For years, the safety tandem of Jovante Moffatt (6’0, 210, Sr.) and Reed Blankenship (6’1, 196, Jr.) has reigned terror on Conference USA football. Last Saturday’s contest against Marshall only served to further the pair’s growing reputation nationally. Blankenship registered six tackles in a solid performance while Moffatt tallied 14 tackles, a pass break-up and two timely athletic interceptions. We go inside the strengths of each player.
C-USA Defensive Players of the Week (9-9-19, 10-7-19)
Moffatt displayed a lot of the necessary NFL characteristics during his C-USA Defensive Player of the Week performance against Marshall last Saturday. He first baited Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green by hanging on the near hash to the short field as a deep post one-third safety. Moffatt leapt over cornerback Gregory Grate to snag the skinny post in mid-air. Later in the game, he picked off an out route by Green when aligned as an underneath zone defender. He displayed his hand-eye coordination by plucking the ball on his inside-out break to the sidelines while reading the eyes of the quarterback. It was a defining performance for the senior after shoulder injuries forced him to miss most of what was shaping up to be a defining 2018 campaign (appeared in just four games).
Blankenship, pictured, was a multi-dimensional athlete at West Limestone HS (Ala.). During his time at the prep level, he rushed for over 3,000 yards (3,192), passed for over 1,000 yards (1,056) and also posted over 1,000 yards receiving (1,004). In the process, he accounted for 46 touchdowns.
Middle Tennessee defensive coordinator Scott Shafer puts a lot on the plates of the fellow team captains. As opposed to playing either from solely a stationary strong or free safety role, the pair is interchangeable. They align in the deep middle one-third post, as eighth men in the box, curl-flat defenders, and even come off the edge as pass rushers. The disguises they coordinate prior to the snap of the ball can fool quarterbacks on a week-to-week basis.
Blankenship -who was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week after a two-interception performance against Tennessee State earlier this year (9-5-19)- is an aggressive tackler. He put some impressive hits on his resume' coming downhill with vengeance in earlier 2019 contests versus both Iowa and Michigan. In his career, he has accounted for 215 tackles, two quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for losses.
Moffatt's flexibility is adequate but he can be late to adjust his angles on occasion. In the move area as a man-to-man defender, he has the occasional tendency to open his hips to turn-and-run a tick too late. He makes up for it with adequate balance and a solid weave backpedal. He learned a lot from former Blue Raiders safety and current Tennessee Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. As Moffatt put it, "KB was here a lot and it helped me a lot." Some of his other favorite NFL safeties include Pro Bowlers Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia Eagles) and Micah Hyde (Buffalo Bills).