With the advent of the spread offenses in college football, matching up and covering on the back-end has become more important than ever.
Secondaries also have to be versatile enough to handle the many different personnel groupings and formations that opposing offenses will throw at them. When you look at the Richmond Spiders, and subsequently their secondary, it becomes clear that they don't just get it, they thrive.
One major reason why is the presence of cornerbacks coach and defensive pass game coordinator Rod West.
West is entering his third season with the Spiders, having spent the first two seasons coaching the dime backs. Success has followed West wherever he has been. Whether it was as a starting cornerback at Alabama State, or coaching all-conference performers at Morehead State, Texas A&M-Commerce and Chattanooga, West gets results.
And it’s not just about coaching players to garner individual success, the pass defense as a whole has improved significantly at all three stops. That improvement isn’t by happenstance, it’s the result of his process.
West outlined his non-negotiables at the position during a recent conversation.
Congrats to @Djoness_10 for earning @CAAFootball Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention!— Richmond Football (@SpiderFootball) July 23, 2019
1️⃣5️⃣4️⃣ tackles last two years
7️⃣ interceptions last two years
1️⃣ of 3️⃣ team captains this year for 🕷🏈#OneRichmond pic.twitter.com/q3asvfgIma
“Defensive backs have to have a fundamental skill set, and we work every day on our ‘ABC’s: agility drills, ball drills and contact drills.” West explained. “Every drill we incorporate is with the purpose of developing one of these skills.”
Last season, at the Fordham game, and saw the Spiders' secondary ace their ‘spelling test’ so to speak, as they routed the Rams 52-7. In that game, both Dionte Austin and Samari Springs picked off passes and had five tackles each. Corner Markus Vinson also finished with five tackles. Senior safety Daniel Jones was in on a pair of pass breakups and three tackles, himself.
Needless to say, it was a banner day for the secondary, following Coach West’s non-negotiables for excellent, consistent play.
Speaking of the Spiders secondary, it’s hard to ignore the way they are constructed as a unit.
It’s one thing to have size and length, it’s another thing to play with size and length. The Spiders have both on the backend. CB Markus Vinson is the “smallest” defensive back at 5-11, 180 pounds—everyone else is at least 6-1. This poses a problem for opposing quarterbacks because it shrinks passing windows, and forces a quarterback to be consistent with his placement of the ball, and deadly accurate.
It’s very hard to throw around taller defensive backs, and Richmond has an abundance of riches at that position.
The development of senior Trent Williams has been a great thing for this secondary, as the 6-2, 185-pound Chester, Va., native blossomed last season—his first as a full-time starter—seeing starts at both corner and safety. Williams finished with 42 tackles, an interception, and six pass breakups, which was second on the team.
West was a big reason for the jump in Williams’ play, as he has a great way of instilling competitive confidence into his players. He spoke on coaching what he calls his “3 Cs of Cornerback Play,” which are confidence, competition, and composure.
“I’m convinced that you can’t be a good DB without these three traits. Everyone talks about the physical attributes, but this is our foundation.” West describes. “Confidence comes from documented success over a period of time. We compete at everything we do, in every endeavor of life; competition is not a part-time thing. And when it comes to composure, we have one simple motto, ‘no matter how bad any situation seems, never panic.’”
The unit also gets a big time addition in graduate transfer Brandon Feamster (6-3, 205), who comes over from Duke.
Feamster started seven games last year for the Blue Devils, capping off his career with an interception in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. He’s a big, physical corner that shows strength in run support. So, he already understands the philosophy of Coach West’s 'ABCs' of the position and should be an immediate impact player for the Spiders.
West shows an ability to get quick buy-in from his players, both the ones he coaches and the ones he’s able to reach on the recruiting trail. When you combine those traits as a coach, and his ability to teach scheme, from back-to-front, it won’t be long before you start to hear his name mentioned for future coordinator or head coaching opportunities.
Rod West is a rising star in the coaching ranks.