WKU football defensive backs aim to dominate Sun Belt

Lucas Aulbach

Last season the WKU secondary ranked No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference in pass defense.

This year, the Topper defensive backs have even higher goals.

“We’re trying to get 20-plus picks this year – that’s one of the goals,” senior safety Kiante Young said after Friday’s practice. “We’re all trying to be at least top five tackles on the team this year. That’s one of the goals I know a lot of people talk about.”

Cornerbacks and special teams coach Ricky Brumfield said his goals for the group are a little simpler – he just wants the defensive backs to help the Toppers win games.

“I want to get that turnover, we want to get 55 turnovers if we can get it, but our main goal is to win,” Brumfield said. “It’s not to get 20 picks or anything, the idea is to get the ball back to the offense every single time we’re out there. Our goal is to get the ball back to the offense, whether it’s a turnover, fumble or interception or a punt.”

The lofty goals of young and other defensive backs come from the group’s attitude.

Last season the defensive backs went by the nickname “the Air Force,” and the group has a tendency to celebrate when they make big plays as well as get in each other’s faces when things are going wrong.

“The term they like to use is that little ‘swag’ thing or whatever, but they are confident,” Brumfield said. “I think when you think you’re the best a lot of times you’re going to play like the best and we want to kind of walk that line as far as thinking we’re the best, but we don’t wanna be too over-confident to where we don’t have to work.”

The defensive backs backed up their confident attitude with strong play on the field for much of last season. Young had 83 tackles on the year, good for No. 2 on the team, while junior safety Jonathan Dowling had 68 tackles and a team-high six interceptions.

Young said the defensive backs have had so much success thanks to their hard work on the field and in the film room, as well as their respect for each other.

“In the meeting rooms, practice, workouts, we go hard every time we do something,” Young said. “We’re like a big family, we make sure we’re always on each other’s back, so one mistake, somebody’s telling you about it. We take a lot of pride and we try and be the best.”

Senior cornerback Tyree Robinson started in 12 games last season and recorded 52 tackles, goof for No. 5 on the team.

He’s been pleased with the depth he’s seen at defensive back this spring – he said the group doesn’t label itself as second- or third-stringers.

“Everybody’s going to play, everybody’s going to have to know what they’re supposed to do so when one person goes down, we’ve always got to count on the next person to come in and step up,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the group takes pride in their big role in the defense and that has inspired them to work even harder this offseason to prepare for the start of the year.

The 2013-14 football season will kick off on Aug. 31 with a game against Kentucky in Nashville.

“We make ourselves show up 10 minutes early for meetings – don’t bring no cell phones, everybody locks in as soon as we start our meetings and know what’s going on,” Robinson said. “Coach asks us a lot of questions in the meetings and everybody knows them just like that, so everything’s looking good.”