|Kovacs, Roh and Floyd celebrate a turnover last year against San Diego State.|
I took this photo.
No better place to start than up front where most of the attention is being paid this spring. And rightfully so – we're young and relatively untested on the interior. Filling in where Martin and Van Bergen left is junior Jibreel Black who's move from defensive end has been regarded as a good one so far. He's said to have the right size and mentality to hold his own in the trenches.
Reports are generally positive about Will Campbell. There are some pretty high expectations for his senior year. It's now or never for Big Will and I think he's well aware of what is being asked of him. Quinton Washington is also said to be contributing as well.
Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash are veterans who are being asked to step up, and it's encouraging to hear that they are doing so. Nathan Brink, who made a splash last year as a walk-on who was contending for playing time along with the seniors is still not back completely from his broken leg, but is participating in some drills.
At the ends, it's widely reported that Roh is moving to the strong side for his senior year. He's put on about 10-15 pounds from last year according to the coaches. That will serve him well on the strong side I believe. At the weak side, Brenden Beyer is the presumed starter there. He will be pushed by Frank Clark.
One thing is for sure, no matter who is listed first on the depth chart on September 1st, there will be some heavy rotation among this group. It's been clear since day one that Hoke, Mattison and Montgomery are looking for cohesion and depth along the D-line. We're on our way to that, but we're not there yet.
There are some stellar recruits coming for 2012, among them is 6-3, 322-pound Ondre Pipkins, who many expect to compete early and often. Also, many expect 6-2, 217-pound Mario Ojemudia to end up at the weak side end position.
Returning senior middle linebacker Kenny Demens has looked strong this spring. But word is he's going to have to compete with incoming freshman Joe Bolden who's enrolled early. Bolden is said to have a leg up on Demens in terms of speed and just overall mobility. This is very encouraging.
Also looking really good this spring is sophomore Desmond Morgan. But Bolden is getting the bulk of the attention. Freshman Kalen Ringer is also looking solid, but is a bit undersized.
Jake Ryan is maybe one of the most impressive players on this defense. He makes plays all over the field. Rumors report that Ryan has been lining up along the line with his hand down.
Do you remember Cam Gordon? He's also getting some time at the SAM this spring. I really hope Gordon can make an impact given his size and athletic ability. He's capable of doing more than he has so far.
We're in a better place with the secondary this spring than we've been in a very long time – I mean since, like, 2007 – which drastically underachieved, btw. This should not be taken for granted.
It all starts with 5th-year senior Jordan Kovacs. He's been stellar almost his whole career, and I expect to see him dominate at the safety spot yet again this year. He's having a nice spring, as expected. I think Kovacs is the emotional leader of this defense, and I want to see him take that next step as a leader.
Also at safety, Marvin Robinson is looking better. And freshman Jarrod Wilson is said to be coming along well with the defense given just a wonderful natural ability. His size and skill is impressive, but he's got a little ways to go because of lack of experience. No word on Thomas Gordon.
At the corners, we welcome back returning starters JT Floyd, Courtney Avery. But depth is a luxury we haven't had at this position in a few years. So it's encouraging to hear about guys like Delonte Hollowell, Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor all looking strong this spring.