Defensive Backs Could Lead Stout Choctaw Defense in 2011

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CLINTON, MS - In the coming weeks, we will take a chance to preview each position on the field for the Choctaws as we head toward the season opening "Backyard Brawl" on September 3rd against Millsaps.  We invite MC fans to take a look and get more acclimated with the 2011 group of Choctaws.

The schedule will be as follows:

Quarterbacks – August 15th
Running Backs – August 16th
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends – August 17th
Offensive Line – August 18th
Defensive Line – August 19th
Linebackers – August 20th
Secondary – TODAY
Special Teams – TOMORROW
Offense – August 24th
Defense – August 25th
Overall – August 26th

When you look for accolades on the defensive side of the ball, you don't have to look any further than the safety position for the Choctaws.  Senior Dustin Retherford (Pace, FL, Pace High School) is the only returning All-ASC performer from a season ago and senior Luke Petitto (Amite, LA, Oak Forest Academy) earned All-Region honors last season and has been selected as a preseason All-American by the D3 Senior Classic.

Retherford finished third on the team in 2010 with 48 tackles, including 27 solo stops.  Dustin had his best game of the season with three interceptions and a pass breakup in a victory over Howard Payne.  For his efforts, Retherford was named ASC Defensive Player of the Week and earned an Honorable Mention All-ASC selection.

Petitto stands as Retherford's running mate in the defensive backfield and comes off of a breakout season in 2010.  Luke led the Choctaws with five interceptions and finished second on the team with 64 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss.  Petitto recorded double-digits in tackles in two games and earned a Second Team All-South Region selection by despite not earning an All-Conference selection.

Defensive Coordinator Chad Walker discussed his senior safeties, "Luke is as tough as they come.  He is a hard-nose player in the backfield and leads the defense vocally and emotionally.  Dustin is a solid football player and you can expect him to be in the right spot at the right time.  I've stepped into a good situation having two senior leaders at the safety position."

While the Choctaws have two seniors at safety, they also have depth provided by some experience and youth.  Junior Horace Allen (Vicksburg, MS, Vicksburg High School) played in nine games for the Choctaws last season and finished fourth on the team with 39 tackles.  Allen will be a solid contributor that will help lead the young guys at the position.

Sophomore Dylan Klibert (LaPlace, LA, St. Charles Catholic) and freshman Garrett Horst (Spanish Fort, AL, Spanish Fort High School) have seen a lot of playing time in the preseason and could push for a starting spot against the experienced seniors.  Klibert is a physical player that makes big hits from the defensive backfield.  Horst has been a pleasant surprise in camp as he has pushed his for playing time as a rookie.

The cornerback position boasts one of the top players at the position in the conference in Jarrad Craine (Brandon, MS, Hinds Community College).  The senior finished sixth on the team with 37 tackles and recorded only one interception while quarterbacks were forced to throw the other direction in most cases.  Craine is a solid player that can shut down one side of the field.

Walker commented on Craine, "He has the ability to be really, really good.  He's a solid player that makes the right play and can tackle well on the outside.  He forces the offense to account for his presence and allows the rest of our defense to make plays."

Sophomore Darren Watts (New Orleans, LA, West Jefferson High School) is making the move to corner from the safety position his freshman year.  Watts will give the Choctaws to sizeable corners that will be able to defend the bigger receivers MC will face this season.  Watts played in the final six games of the season last year and recorded 12 tackles.  Darren picked off a pass in the victory over Sul Ross State.

Behind the two returning corners, the Choctaws have several players that are pushing for the backup positions.  Freshman Raeon Jones (Alexandria, LA, Pineville High School) has been impressive in the preseason and will push for significant playing time in his rookie campaign.  Jones was a First Team All-Cenla selection and an All-District performer while picking off five passes and recovering five fumbles as a senior.

The Choctaws have five other freshmen that have shown out in the preseason.  James Barton (Baton Rouge, LA, Redemptorist High School)J.C. Carey (Bossier City, LA, Parkway High School)Dantavion Harris (Minden, LA, Minden High School)Jesse Harris (Dehlco, LA, Louisiana Delta Community College), and Milton Shelton (Minden, LA, Minden High School) have huge upsides as the future of the position.

Coach Walker commented on his young guys, "We have a lot of freshmen that have  a lot of potential at the cornerback position.  They all have great cover skills and once they learn our defense, we will have a formidable group back there.  Some will push for immediate playing time, but I think it will really help them to watch our experienced guys in Craine and Watts.

"For the defensive backfield as a whole, we have some solid starters.  They provide a great deal of leadership for our young guys, and they have bought into our system.  In our returners you have some real playmakers.  I'm also excited about our young guys.  They have a lot of promise and tremendous up-sides as we head toward the season.

Tomorrow we will preview the special teams.