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Durden gets shot in struggling secondary

Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 08:11

After allowing 463 passing yards and two touchdowns of 87 and 65 yards to Miami’s Stephen Morris, coach Skip Holtz called USF’s pass defense “poor” and “frustrating.”

A week later, with dual-threat quarterback Munchie Legaux and the Cincinnati Bearcats on the horizon this Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Bulls may have a new face in the secondary.

An open competition in the defensive backfield has paved the way for the increased role of redshirt freshman cornerback Kenneth Durden, who played a large part of the second half in USF’s 40-9 loss to Miami last weekend.

“We’re in a situation in the secondary, like with the quarterbacks a week ago,” Holtz said. “So we will roll them in and mix them up and have a competition going on. We’re making some strides in our run fits and front seven, but we’re not where we need to be in the secondary, so we need some competition back there.”

Durden finished the Miami game with one tackle and one pass breakup, but was also on the wrong end of one of the highlight plays of the game when, in the fourth quarter, Miami receiver Kendal Thompkins dove in front of Durden to make a 37-yard catch as he fell to the ground.

“I don’t mind someone getting beat physically as long as the focus and effort are there,” Holtz said. “Durden made a great attempt on the ball that was thrown into the zone on the diving catch, but the young man made a great play. I can deal with the physical mistakes. The ones that I can’t handle are the lackadaisical or lack of focus mistakes.”

The freshman from Valdosta, Ga., has played in five games in 2012 and saw his most action of the season against Miami.

“I stood my ground and think I played good against Miami,” Durden said. “I was just excited to play. I was in there for most of the second half, I didn’t know that I’d play that much but I had to be ready.”

Durden will likely compete for a starting cornerback role in 2013 after the departure of senior cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and George Baker, along with the ACL injury to freshman defensive back Chris Bivins.

“Other than the one deep ball where I should have man-turned instead of zone-turned, I think I had a pretty good performance and did pretty well,” he said. “I’m just trying to prepare for the future and get ready for next year. I’m just excited and ready to prove what I have to do.”

Though Holtz said Durden has areas that he needs to improve on moving forward, he also said he sees potential in the 6-foot cornerback.

“He’s very talented,” he said. “His intensity and knowledge of the defense and understanding of the defense needs to increase a little bit more, his focus and intensity will need to increase. He has the talent to be the type of talent we’re looking for.”

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