fast. He's going to be a heck of a defensive back."
And how about the newest scholarship player?
"Noah has done a really nice job, too. He's very bright. Him and JJ (Parson). JJ is another one who has really played well. Noah is in there with the safety position and has gotten a lot of opportunities because of Brandon's (Simmons) situation. He really showed that for a young player he has a tremendous amount of upside. He's a scholarship player at a lot of universities. He has been blessed. He got into this great university. He got the golden ticket and he made it even more golden."