Sophomore Jonathan Anderson, who really started to shine at the end of last year, was the projected starter at weak safety heading into spring. Many fans were speculating that he would become a star in the secondary and possibly a leader for the defense. This may be another situation where Patterson is simply trying to motivate a young player to fulfill his potential, but the coach did not have much praise for Anderson's (or his back up, junior Trenton Thomas') spring performance:
"I am not happy with that position (weak safety) yet at all by either one of them. I'm glad we have three more safeties and (redshirt freshman) Quincy (Aldridge) will be back (from injuiry) so you'll have four more safeties."
There was definitely more praise to go around at free safety, but it's not quite clear who will be starting at that position this fall. Former cornerback and junior Elisha Olabode entered the spring as the #1 free, followed by highly-touted redshirt freshman Chris Hackett. At one point, Patterson stated that Hackett had moved ahead of Olabode- but we're not sure if that was temporary or not. He did say that both were starting to fill the role of "QB of the defense" that free safety is supposed to be. Geoff Hooker, a sophomore former walk-on, also drew praise from Patterson and should get playing time this fall- whether it is at free or one of the other safety spots.
Sophomore Sam Carter entered the spring as the tentative starter at strong safety, and appears to have held that position despite a strong push by fellow sophomore Antonio Graves, who has finally landed at strong safety after several position changes on both sides of the ball. Redshirt freshmen James Bailey and Jamie Byrd look to be their main competition for playing time.
In the end, I'd put safety as one of the pre-spring questions to which we did not get a definitive answer. Maybe that's because they have a new (old) position coach after Chad Glasgow came back over from Tech and they are still being evaluated by him. Maybe the competition is too stiff to have declared outright starters at the three positions...maybe the overall performance of the safeties was so lackluster that no one really shined. Or maybe this is just the result of a super-secretive head coach who is being intentionally vague with the information he supplies to the public. Either way, safety will definitely be high on the list of questions over the summer.