Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said there were no defensive players who have surprised him with their camp performance, but he did single out three players for their improved play.
“I think that I’ve seen guys individually get better,” he said. “(End/outside linebacker) Jachai Polite, for example, is a guy who has flashed for me. Even the corners, between CJ (Henderson) and Marco (Wilson), really have bought in and tried to do the things the way we want and worked to improve their skill set. I would say as a group, I’ve been pleased with how we’ve moved forward.
“Polite has done a good job. He’s got some ability, he’s got some edge rush to him. He’s understanding the value of going hard all the time and playing that way. I certainly look forward to getting him on the field next Saturday and watching him play.”
Three players have made a move at the two safety spots that were considered wide open heading into camp.
“First of all (Donovan) Stiner, young guy that I’ve seen really progress, has shown the ability to tackle in space and continues to get better,” Grantham said. “Jeawon Taylor is a guy who’s played both spots. Brad Stewart has played both spots for us.
“(Those guys) have really kind of shown up and done the things we’ve asked them to do.”
Dean in the rotation
True freshman cornerback Trey Dean has followed up a solid spring with an impressive camp and has put himself in a position to play this season
“Trey’s going to play,” Grantham said. “Trey will be in a rotation. He’s really competitive. He’s got good size, he’s got all the skill sets you want in a corner. He’s really worked to improve the fundamentals and understanding leverages and why they’re important.
“He’s probably one of the most competitive guys I’ve been around. I think that’s allowed him to excel early and we’re certainly going to play him this year and get him in the rotation to help us.”
After seeing spot duty last season as true freshmen, defensive tackles T.J. Slaton and Elijah Conliffe are expected to play a major role this season.
Both have lost weight and gained strength since the spring.
“They’ve made strides,” Grantham said. “If you were to say on day one from spring to now, they are completely different players. They worked at perfecting their craft.
“To be an all-around player, you have to do (the right things) not only on the field, but with your nutrition, in the weight room. You are not going to feel great every day, but you have to push yourself through.
“Those guys have done a good job at working to make that incline to be the kind of players they want to be and we want them to be.”