Competition in secondary has created more options for Wildcat defense


    Relentless competition at several positions has created a shakeup in the depth chart for the Wildcat defense, as coach Ron Prince has decided to make a number of starting lineup changes for tonight’s game at Louisville, including two in the secondary.
    Sophomore Josh Moore and junior Chris Carney are still solid at their respective cornerback and safety positions, but junior Courtney Herndon will line up at strong safety and senior Ray Cheatham will start at cornerback.
    “I think guys like Courtney Herndon have improved enough to the point where their play on the field would dictate that we need to get them into the mix a little more,” Prince said. “Being able to see that we’ve got some players that are very close to being able to break into the lineup shows they just need to get snaps.
    “We believe they’re going to play well in the game. That’s why we made those moves.”
    Herndon made the most of his snaps last game against Montana State, recording an interception and also returning a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown. With his play, Herndon became the third Wildcat in as many years to win a national award. He was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week.
    Herndon said he’s embracing the opportunity to start in a nationally televised game.
    “I just know I’m going to be anxious to play and a little nervous at the beginning, but once I get settled I’ll be alright,” Herndon said. “In the previous years I haven’t contributed much to the team and I can’t do this forever, so I’m going to try to give all I have left.”
     With the emergence of junior college transfers and returning players stepping up to make plays for the secondary this year, Carney said the relationship between the defensive backs is a lot better than it was at any point last season.
    “Its definitely a lot tighter than last year, we are more of a family-feel this year,” Carney said. “In the locker room we are a little more vocal towards each other, and it just helps with the communication on the field.”
    After playing in all the games last season and recording 31 tackles, Cheatham lost an intense preseason battle to Blair Irvin for the starting cornerback job opposite Moore.
    Prince said he has noticed how Cheatham had continually been pushing Irvin during practice, and he believes the competition is helping the team in the long run.
    “We have guys like Ray Cheatham who has been here for a while and who has given the guy in front of (him) a good run for it, and as long as we have that kind of competition, I think we can be an improved team,” Prince said. “We need to have that kind of defensive depth at the end of the year.”