Among Charlie Strong’s talking points during Saturday’s press conference was the progress of sophomore safety DeShon Elliott.
As a true freshman last season, Elliott struggled to crack the two-deep after a toe injury kept the former four-star talent out of fall camp and the early portion of the season. Now, after dropping about 13 pounds from his previously listed weight of 215 to his now-listed 202, Strong noted Elliott looks better and has taken strides in his understanding of his role.
"He's cut down some weight; he looks really good now. It's all about just learning the defense and then just playing within himself. At that position, you can't give up big throws. You for sure can't give up throws over your head. He just needs to settle down. He's a heavy hitter."
There’s never been any question of whether or not Elliott had enough talent to see the field, even as a true freshman – highlighted by opportunities against Oklahoma and Kansas. Elliott’s early shortcomings have been found in his understanding of alignments and his grasp of assignments in a fairly complex defensive system. To that end, senior safety Dylan Haines said earlier in the year that Elliott had taken ‘tremendous strides’ in the right direction:
"He's made tremendous strides in the film room, in the classroom as we'd say, learning the game. He's taking it to the field. He's doing everything that he needs to be doing to get on the field. You have to honor that and you have to be proud of him for that."
As a result of what Strong and Haines point out about Elliott, he’s pushed Jason Hall for the starting safety position opposite of Haines and has spent considerable time with the first team, but is still expected to back up the junior Hall. Should Elliott prove his grasp of the alignments, assignments and overall understanding his role are up to par, the sophomore safety may see some starts if Hall can’t take that needed next step.