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2021 MAC Football Positional Previews: Ball State Cardinals secondary

Bryce Cosby and the experienced group of MAC champions go for another swing at the conference crown.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 Western Michigan at Ball State Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ball State’s secondary has been through the grind. The projected starting lineup features two safeties in their fifth-year with the program, a senior cornerback, and a graduate student who has been on college football rosters since 2016. After a long and worthwhile wait, the entire starting secondary owns MAC championship rings after serving as an integral unit for the 2020 Cardinals.

Ball State intercepted passes at the second highest rate in the MAC last season. After finishing the season recording four picks against the San Jose State offense in the program’s first ever bowl win, the Cardinals’ secondary enters 2021 with the necessary momentum needed for a spectacular follow-up act.

It’s no surprise that a team that retained as many starters as Ball State displays an entire starting secondary of senior-level talent.

Bryce Cosby, the engineer behind the “Detroit or Bust” mantra, remains the leader of this cohesive group. While creating the energy necessary for team success, Cosby enjoyed a fair share of individual accolades as well. He secured First Team All-MAC honors and won the distinction as MVP of the Arizona Bowl after compiling nine tackles and an interception on an undefeated San Jose State team.

Cosby is the most veteran member of the group as he owns 43 starts to his belt. The free safety has secured eight interceptions as a Cardinal and ranks second among active MAC players with 283 career tackles. Cosby is also on the preseason watchlist for the Wuerffel Trophy, which rewards the player who best combines academic success with on-field accomplishments.

Strong safety Brett Anderson remains Cosby’s running mate in the secondary. Anderson has logged 18 starts in Muncie, earning first-team reps on gamedays as early as the 2017 season. His game elevated to another level last season as a full-time starter. Anderson amassed 47 stops from the secondary and intercepted two passes for the Cardinals. One of those picks spearheaded the second half scoring effort for Ball State in its 34-13 Arizona Bowl victory over San Jose State.

Armed with experienced hard hitters and zone coverage masters, Ball State features one of the top tandems in the country at the safety position. The lone starter lost from the 2020 secondary resided at the cornerback position, as 2020 All-MAC selection Antonio Phillips is currently chasing his NFL dream in Cincinnati.

Ball State still retains a starting corner in Amechi “A.J.” Uzodinma, but Phillips’ vacancy will likely be occupied by J.T. Wahee. A grad transfer from Norfolk State, Wahee mainly logged time at the safety position in 2020 and even registered three starts — managing 19 tackles and an interception. But to maximize the talent on the field, he may move to corner where he excelled at the FCS level — creating a lethal quartet of Cosby, Anderson, Uzodinma, and Wahee.

Uzodinma earned Second Team All-MAC honors at cornerback in 2019 thanks to a valiant effort which included 38 tackles and a MAC-best five interceptions. He also appeared in the interception category last fall, securing Ball State’s first pick six in a decade in the win over Northern Illinois. The senior corner is a proven stud in man coverage, breaking up 22 passes in roughly two-and-a-half seasons as a starter.

Ball State solidifies its depth with familiar faces at cornerback in Tyler Potts (one start and one interception in 2019) and Nic Jones (15 solo tackles in 2019). The Cardinals also received Chayce Bishop from Tennessee in the transfer portal. Bishop is the son of former All-MAC safety Blaine Bishop who starred at Ball State in the early 1990s. Chayce is listed as a wide receiver but could be transitioned to the secondary after considerable high school experience on defense. FCS transfer Latrelle Smith also joins the cornerback room after starting two seasons at William & Mary.

Malcolm Lee (13 tackles in 2019) and Jack Blanco (4 tackles in 2019) are additional safeties to provide support behind Cosby and Anderson. Trenton Hatfield was also brought in from the FCS level to expand the experience in one of the FBS’s most established groups.

Ball State’s reloaded secondary takes the field again in Muncie on Thursday, Sept. 2 as their quest to return to the AP Poll resumes against Western Illinois of the FCS. In the words of Cosby, the leader of the unit, it’s “Detroit or Bust.”