CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (SEMO) - The Southeast Missouri secondary is working to keep the defense off the field in its preparation for the upcoming 2010 season.
In 2009, Southeast's opponents converted on third down 51 percent of the time. As a result, the Redhawk defense ranked ninth in the Ohio Valley Conference in third down situations.
Southeast cornerbacks coach Kenny Wilhite says that has to change this season.
"Our biggest key is getting off the field on third down. We struggled with that last year," said Wilhite.
Southeast lost its top two cover men in Eddie Calvin and Salim Powell. Calvin and Powell were both four-year players on the Redhawk defense.
Seniors Abraham Woodard and Aaron Grimes currently have the edge at cornerback. Neither have started a game in their Southeast careers.
Last season, Woodard registered 11 tackles in eight games, while Grimes recorded eight tackles and one forced fumble in seven contests.
"Abraham and Aaron are doing a good job," said Wilhite. "They have experience and they're fun to watch."
Juniors Kris Cottner, Cory Holmes and Kweku Arkorful are also right in the mix at cornerback.
Cottner played in all 11 contests and finished with three tackles a year ago.
Holmes, who did not play in 2009, returns to the secondary. He last saw action when he played in two games during the 2008 campaign.
Arkorful spent the last two years at Rock Valley College. Prior to that, he was a walk-on at OVC rival Murray State in 2007.
Juniors Jaren Butler and Sheldon McCullough, and freshman Bradley Montgomery are the other corners.
Butler was a two-time All-Golden Gate Conference selection at Los Medanos Junior College and Montgomery redshirted at Jackson State in 2009.
McCullough moved to cornerback after initially joining the team as a running back. He was enrolled at Southeast, but did not play football a year ago.
At free safety, Southeast senior Bryan Blanfort will miss the 2010 season due to a knee injury.
Redshirt-sophomores Tylor Brock and Branden Spann are battling to fill the void.
Brock had 11 tackles in 10 games and scored a touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone during his Southeast debut vs. Quincy on Sept. 3.
Meanwhile, Spann posted eight tackles in five games.
Freshman Kyle Blocker will also help at free safety.
Seniors Taylor West and Aris Bowen are the lead candidates at the rover position.
West played in seven games and started three in 2009. He registered 11 tackles, including a season-high four at then-No. 23 Cincinnati on Sept. 12.
Bowen started eight games and ranked fourth on the team with 65 tackles. He also had two interceptions, both of which came in consecutive games (vs. Austin Peay, at Tennessee Tech).
The rest of the safeties include freshmen Matt Starks, Tamaris Surdock, Jordan Solomon and Ryan Restemayer.
Starks garnered All-Conference honors at Lone Oak High School in Paducah, Ky., while Surdock was an All-Conference honoree at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, Calif.
Solomon, who recently moved to safety from running back, returned a fumble 87 yards for a touchdown on the final play of Southeast's intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 14.
Restemayer was a First-Team All-Conference pick at Sullivan High School.
"We have to be disciplined," said Wilhite. "We are stressing technique, tackling and reading our keys. If we do those things, we'll be a good secondary."