As we continue to go through our depth chart lets pivot from the offensive side of the ball and switch over to what everyone is hyping as the strongest part of our football program.
By now if you haven't gotten a whiff of the DeWayne Walker hype around Bruin Defense, then you simply have not been paying any attention. I am not going to bother rehashing the argument on why we think Walker may be a decent DC, but is not a great one. And we are not going to anoint him as a great coach unless he can show that he can scheme against prolific college offenses like Cal, Oregon etc.
Instead, we'll just talk about all the talent and experience (at least on paper/depth chart) this team is going to have this coming season, making this probably the most loaded Bruin Defense in years (probably since the 2001 one which got off to a 6-0 start before imploding down the stretch).
And let's start with looking at our front 7. Remember last season? We predicted that 2006 would be the end of the thin blue line. And boy that prediction came true.
Walker to give him credit was able to coach up the available talent and turn them into an effective defensive unit. They still have a long way to go to match the consistent tenacity of the Rocky Long coached defense of the 1997-98 team, but they made great strides.
Our LBers who were an inexperienced bunch heading into last season. Depth in this unit is no longer an issue per DeWayne Walker:
|42 Arron Whittington (6-2, 212, Sr.**)(10)||33 Christian Taylor (6-0, 220, Sr.**)(12)||51 Reggie Carter (6-1, 221, So.**) (12)|
|54 Kyle Bosworth (6-1, 227, Jr)(1)||12 John Hale (6-4, 223, Jr.)(3)||8 Shawn Oatis (6-0, 218, So.**)|
|49 Fred Holmes (6-2, 226, Sr.)||45 Tobi Umodu (6-0, 230, Fr.**)||53 Joshua Edwards (6-1, 228, So.**)^|
It is quarterbacked by none other than number 33:
You remember that hit? No?
Christian Taylor, the transfer from Air Force, is the unquestioned leader of this crew. Some call him undersized, but he wants to have none of it. Taylor is a cerebral athlete who also happens to be a natural leader. Not only does he always put himself in the right position to make plays, he also does a great job of making sure his team-mates are in the right spot (as he is in charge of calling the defensive signals). We can all expect a great season from him. Taylor is going to be backed up by John Hale, who is an undersized LB. But Walker is counting on him to make a difference at this position because he thinks Hale has the ability to be cerebral LB ala Taylor:
Hale, who started three games at outside linebacker last season and was expecting to challenge Aaron Whittington for playing time, has embraced the role.
"It takes a lot more brains," said Hale, a junior. "Playing outside, you have to worry about yourself and maybe two other guys. Playing the middle, you have to worry about 10 other guys."
Reggie Carter is probably the best athlete of the starting three. This picture of him standing over Booty is now immortalized in Bruin lore. The next step for Carter is going to be to learn from his freshman year experience, minimize mistakes, and show the explosiveness he showed against Southern Cal more consistently.
We haven't seen much of Umodu and Holmes. We hear Umodu is a pretty solid athlete who could see some reps this coming season, but are not sure about Holmes.
Edwards is a transfer from UC Davis, who I imagine will be relegated to practice field.
Not shown on this depth chart is incoming freshman Steve Sloan (6-3, 220, Fr.). If Dorrell doesn't screw up yet another detail, he probably will not see any time, and focus on learning the ropes in a red-shirt season.
Now let's talk about the front line. Guess who is the leader of not only this unit, but probably the entire team?
Right, we will get to number 44 in a bit, but let's look at who else Walker is going to have in his disposal up front:
|96 Nikola Dragovic (6-4, 262, Sr.**)||93 Brigham Harwell (6-2, 283, Sr.) (12)||75 Kevin Brown (6-3,293, Sr.**)(12)||44 Bruce Davis (6-3, 229, Sr.**) (13)|
|56 Tom Blake (6-4, 263, Jr.**)^||52 Jess Ward (6-4, 296, So.**)||50 Chase Moline (6-2, 268, Jr.)|
|55 Korey Bosworth (6-1, 233, So.**)||98 Jeff Miller (6-5, 249, Fr.**)||90 Jerzy Siewierski (6-2, 290, So.)||47 Chinoso Anyanwu (6-4, 211, So.**)|
|91 Reginald Stokes (6-3, 255, Fr.**)||97 Darius Savage (6-4, 333, Fr.**)||85 David Carter (6-5, 268, Fr.**)|
One quick note. Although the depth chart has Lombard listed at RE, he is no longer playing with the defensive unit. Apparently, during the off season, he insisted on a move to running back and was so strident in his demand that he gave up his scholarship. Whatever.
