Last year may have been , but rising senior Paris Bostick had a rocky 2011 campaign.
Bostick only participated in a little more than half of the Panthers' games last season. An early-season high ankle sprain, followed by a high ankle sprain on the other side, forced the safety to miss four games. Bostick also was later kept out of Plant's for disciplinary reasons.
"That was so painful," said Bostick. "You work all that time and then not be able to play in that game."
The sting still has not worn off.
"I realize I made a mistake, and I learned from it," he said. "Everything is focused on football now."
The Panthers were able to get by last season without Bostick in their lineup. Senior Drew Madhu was a veteran presence at safety, Antonio Crawford provided senior leadership at corner, senior David Lerom stepped in for Bostick and added stability at the other corner spot, and senior Keenan Stalls dropped in late — but all four of them will need to be replaced in 2012. Bostick is the only returning starter, and may very well be the only senior, in the defensive secondary in 2012.
"Paris is extremely important for us this year," said Panthers defensive backs coach Bo Puckett. "We're going to be very green back there this year, and Paris is very experienced. I'm hoping to have him as one of my coaches on the field."
Not only will Bostick be needed to lead and teach the defensive secondary, he will be used on offense even more this season.
"(Paris is) one of a handful of guys here we just call athletes; they can play most anywhere," Puckett said.
Bostick has been recruited by the University of South Florida as a running back and could play multiple positions for the Panthers this upcoming season. Having him share the offensive backfield with rising junior Wes Bullock should help strengthen the position for Plant. Bostick has also been spotted lining up at wide receiver at 7-on-7 competitions this spring.
"I expect to play free safety, strong safety, corner, running back, receiver; all the skill positions this year," Bostick said.
Despite all the shuffling around, Bostick said he understands his role in the secondary is vital this year.
"It's a whole new defense now," he said. "I recognize I am going to have to step up and train guys. I feel like I know what we need to do to get there, and it's up to me to teach these guys."
What about the physical part of it?
"It's a lot of work; I work with different groups all the time," he said. "I'm a lot faster, I can tell you that."
Bostick says he's up to a 4.4 or 4.5 in the 40-yard dash now.
"Paris played some corner for us at the Big County Preps Combine in March and he showed me some quickness that I didn't even know he had," Puckett said.
All the work at different positions has made Bostick appreciate the safety position over the others, he said.
"I like to hit, I'm a hitter," Bostick said. "I also like to be able to read the plays and make things happen from there."
Not a bad guy to have as your last line of defense.