VIDEO: Dino Waites Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the fifth part in an eight-part series breaking down each of Carson-Newman football's positions. Dino Waites breaks down the defensive backfield for 2017.
Waites aims at filling the shoes of Carson-Newman's lone All-American from 2016 – safety Jerry Miclisse.
He aims to do it with a youthful unit that is athletic and features an eyebrow-raising amount of depth.
"This is a young group," Waites said. "Dez got a lot of reps last year at cornerback, Ja'Quan and Darius both got time as well, but they're still all sophomores. But they are talented and hungry, we expect big things out of them."
Fairell led Carson-Newman in interceptions with four picks on the year. He also made 27 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and had a sack against Brevard. He ranked second in the South Atlantic Conference and top 25 in the nation with his interception tally.
He had the most interceptions in a single season for Carson-Newman since All-American Eien Jacob's five in 2013. Fairell snagged two interceptions against Mars Hill. It is the 14th time since the year 2000 that an Eagle has had two picks in one game. Fairell joins Revel Coffey as the only freshmen since the year 2000 with two picks in one game. Fairell topped out at eight tackles in a homecoming win over Limestone (10/29).
"I was impressed with Dez about how he has gotten himself mentally and physically right," Waites said. "He doesn't say much, but he's stepping up and I appreciate his efforts to be a leader."
Meanwhile, Smith also made an impact defensively as a freshman. The safety appeared in all 11 games and started 10 of them. Smith was fourth on the team in tackles with 51, 36 of which were solo stops.
Williams was the lone member of that group to score a touchdown, scooping up a blocked punt against Saint Augustine's and housing it against the Falcons.
"Mario has been a blessing," Waites said. "He has all the talent in the world. He is a bigger guy to be out on the perimeter. Chris is a special talent too. He is a ball hawk. Noah Hill comes over from track and will be in the mix. Ray has been roaming around in the middle of the field and plays safety well."
Mezier racked up five picks and 40 tackles for Shasta College last year. He led California JUCOs in interceptions with eight his freshman year.
"Being so young, there are still going to be mistakes," Waites said. "It's a good feeling that you've got depth back there even if it is young. We just look for them to mature through those mistakes and get to the next play."
Carson-Newman football's position previews continue Thursday with the offensive line and tight ends.