Lukas Moore --
Early in the 2018 season the Bobcats secondary was under heavy scrutiny. Both Virginia and UMass had record-breaking performances through the air, and the Bobcats looked like wet paper towels when trying to tackle receivers in space. It was an athletic secondary that looked overwhelmed in the early parts of the season. As the season wore on, the talent started to come through. The secondary began creating turnovers, and looked fantastic in coverage.
The secondary led the turnaround for a defense that finished 2nd in points allowed in MAC play, and no unit returns as much talent as the Ohio secondary. The Bobcats return three starters and six other players who contributed in 2018. If the secondary can pick up right where it left off, the Bobcats defense has some real potential. It'll be the job of new defensive coordinator Ron Collins to find the best rotation for Ohio's secondary from a lot of options.
The Bobcats secondary was graded as a unit at 90.7 overall in 2018, good for 4th in the MAC, with a grade of 82.4 for run defense which ranked 6th in the conference. The secondary's best grade was in coverage with a 90.9, this ranked 4th in the MAC. As a unit the Bobcats graded as an above average secondary in the MAC, despite the horrendous start.
Javon Hagan - RS Sr - 6'1 210 - PFF Grade: 80.5
Arguably the best NFL prospect on the Bobcats roster, Hagan was named captain for the third time in his career. He is the lynchpin of the entire Ohio defense, if Hagan is clicking the defense seems to follow. He was first-team All-MAC a year ago and has found his way on numerous preseason watch lists. He recorded two interceptions and recovered a fumble a year ago and added 78 tackles.
PFF graded Hagan well for his performance in 2018, he was inconsistent early in the season, which dragged the overall grade down. But, his grade doesn't reflect his potential, which is through the roof. If Hagan puts it all together in his senior season he will be the best defensive back in the conference and put the NFL on notice.
Jarren Hampton - RS Jr - 5'11 190 - PFF Grade: 74.1
Kylan Nelson was a crucial part of the Ohio secondary a year ago, but his graduation gives Hampton a big opportunity in his RS Jr season. Hampton is the second-highest graded returnee in the Ohio secondary. He started the first game of the season last year when Hagan was out with injury.
In limited snaps as the backup safety, Hampton tied for the team lead by intercepting two passes. Hampton is also a former walk-on, and safety is a great position to have that walk-on edge. I expect Hampton to be an effective piece in the Ohio secondary.
Ilyaas Motley - RS Jr - 6' 175 - PFF Grade: 73.9
Motley was able to make one interception a season ago in a backup role at cornerback. But he is the highest graded corner returning for Ohio according to PFF. Despite this The Athens Messenger lists Motley as the current backup behind Jamal Hudson and Marlin Brooks. Even if Motley doesn't start, that third corner gets plenty of important snaps on passing downs, and he will have a chance to prove himself as the season moves along.
There won't just be one Motley to keep an eye on in the Ohio secondary. Although Ilyaas' twin brother Xavior found time on the field, he did not meet the PFF snap count minimum to be properly graded. But, Xavior is currently listed as the 4th cornerback according to The Athens Messenger meaning both will be important pieces in a deep Ohio secondary.
Jamal Hudson - Jr - 6' 197 - PFF Grade: 70.2
Outside of Javon Hagan, Hudson has received the most preseason praise from pundits and watch lists in the Bobcats secondary. This is because of Hudson's raw talent. He contributed to the Ohio secondary as a true freshman and has the athletic ability to dominate MAC receivers. He recorded one interception a year ago, and will have many important coverage assignments this season.
PFF, however, doesn't exactly grade Hudson as high as his preseason hype would suggest. Although a 70.2 grade is passable from Hudson and was good enough to keep him in the starting lineup, it's not where Ohio needs him to be. If Hudson can up his game and take that leap he's capable of, Ohio's secondary will take the leap with him.
Marlin Brooks - Jr - 5'10 167 - PFF Grade: 69.6
This guy came into camp absolutely shredded, Brooks appears to have a 10-pack, and looks like a dominant athlete. This athletic ability is why Brooks has been contributing for Ohio since he was a true freshman. Brooks started seven games a year ago, and is expected to start plenty more for the Bobcats in '19.
Brooks wasn't too far behind his cornerback counterpart Hudson in terms of PFF grading. If Brooks can make a jump along with Hudson, than the Ohio secondary might be the best in the MAC.
The potential is certainly present in the Ohio secondary, combine that with some of the proven results this group produced down the stretch in '18 and there is real reason to be excited. This secondary can be an elite unit, and if they become that, Ohio's defense will most likely elevate with them.