When one spends time on the Los Angeles Dorsey campus, it doesn’t take long to receive an introduction to "DDP," which stands for Dorsey Don Pride. But on the football field this fall it might be more about DDB -- Dorsey Defensive Backs.
It is an absolutely loaded year for defensive back talent on the West Coast, and Southern California in particular, but the Dons boast a group that can match up with anybody and looks to prove they are the best in their league, if not beyond. It could be a scary proposition for opposing offenses, facing a defense that recorded 24 interceptions last season and should be even better in the back four this season.
The group starts with cornerback Daquawn Brown and safety Jayme Otomewo, who have played together since seventh grade. The seniors combined for seven interceptions last season and serve as the unquestioned leaders of the defense. Brown has already received eight scholarship offers, while Otomewo claims six. And while that one-two punch would be enough for most high school secondaries, Dorsey was the beneficiary of several transfers that now make this one of the top units in the state.
Cornerback Billy Vaughn Jr. landed at Dorsey after a transfer from Los Angeles Hamilton early this summer and the San Diego State commitment slid seamlessly into the starting lineup. He is joined by 2014 safety David Williams, who transferred from Serra last year and played on the Dorsey JV team as a sophomore.
“We’re fortunate to have this kind of talent,” defensive backs coach Carver Russaw said. “Collectively, it’s one of the best groups I’ve had since Rahim Moore was here.”
The Dorsey defense must make up for the loss of Jeremiah Allison, a freshman pass rusher at Washington State who accounted for 34 sacks through his junior and senior seasons. Without that pass rush, the secondary could be tested more this season. But Russaw said his players are up to the challenge.
“Jeremiah created so much havoc,” Russaw said. “We had a good secondary last year, but if the guy replacing Jeremiah is a step and a half slower, we have the guys this year that can cover for a step and a half longer.”
That feeling is evident in the players as well.
Russaw called Brown a riverboat gambler with great ball skills, and added that he has a great understanding of the game. Brown, who seems as confident in motivating his teammates as he is in his backpedal, said he is very comfortable as the face of the defense and one of the senior leaders, especially knowing he won’t have to go it alone.
“Our defensive secondary is clicking right now,” Brown said. “Billy Vaughn popped right into the defense and David Williams is a nice safety. We’re clicking and we will probably lead the city in picks again.”
Vaughn said he was familiar with Brown and Otomewo before making the move to Dorsey. He knew he was competing with them for scholarship offers this spring and he said that idea of competition, on and off the field, hasn’t disappeared.
“You know you have to bring your ‘A’ game every time out here with this group,” Vaughn said. “When everyone is thinking on the same level, it’s beautiful. But we also know what each other’s talents are, so if we see somebody slacking, we have to pick each other up.”
Having such talented cornerbacks on the outside should make the transition to this level slightly easier for Williams, who Russaw said is a near replica of Nevada cornerback Charles Garrett, another Dorsey standout. The coach added that the 6-foot-1, 185-pound junior is also reminiscent of Moore in his length and ability to cover ground in the secondary. Despite this being his first season at this level and getting thrown into a defensive backfield where he will likely be targeted by offenses, Williams said he doesn’t feel the nerves or pressure that would seem necessary for the situation.
“I have a mindset of just competing in everything I do,” Williams said. “I don’t back down to anybody and I just want to go have fun.”
Otomewo is likely to have more than his share of fun this year as well. Russaw referred to his senior safety as a “vicious, vicious hitter” and Otomewo doesn’t shy away from that label, though he is looking to add another.
“Last year I was known as the big hitter,” Otomewo said. “But now that we have Brown and Vaughn and those guys can cover so well, now I’m challenged to put my cover skills to the mat. Everybody out here is so great, so to outshine them, you really have to step your game up.”
Throughout the season, this group won’t just catch the attention of opposing offenses. College coaches are likely to visit the Dorsey campus regularly. Dorsey players are urged to take as much time with the recruiting process as possible, so decisions aren’t made on impulse or finalized without all the facts being gathered.
Vaughn’s early commitment to San Diego State could be challenged by several big time programs that are now recruiting him, including Cincinnati, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Washington.
Williams has already received interest from California, Ohio, UCLA, UTEP, Washington and Washington State before even playing a varsity game.
Brown and Otomewo will likely have plenty of eyes on them as well, as the tandem will likely wait until signing day to commit and also plan to attend the same school.
“I’m trying not to have any favorites and look at everybody equally,” Brown said. “But I have a couple of schools I’m really interested in -- Arizona State, UCLA and Washington.”
Brown will likely take official visits to Arizona State, Hawaii and Washington, though nothing in that regard has been scheduled at this point. Of his Pac-12 offers, Arizona State is the only program to also offer Otomewo, which would seem to put the Sun Devils in good position for the Dorsey standouts. But Otomewo said any talk of leaders or commitments is very premature.
“Right now I’m focused on the season,” he said. “We’ll go through the season and then plan out visits after the year. I don’t want to fall in love with a school right now and then change my mind later.”