Even without Lombard, this unit has enough personnel (which if plays up the hype) should be a run stuffing machine:
Note how 33 was in that play too. Anyways, lets get back to talking about our line, and start with Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce.
What can I say? I know I am hard on the kid sometimes for being a little brash. But he is pretty awesome. Bruce brought the goods last season piling up 47 tackles (17.5 for loss) and 12.5 sacks. He was tied for first in the Pac-10 in terms of sack numbers (tired for fourth in the nation). He also forced 3 fumbles. The dude is all over various pre-season All American teams). Davis should be a lock to make the All Pac-10 team this season if he continues to play at the level he played last season. But here is the question:
Will Davis get the same support from other end - Nikola Dragovic - the way Hickman teamed up with him last season?
I think it is unrealistic to expect Dragovic to produce the same numbers Hickman did last season. However, if he can make solid contributions, making the opposition respect his presence, instead of solely focusing on number 44, then we can expect our line to become extremely effective. Dragovic was recovering from an injury last year. Although he doesn't have the explosiveness of a Bruce Davis, he has enough size and athletic ability to become a factor.
And Dragovic and Davis are going to be helped out by the presence of two beasts: Harwell and Brown. Those guys were pivotal cogs in a run stopping machine that gave up less than 3 yards per carry last season. I believe the Bruins featured the number 1 run defense in the Pac-10 last season largely due to the efforts of these guys.
Behind these guys we get Blake, Ward, Siewierski, and Anyanwu. Blake, like Edwards, is also a transfer from UC Davis. We have heard good things about him being a UCLA level player (whatever that means in this era of Dorrell football).
Ward has decent size. He has been around the program for more than two years. It will be interesting to see if he will get some reps this coming season. Siewierski, Savage and Anyanwu are the two wild cards IMO. Siewierski was a pretty hyped recruit and he showed a lot of promise as a freshman DL last season. If he has continued to progress through this off season, we can expect a big season from him. Like Siewierski, Savage was another monster DL recruit coming in last year. Although he came in with a lot of hype, he didn't really bust into rotation, apparently because he still was learning the ropes in practice. Perhaps he will get his moments this season. Meanwhile, at 211lb, Anyanwu is too skinny to play on the line (end), yet we have seen no sign of the coaches wanting him to move elsewhere on the team. Heck, he's kind of small to play LB too. Perhaps they think he is athletic and strong enough to play that position.
Elsewhere, Chase Moline had surgery earlier this year. He made some decent contributions as a freshman. It will be interesting to see how he shapes during this late summer camp. Same goes with Bosworth, Stokes and Carter, who will have to prove themselves in training camp.
As far as true freshman go, of course, the story is when Price will officially join the team. The story is yet another troubling one which undercuts all the hype about Dorrell being a man of details. Whatever I guess. With or without him, the Bruins still have enough depth on front 7 to get off to a great start and have a great season this coming year. When Price joins the team, gets in a groove at practice, he will just make this rotation deeper. As for other freshmen, I don't see Akeem Ayers (6-2, 220, Fr.) and Justin Edison (6-3, 230, Fr.) breaking into the rotation this coming season.
The bottom line is given all the hype we have heard about DeWayne Walker as the DC of one of the most "improved" defenses in the country, we should expect this unit to be a dominating one, and a key component of a team that should win at least the Pac-10 championship this coming season. Anything short of that will be a profound disappointment and under achievement on the part of DeWayne Walker, and ultimately Karl Dorrell.