TSU secondary still strong despite losses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Sports Editor

Losing three top defensive backs during the season would send any college coach in America into something of a panic.

But even with the loss of surprising freshman Derrick Ansley, potential all-Southland League performer Rayshun Reed and a solid free safety in Travis Bozeman, the Troy State defense has still found ways to make the plays needed to win games.

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TSU head coach Larry Blakeney says the play of his front seven has plenty to do with his

defense overcoming the losses in the secondary.

"I’ve been a pleasant surprise the way our line and our linebackers have been playing this year," he said. "Nick Colbert and Jimmy McClain have had excellent seasons and Naazir Yamini has stepped into the Mike linebacker spot this year and hasn’t missed a beat."

Yamini, a sophomore from Atlanta, leads the team in tackles with a total of 98, including nine for a loss of 45 yards. He also leads the team in sacks with six. Close behind is fellow linebacker McClain with 83 tackles.

Despite the three big losses in the defensive backfield, Blakeney remains pleased with the play of his secondary.

"Chris Archie, David Philyaw and Derrick Jackson all had great games against Stephen F. Austin last week, but we are about as thin as we can be in the defensive backfield," Blakeney said. "We can’t afford any more injuries back there."

Jackson has been a starter at right corner since the season began, Archie moved into Bozeman’s role at free safety following the Nicholls State game, while Philyaw replaced Reed at left corner, when the sophomore tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee.

Philyaw, the brother of former Troy State wide receiver Mareno Philyaw, has a nose for the football and proved it earlier in the season, while playing the role of "gunner" on the Trojans’ punt team. The 5-foot-9, 185 pound cornerback is consistently the first man down the field making the tackle on an opposing team’s punt returner.

Philyaw said moving into a starting role on the Trojans’ defense hasn’t been that great of adjustment.

"I’ve worked in the defensive backfield for just about the entire season, so there isn’t that much pressure on me. I’ve played nickel back in passing situations and the coaches substituted me in earlier this year at corner to get some game experience," said Philyaw.

Philyaw picked off his first pass of the season last week in the final minutes of the Trojans 6-0 win at Stephen F. Austin. However, the ball was thrown deep on fourth and long and had the sophomore corner simply batted the ball down the Troy State offense would have taken over at the SFA 32 yard line, instead of their own 35.

But a defensive back’s instinct is to go for the football and a lot of the times on the field, instinct is all you can rely on.

"I wasn’t thinking about a fourth down situation when he (SFA quarterback Wes Pate) threw it," said Philyaw. "I just wanted the ball. I had the opportunity to get it so I took it."

The next test awaiting the newly revamped Trojans’ secondary is McNeese State.

"We are going to have to control the line of scrimmage and put points on the board, whether it’s field goals or safetys," said Philyaw. "I’d like to see another shut out. If we shut them out they can’t win. That’s what I’m looking for."

But the one thing that stands out the most about Cowboys’ quarterback Slade Nagle, especially if you’re a defensive back at Troy State, is Nagles’ interception total.

He’s thrown 16 balls this season to players that are not on his team.

Which is something

not lost on Philyaw and his teammates in the secondary.

"He’s (Nagle) got a pretty strong arm," said Philyaw, then paused and added with a laugh. "But that’s a lot of interceptions."