Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Defense - revisited

Continued from yesterday...going back and looking at my position-by-position breakdown that I did in March to see if my impressions have changed...yesterday was the offense, today is the defense.

Bold = Projected starters (in my opinion)
italics = incoming freshmen
italics*= incoming freshmen whom I project to be a redshirt in '09

Defensive End:


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?


Battle and Dobbs are still the starters to begin the season. Justin Houston had a huge spring, but is suspended for the first two games of the season…when he comes back, I think he will challenge Dobbs. Battle has had great performances in the fall scrimmages, albeit against reserve offensive linemen.

The coaches also made a move that I wholeheartedly support when they moved Marcus Washington from LB to DE. This is what I wish we would have done with Brandon Miller earlier in his career, and I think Marcus has the combination of size and quickness that he can be a factor on passing downs.

I still think Cornelius Washington may be a dark horse impact player.

I focus a lot on QB pressure when looking at the DE position, but these guys have to show that they are able to stop the run on a consistent basis, as well. With our strength up the middle, teams are going to have to pressure the edges of our defense with their run game.

My grade remains the same, until we see if these guys can improve on the mediocre performance we got out of them last year. But the more I think about last year, in comparison to all of the other years under Coach Fabris and Coach Martinez, the more I think that last year may have just been the aberration, not the new trend. Let’s hope so.

Defensive Tackle:


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

A+++. Owens is apparently back and 100% healthy, and that means TONS for this defense. He and Geno will be the best DT tandem in the SEC and maybe in the country, and Weston-Tyson could be the starting DT tandem for most teams in the conference. Also, Abry Jones has apparently played so well that Coach Garner is having a hard time redshirting him. Running up the middle against these guys should be a futile effort.

Penetration from the DT position will go a LONG way in helping our DE be more effective.



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.



Not much has changed, other than Dewberry has at least temporarily jumped Dent into the starting lineup, but that is in part due to Dent missing some time during fall camp with a hamstring injury. Also, as discussed earlier, Marcus Washington moved from LB to DE. There is still a ton of quality depth at this position, and I think we are at LEAST two deep with SEC caliber players at all three LB spots.

And Rennie Curran is still the man.



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.



Pretty much the same thing I said then, unfortunately. I think Prince Miller is a solid corner, but he is a downgrade from Asher. I am encouraged by the practice reports about Boykin and Smith, but we can’t know what we have until they actually get on the field. Any injuries to the top two here and we are in huge trouble, I think. We could pull Makiri Pugh over from the safety position, but we would still be in a tough spot.



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 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.



I feel a little better about this group than I did, but Reshad is still going to have to prove on the field that he understands what it takes to be great. I think the move to FS is a perfect one for Evans…it allows him to use his speed and instincts without having to play a lot of man coverage on WRs, which is where he really struggled.

Knox has left the team, and Quentin Banks still can’t seem to stay healthy, but Bacarri Rambo has gotten positive reviews to go along with probably the coolest name on the team.

In March, my biggest concerns were DE, CB, and safety…I feel marginally better about the DE and safety groups, but the corners still scare me.

Three more days till we find out!!


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