In Spring Football, Spider 'Dime' Micah Keels '15 Enters Grunt-and-Groan Zone
By: John O'Connor Richmond Times-Dispatch
Micah Keels, FUMA Class of '15, extended his arms Tuesday afternoon to show bruises that weren't present when Keels played cornerback for the University of Richmond the past two years.
Keels moved into to the grunt-and-groan zone this spring. His body is acclimating to the brutality of the box.
With the new 4-2-5 defense that first-year coach Russ Huesman uses, there are five defensive backs on the field at all times. One, however, is a safety-linebacker hybrid with run-support responsibility to go with coverage duty. That's Keels, a rising junior.
Huesman calls players who fill this position his "dimes."
Keels, who started nine times as a cornerback the past two seasons, said he viewed the spring invitation to become a "dime" as an opportunity to demonstrate "I can be versatile. I'm used to just playing outside, but there are a lot of opportunities to make plays now."
Generally in football vernacular, a fifth defensive back is a "nickel." The sixth usually is referred to as a "dime," a coverage man inserted only on third-and-20, or some other highly likely passing situation. Huesman, who directed Chattanooga's Southern Conference program the past eight years, said he's not quite sure how the fifth defensive back in his scheme came to be known as a "dime."
Perhaps the tag is designed as a double-down on a two-way defender who the coach hopes will be twice as impactful as a "nickel."
Keels, a 6-foot-3 resident of Washington, weighed 168 when he signed with UR in February 2015. He is 190 pounds now and intends to report to August camp around 200.
"He fits it nicely. That was a pretty easy decision to make there," Huesman said of Keels. "You could probably take any of the corners and do it, but ideally, you'd like a more physical guy there. He's doing really well. That position, and we've told him this, can be such a dynamic play-making position, (with) tackles, interceptions, pass breakups."
The Spiders, who employed a conventional 4-3-4 base defense last year, began spring ball on March 14.
"We've finished installing most of our stuff, so I've learned a lot of it," Keels said of his new job. "It's definitely a lot of fun. I get to fly around and make more tackles. At corner, I was sitting back. But I'm still kind of a corner, where I can still play one-on-one in coverage, so I like it a lot."
All Spiders, to a certain extent, are learning fresh ways of doing things with Huesman and his staff.
"You can see people grasping the concepts of what we're trying to teach them. They're really bright kids," Huesman said before Tuesday's practice. "I've been pleased with a lot of things. Obviously, we still have a ways to go. If we didn't, we'd stop spring practice right now."
Identifying depth along the offensive line is a spring priority for a program that returns 15 players among the 22 who started on last season's 10-4 team that advanced to the quarterfinals in the FCS playoffs under Danny Rocco, now Delaware's coach.