With talent aplenty, that’s where one of the fiercest position battles of fall camp is taking place each and every afternoon at Beautiful Eagle Creek.
The contenders include last year’s starters, junior Brandon Jackson and sophomore Carson Hill, along with Troy University transfer Henry Chubb and converted running back Ronnie Wiggins.
"We feel good about those guys," said defensive backs coach Keith Hatcher. "We’ve got four, and really any of those could be the starter for us right now. Those guys are really pushing each other, and they don’t know who the starters are going to be. I think that helps us out with motivating them every day to compete against each other for the starting job."
Eagle fans got to see plenty of Jackson last season when he started all 11 games after transferring from Central Michigan. He recorded five interceptions – which tied for the conference lead – and was named to the All-Southern Conference second team.
Like Jackson, Hill also made an immediate impact with the Eagles in 2006, starting six games as a true freshman and finishing with 32 tackles. Coming off of his first college offseason, Hill’s anxious to begin his sophomore year.
"I can’t wait until the lights come on," he said.
Chubb’s arrival this summer further strengthened the position after head coach Chris Hatcher convinced him he’d be a great fit with the Eagles. Chubb knew Hatcher from when he was at Valdosta State, and the junior was eager to move closer to hometown of Waycross.
"I wanted to come and help the program out as much as I can," Chubb said. "It’s a great competition out there, that’s part of football. The best man wins. I’m going to go hard every play, and so is my competitor."
Wiggins, a sophomore, was a late addition to the unit after spending the spring at running back. He’s no stranger to defense after starting six games at nickel back and playing in all 11 games last season. Chubb and sophomore safety Brandon Echols could see time at nickel as well.
Senior J.T. Nash is also in the mix for a starting job at corner but was set back after missing several practices with a banged-up ankle.
"Those (guys) are going after it pretty good, and it’s probably going to come down to the wire to see who’s going to start," said defensive coordinator Ashley Anders.
Hill, who’s been impressed with true freshman Hudson Presume, said the Eagles are working to make each other better for the benefit of the team.
"All of us are going to play, we’re just trying to see who’s going to be on that first-team defense and run out against West Georgia (in the Sept. 8 season opener)," Hill said.
According to Chubb, the Eagles don’t look like a team struggling to adjust to its third defensive scheme in three years.
"We are catching on so quickly, it’s like we already knew the defense," he said. "The coaches are doing a great job teaching us the techniques and steps, and we are going to be fine for the season. We are going to be all right."
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.