Position Reviews: Defensive Line
This is the first defensive feature of my 2012 Position Previews, if you didn’t catch my last post which covered the wide receivers, click here.
Even with the emergence of defensive end Corey Lemonier, last years defensive line struggled. The unit suffered a few injuries early on. The team lost young end Justin Delaine early on, who showed signs of improvement, and Dee Ford – who was poised for a big season – suffered a herniated disc and had his season end early.
From a pass rush point of view, the inside of the line failed to impress as well. Only ONE defensive tackle managed to get a sack last season, which was true freshman Gabe Wright in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl game. The whole unit struggled against the run as well, giving up 189 yards per game, which was good for 11th best in the SEC.
But still, lets not forget that we had to play a lot of young guys. Depth goes a huge way on a defensive line, especially in the SEC. True freshman Blackson, Wright and Sigler all played a good bit of ball, simply because they had to. Blackson could make a move into a starting position this season, he’s a young player without much experience, but he’s a hard worker and there were bright spots in his game last season – he has a motor which never stops running.
Defensive tackle Kenneth Carter had issues after picking up an injury, and even lost his starting role to Gabe Wright for a few games because of it. He regained his starting role in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but as a junior now, he’ll have to prove he’s capable of playing at a consistent level. There are plenty guys behind him that are just itching for his role.
But a year on, they’ve grown up a little bit more. Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder believes the unit has and is making progress in the offseason.
What to expect
Dee Ford has been impressing hugely in the offseason, but the question remains whether he’ll start over Nosa Eguae. VanGorder wants to create a four man pass rush so this could very well be a likely possibility, but Chizik will have the final say and Eguae’s experience and leadership will be taken into account. Ford could have a huge season, and some even believe he might be a better pass rusher than Lemonier, something that I would not mind at all. Both are extremely talented players, and I hope they both improve evolve a little bit more to stopping the run. The inside needs to improve at both, but I think we’ll see progress in Mike Pelton’s second year.