Cincinnati thinks they have found the perfect spot for the man of many talents. Though Marcus Foster played two sports in high school and two other positions on the gridiron UC is using him exclusively as a safety.
The Bearcats are very inexperienced at the safety position.
"I think Marcus Foster is really, really developing," said Head Coach Butch Jones Friday. "He is benefiting from graduating early."
Foster slipped into the two deep on the third day of practice. With just Drew Frey returning to the defensive backfield it will be one of the easiest groups to challenge for playing time.
Foster gets to his point of attack quickly, but he doesn't blaze around the field. This could be attributed to his acclimation period. All freshmen play slow at the college level until they learn the playbook.
Once they know what is happening around you start to see speed increase. When Foster puts his speed behind those daunting hits it will be fun to watch. He has a natural tendency to lower the boom on unsuspecting running backs whether it be between the tackles or along the sideline.
"As a freshman you have to think while you are out there, so you are always going to play a little bit slower," said Frey. "Once they start to get used to the playbook then they can translate it to the field. It is pretty opportunistic because even Marcus Foster is coming along."
Foster believed basketball would be his path, but his monumental success on the Troy High School football team opened a new door.
Keys to being great
Safety can be a daunting position, especially for players undergoing the transition from high school to college. Few can contribute early in their career due to the need for both patience and instinct.
"I think the mental aspect of being in the right checks and body position and being great tacklers," said Coach Jones. "Being in the proper pursuit angles and then eye discipline. Everything about playing safety is trusting your reads and then when you trust your reads playing with instincts."
After former University of Cincinnati Associate Head Coach Kerry Coombs left Coach Jones restructured the coaching assignments.
"We have broken it up with Mark Elder coaching the safeties and obviously Shannon (Morrison) is coaching the corners," said Coach Jones. But I think our kids are excited about it. I think they viewed as an opportunity to learn. I think change is good. Bring in some new ideas, some new techniques. I couldn't be more pleased with where we are at."
Frey likes the new coaching situation because of the smaller "class size."
"It is exciting because they (cornerbacks) now get personalized coaching with their own coach," said Frey. "Technique-wise and fundamentally I can see that they have grown so much, whereas the safeties too get personalized attention where we can study safety and nickel technique. It has been a big plus for us."
Cornerback looks pretty good with Camerron Cheatham and Deven Drane ready to go. Chris Williams lines up as a nickel most often. Safety gets a little tricky and the Bearcats will need faith in their recruited youngsters.
"I think we will continue to develop that position," said Coach Jones. "Obviously Drew Frey has played a lot of football for us, but after that nobody has played. It is, 'Who can handle the mass volume of mental reps?' And they have to play with great fundamentals."
Evolving as a safety
Every player on the roster impressed someone on this staff at some point or they wouldn't still be around. Now the freshmen have to climb towards the limits of their potential. Since they are young it is likely they want to get there yesterday.
Who better to advise the young players on capitalizing early in their careers than Drew Frey? Frey is now starting his third straight season and will end his career with nearly fifty games played.
"From a personal experience you just have to go out and make plays," said Frey. "When you get on the field, when you get an opportunity to get on the field as a freshman you have to do something to stand out. Personally what I did was just give 100% effort all the time, so I was flying around. You can do it by making a couple big plays. You can make a pick in a big situation as a freshman. That is going to get you more looks, which will get you more opportunities. The coaches are going to see that."
Nearly the oldest player on the team Drew gave the Cats tackles in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and hopefully 2012.
"Coaches always preach, 'Resume on film.' And that is really important," offered Frey. "Everything you do is being filmed, critiqued, graded by the coaches. If they see a spark, if they see a good play that will lead to you getting more reps."
The battle to be Frey's safety mate continues and Foster keeps climbing the depth chart.