Slightly delayed, so let's get to it...
In case you forgot:
Bold= Projected starters (in my opinion)
italics*=incoming freshmen whom I project to be a redshirt in '09
Roderick Battle, Demarcus Dobbs, Kiante Tripp, Justin Houston, Neland Ball, Jeremy Longo, Cornelius Washington, Montez Robinson*
OUTLOOK: No question, this group has a TON of pressure on it. One of the big weaknesses in a defense that underperformed in a major way last year was the lack of QB pressure from the DE position, which is a MUST in a Brian VanGorder/Willie Martinez defense. Rod Battle is a solid piece on one side, but he is really more of a run-stopping defensive end, which is fine as long as you can get consistent pressure from whomever lines up opposite of him. Cornelius Washington is a RS freshman who was touted as just what we need...a fast DE who can consistently get pressure on the QB, so look for him to get early opportunities once he's healthy (By the way, the injury bug continues to rear its ugly head...the only healthy DEs we have in spring are Dobbs Houston, Tripp, and Longo).
Tripp may be the wild card here...he's changed positions more often than most people change their oil, but DE is where he really wants to be, and it appears to be where he has settled. Dude is 290 LBs and runs a 4.7 40. Why can we not find a place to effectively use him?
Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins, Kade Weston, DeAngelo Tyson, Rico Crawford, Brandon Wood, Abry Jones*, Derrick Lott*
OUTLOOK: And we go from one of the unsure areas of the team to probably the strongest part of the team. I challenge anybody to come up with a better 4 man rotation than Owens-Atkins-Weston-Tyson. Losing Owens really hurt last year, both on the field and off...he is definitely one of the strongest leaders on this team, and I can't wait to get him back, hopefully fully healthy.
GRADE: A+ if Owens is 100%, A- if he's not
Rennie Curran, Darryl Gamble, Akeem Dent, Darius Dewberry, Marcus Washington, Akeem Hebron, Marcus Dowtin, Charles White, Nick Williams, Christian Robinson, Chase Vasser*, Michael Gilliard*
Speed, speed, and more speed. This is a deep, athletic group led by The Liberian Nightmare (and my biggest man-crush) Rennie Curran. Rennie has taken a much more vocal leadership role in the offseason, going so far as to call it "MY defense." Good. Nobody better to lead this team than this guy.
Losing Dexter Moody from the '09 class hurt, but this group has depth and I thought that Gilliard was the better pick-up anyway.
Prince Miller, Brandon Boykin, Sanders Commings, Vance Cuff, Jordan Love, Branden Smith
OUTLOOK: This group scares me. Prince Miller is really the only guy with a lot of experience...Boykin played some at nickel last year, Cuff was mainly a special teams guy, and Commings was a redshirt who was originally slotted at safety. You would love to RS one of the freshmen, but I don't think we can afford to when we're this thin. Losing Asher unexpectedly has really hurt us, and the sad part is that Asher is probably not even going to get drafted on the first day of the draft.
There is a lot of athletic talent here, but virtually all of it is unproven. These guys are going to be tested early and often, starting week 1 at Oklahoma State, and their ability to handle it is going to go a long way towards determining what this defense is going to be.
Reshad Jones, Bryan Evans, Quentin Banks, John Knox, Makiri Pugh, Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams*
OUTLOOK: This position is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. There is enough talent here that it should be a strength of the team...so why does this position make me so nervous? Probably because Reshad Jones seems to be (at best) not making any improvement or (at worst) REGRESSING since entering the program as the #1 player in the state. His tackling has become a punchline with no punch, and he seems to have an attitude problem as well. Also, Bryan Evans was converted to safety after not playing very well at corner in the early part of last year. Like Jones, he has tremendous physical ability...unlike Jones, he actually improved as the year went on last year.
Both of these guys will be pushed by talented youngsters...Evans, in particular will have to hold off Quentin Banks at FS, after Quentin struggled with injuries most of last year.
This group overall has a lot to prove, so they should be going into the season with a chip on their shoulder...we'll see how it pays off. A repeat of last year is not acceptable, and would really ratchet up the heat on both Martinez and Richt.