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October 28, 2011

Myers adapts as hard-hitting safety

Nearly every Tuesday, D.J. Myers sits down and watches film.

On the surface, it appears fairly routine for a college football player. But the plays rolling across the screen in front of the sophomore safety aren't of that week's opponent, or of the past few games. He's not even watching to critique himself.

The film is from a year ago, when Myers was understudy to Michael Richards. An undersized recruit out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Myers didn't really have a position. He played corner his sophomore year, outside linebacker as a junior and senior, and played running back and returned kicks on offense.

So with just one year and seven games under his belt at safety, Myers is looking for any possible edge he can get.

"The more I can pick up off of a team, the more you can learn," he said. "If I'm on the field and it's 2nd-and-3, and I know they like a play-action pass to the flat, I can get out to the flat faster and hopefully make a big play."

It's been a relatively seamless transition from Richards to Myers for Robert Morris. Myers has picked up information from both Richards and former free safety Mike Landers, as the Colonials use both safeties close to the line of scrimmage. Landers and Richards were third and fourth on the team in tackles last year. Myers is second on the team in tackles so far this year, behind fellow safety Cameron Chadwick.

"Both of them taught me a lot," Myer said of Richards and Landers. "(Mike) had a lot of techniques since he was undersized as well, and he avoided blocks to make tackles. So I've learned a lot from him, even when he's not here."

Myers has played a little bit closer to the line than Richards did. Richards had three interceptions while Myers has yet to get one. His tendency to play closer to the line might be a reflection of his past experience at linebacker.

"At first, I wasn't sure how the transition was going to go after playing linebacker the past two years. But I think it's helped me tremendously, just coming up in the box," Myers said. "I like contact. I'm a contact type of guy. So just being able to come up into the box and fill and make tackles, that's pretty much what I call home now."

Robert Morris has also tried to mix up the defensive formations a bit more. Traditionally a 3-4 defense, co-defensive coordinators Scott Farison and Scott Benzel shifted to a 4-3 for stretches against Bryant. They've also used nickel and dime packages heavily, and even gone with just two down-linemen - Steve Mitchell and Nolan Nearhoof in some packages.

It's all an attempt to jump-start a defense that started off strong against the run, but has had occasional issues with their pass-rush and with failing to create turnovers.

"We have to have a good mix with that. Obviously we have to pick it up in the secondary. When we make a mistake, everyone sees it," Myers said. "When a lineman makes a mistake, then linebackers make up for it. When linebackers make a mistake, we can make up for it. When we make a mistake, it's a touchdown. It's us four brothers back there, and no matter what happens, we have each others' backs."

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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