I talked with all of the Defensive coaches [except Fitz] after the scrimmage, and they all stressed that this was a totally scripted operation -- They functioned the way they would in a game with Pat Fitzgerald calling the signals on the sidelines, but they were shuffling personnel, and the players' were following a script.
Anyway, the 4 questions we had prior to the scrimmage are below - our post game comments are in italics...
1. Who wins the starting middle linebacker slot?
There were 3 candidates as the Spring started: #44 RS Soph Erryn Cobb, # 43 Soph Adam Kadela, and #42 RS Frosh Demetrius Eaton.
Erryn Cobb is now an H-Back - his new coach, Jack Glowik, told me that in his opinion the entire team is better now with Cobb able to run the ball, but we really didn't see him in the scrimmage.2. Who will make up the starting D-Line?
If you ask any of the Defensive coaches who "won" the middle linebacker job, they shrug their shoulders and tell you they don't know. #41 Tim McGarigle was calling defensive signals most of the time but he's pretty much slated to play the "Will" position with #51 John Pickens pretty well set at "Sam."
You don't have Middle Linebacker controversies, so this one we defer to Fitz after Kenosha.
and where will they be playing?
I'd be surprised if #66 Jr Loren Howard plays at all -- he's recovering from his ankle surgery, and while you can see he's itching to get on the field, he also doesn't need to tear up something in the Spring Game.
The new D-Line Coach, Eric Washington, came out of the spring a little frustrated by not being able to really run all his linemen. This new coach is a very hands-on, technical kind of guy who really wants to get his guys playing at the top of the game.3. Is # 12 Derell Jenkins the new "other" safety.
He really didn't get a good look at any of the young guys - #72 RS Fr David Ngene, #53 Soph Trevor Schultz, # 56 Soph Ryan Keenan, and #92 Jr David Thompson, and when we talked after the game, he expressed some disappointment in having to run a 3 man line most of the scrimmage.
They really want to move Barry Cofield back to tackle to get ready for the graduation of both Castillo and Clark next year. Loren Howard is the one DE, but they'd like to see some of the folks named above run as the other DE. Schultz [at 6-2 285], Thompson [6-3 265] and Ngene [6-3 260] have the size and speed to possibly take over the rush DE.
Also defer this one to Kenosha.
Did he manage to beat out #21 RS Soph Bryan Heinz?
Probably not, but he did impress Jerry Brown enough to hint that we might see him next year in some 5 D-Back sets, but Coach Brown also likes experience in his backfield, and Jenkins needs to learn a few more things to beat out Price and Heinz.4. What about Cornerback?
Seriously, we might see a 3-3-5 defense at times next year, and it will be capable of stopping the running game. You just might see Jenkins take on the 5th man role, although #24 Herschel Henderson might have a few things to say about that.
There are 4 back there - #33 Sr Marvin Ward should be the driving force, but this should be the year that #28 Jr Jeff Backes starts to really play the position.
Then there are two guys knocking on the door; #6 Cory Dious and # 20 Marquice Cole. I also would rule out an appearance or two by some of the younger guys -- we did see # 22 RS Frosh Deante Battle getting a few reps early.
Actually there are 5 guys with experience - I forgot #13 Sundi Brewer-Griffin. Sundi got beat bad on the Mark Philmore TD so I'm not sure where he is in the JB scheme of things. Battle also got toasted a few times by the Tight End, and I honestly didn't ask JB about the corners after the game.So, in conclusion:
We didn't really see the 2004 Defense April 24th.Next we're on to the offense...
I know many fans had hoped to see one of the MLB's step up and take over the job in the middle. It apparently hasn't happened yet and that might be a weakness come the fall but I don't think Fitz and Coach Walker will let that happen.
I expect that we will see a slightly different D-Line setup in Kenosha, and there will be a battle for the "other" DE slot. I think you're also going to see more pressure on the QB next Fall - improving the rush appears to be one of Coach Washington's goals.
I'm really not sure about the defensive backfield -- they got more pressure than normal because of the 3-4 set. All I heard was how they'll play better when there's a pass rush.
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