New Anchormen For The Front-7

Now that we have gone over our offense’s depth chart (OL, QBs, RBs, Receivers/TEs), let’s shift our focus on our defense. I will break up my notes in two parts. I will start by going over our front-7 today and then finish with our defensive backfield (sometime before the camp opens – whenever I can get to it).

So we all know about the questions around offense. I think there might be a perception out there that everything is all right with our defense considering DeWayne Walker is entering into his third season in Westwood. However, there are lots of questions around this unit. We have already had extensive discussions here on BN concerning Walker’s scheme. I will not regurgitate same old points. You can go through the archives and look up previous discussions about concerns over Walker’s defensive scheme’s ability to stop prolific college spread offenses featuring mobile QBs. Walker has proven that he can devise effective schemes against pro-set offenses as evidenced by our D’s performance in the last regular season games in past two years. However, question remains unanswered about his ability to stop spread offenses. If he comes through with a positive response this season, no doubt it will boost his stock in terms of lining up for a head coaching gig in another program.

However, for Walker to put together a good year he will have to work with a front-7 with a lot of question marks around the depth chart.

But if we look into our depth chart the questions/concerns will become an obvious. First, here is the current depth chart for our front-4:

LE DT DT RE
55 Korey Bosworth (6-1, 235, Jr.**)(3) 92 Brian Price (6-1, 297, So)(5)
93 Brigham Harwell (6-2, 292, Sr.) (2)[12] 56 Tom Blake (6-4, 259, Sr.**)
47 Chinoso Anyanwu (6-4, 216, Jr.**)(6)+ 52 Jess Ward (6-4, 280, Jr.**) 90 Jerzy Siewierski (6-2, 285, Jr.) 91 Reginald Stokes (6-3, 250, So.**)
85 David Carter (6-5, 257, So.**) 98 Jeff Miller (6-5, 259, So.**) 50 Chase Moline (6-2, 258, Sr.) 99 Justin Edison (6-3, 244, Fr.**)

51 Nathanial Skaggs (6-4, 300, Sr.**)

** denotes red-shirt
^ denotes walk-on
() indicates number of games started in 06
+ Per Dohn moved to SLB

No question about who will be the anchors. From Ted Miller who ranked the Pac-10’s best defensive tackles:

3.      Brigham Harwell, Sr., UCLA: A knee injury ended his 2007 season, but he's a high-motor guy who's started for three years.
4.      Brian Price, So. UCLA: Got double-teamed as a true freshman; he's a budding star. Don't be shocked if he ends up First-Team All-Pac-10.

As Dohn noted today Harwell is a great story even before he arrived at UCLA.  He is looking to follow Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis by putting together a memorable senior season after having to cut short his season last year due to injury. For our defense to have any shot we need him to stay healthy (knock on wood).

Harwell is going to pair up with this guy in the middle …

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Photo source: Oregonian Photo's Photostream (flickr)

… who IMO has the potential to emerge as one of the best ever to play in that position in a Bruin uniform. Price got a late start last year due to paper work issues. Once he got the paper work taken care of though it didn’t take him that long to become a fixture in the line up. I would imagine with a full year under his program and the current off season, he is going to come into this came in great shape and ready to dominate. With these two guys anchoring our defensive line, Walker and the UCLA staff are hoping that the Bruin defense will continue it’s stellar performance against the run from last two years [gave up 109.2 yards/game (3rd in Pac-10) in 07-8 and 91.1 yards/game (tied for 1st in Pac-10) in 06-07].

But Brigham and Brian will need help. And the question is whether they well get it? Take a look at that depth chart. Tom Blake is a former walk on/transfer from UC Davis. Korey Bosworth has gotten better every year since he arrived in the program. But I wonder if he has the size to play the position at defensive end.

As linked above Dohn reported that Chinoso was moved to SLB. I think that move makes a lot of sense because Chinoso really had LB size and his speed probably makes him a very good candidate to develop in that position. Ward has the size and he gained some experience last year after having to step up for injuries to Harwell. He did all right. So hopefully he will show improvement this year. Siewierski showed his potential last year. I am excited about seeing this kid play this year because I think he can emerge as a solid DL this year. Hopefully along with Harwell and Price these guys will allow Walker to put together a good core that will seal up the running game this season. Now if he can get some contributions from David Carter, Chase Moline and Reginald Stokes, we could be in decent shape. We will see.

In terms of new comers, Bruins will have two highly recruited new comers – Damien Holmes and Dantone Jones – coming in this year. From Scout.com here is the evaluation on Holmes:

Holmes stays low and fires off the ball, getting a great jump on any OL. He uses his hands well to shed blockers. After that Holmes is chasing, whether it’s the quarterback or running back he will get after it. Holmes has speed. He is a good pass rusher and run stopper. He holds contain against the run and will make the play. When the play goes the other way Holmes is very effective in pursuit and moves very well down the line.

And Jones:

Jones is quick off the edge, and rushes the passer with good intensity. Is explosive and uses his length well. Needs to work on his moves and technique, since he's been getting by on his athleticism.

Both of these two kids were recruited highly and offered by many of the elite programs around the country. I would think both of these guys will get some action this year.

Now let’s shift our attention towards our backers:

SLB MLB WLB
12 John Hale (6-4, 220, Sr.) 51 Reggie Carter (6-1, 221, Jr.**) (8) 54 Kyle Bosworth (6-1, 222, Sr)(7)
40 Akeem Ayers (6-2, 231, Fr.**)
43 Steve Sloan (6-3, 225, Fr.**)
53 Joshua Edwards (6-1, 232, Sr.**)
47 Chinoso Anyanwu (6-4, 216, Jr.**)(6) 57 Justin Woolbright (6-1, 217, Fr.**)^
48 Mike Schmitt (6-0, 224, So.**)
59 Michael Lutu (6-1,233, So.**)^

Christian Taylor – number 33 – was the leader of not just this group but prolly the QB of the entire defense last year. The guys are going to miss him (just like they will miss the fiery emotion not to mention the athleticism of Bruce Davis). But there is no question who has been groomed to take over for Christian:314675943_762cf67f33_medium
Photo Credit: Scott Varley, Daily Breeze (via Beretta627 (flickr))

Yes, this is Reggie’s year. Walker will be looking to him to become the emotional leader of this offense not to mention take over the MLB spot which mentioned above is akin to the QB position for the defense. It will be interesting to see how well Carter does to take over a spot which will require him to know Walker’s schemes inside and out and make sure that he and his guys are at the right spot at the right time anticipating the opponent’s move. He certainly has the talent and explosiveness to play this position. The question is whether he will be mentally ready to play in a position that will require him to be a leader of this team.

Backing up Reggie will be Steve Sloan who is a redshirt freshman from Archbishop Mitty, HS (Drew Gordon’s HS btw). Sloan came with the reputation of being a “good tackler.” I imagine he will get to prove it this year.

Already mentioned about Chinoso’s move above and it makes a lot of sense.  It will be interesting to see how long John Hale can hold him and Akeem for the starting spot at SLB. That should be a very competitive position this Fall. On the weak side Kyle brings experience. He should provide a steady presence.  Joshua Edwards is a former walk on and honestly I just don’t know a lot about Schmitt.

So once again this is another spot where an incoming freshman can break in. We are brining in two LBs this season: Donovan carter who had offers from a number of major Pac-10 programs and Patrick Larimore:

Larimore plays middle linebacker and shows outstanding instincts for the position, especially coming on the (delay) blitz. Larimore has excellent timing and anticipation. He plays inside out and moves well laterally. Larimore is fluid, takes on and defeats blockers and shows excellent fundamentals in tackling.

Given the inexperience in this unit, it will not be a surprise to see these guys getting some action as well.

So you can see there are lot of questions around the front-7. We do have some great talent anchoring the front-7. The question is whether they will get the support from team-mates who do not have a lot of experience. And considering the dire questions around our offense, the team is going to lean on these guys heavily. That’s a lot of pressure on a unit that will be looking to replaces guys like Davis and Taylor.

However, I would imagine Walker is going to be fired up this season to answer questions around his ability to match up against more creative offenses in college football. For him to come through these guys will have to step up in a big way this season. We are all crossing our fingers they do just that building on the improvements from last two seasons.

GO BRUINS.

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