Bruins get back out in Spaulding today after taking the day off yesterday. While we have talked a lot about various position changes this spring we haven't talked a lot about the performance of our defensive line. David Carter and co. have huge shoes to fill following departure of Brian Price.
It's not just expectations that are high. So are the physical demands of the spring, given a lack of depth at tackle. With another redshirt senior, Andy Keane, sidelined for the spring by a finger injury requiring surgery, there are only four defensive tackles on hand: Carter, redshirt juniors Nate Chandler and Justin Edison and redshirt sophomore Donovan Carter.
"We missed a couple classes in defensive line recruiting," Neuheisel said. "... So we're going to count on these four, and then we've got some incoming guys that we've got to count on as well."
David Carter says the lack of numbers has actually drawn the line closer together.
"We don't have a lot of depth, so we're really looking to each other for answers and looking to each other for guidance," Carter said. "It's not just me being a leader on the defensive line. We've got (defensive ends) Datone Jones (and) Reginald Stokes -- even though he's out right now, he's still a leader.
"I feel like we're more bonded as a unit, this D-line and the defense as a whole this spring, than any other spring that I've been here. ... We're all competing for a starting spot, but at the same time, we're not afraid to lend a helping hand."
Coaches are counting on Cater to become a steady presence in the trenches this season. He hasn't had the opportunity to completely breakthrough in recent season because he was playing behind an NFL talent like Brian Price and also the veteran like Jerzy. The key for Carter I think is to understand that he should not feel pressure about replacing those guys and just worry about being himself and take care of the assignments within the defensive scheme. He seems to have the right attitude about it.
Carter is also enjoying having Nate Chandler as his team-mate:
"He doesn't have mercy on anybody," Carter said referring to Chandler. "Nate is strong and aggressive, he's a monster, he's just nasty in there. It's not hard for him because he's already a beast."
Chandler seems to have fit right in the defensive trenches:
"As we kept working out, I kept maturing and kept getting bigger," Chandler said. "I thought the position switch would help the team out." [...]
Chandler admits that the switch has not been as hard as he anticipated it to be. Gaining 30 lbs. to become an offensive lineman was hard. Moving back to tight end and being thrown into the rotation while weighing 280 lbs. was hard. As a defensive player, Chandler no longer has to learn about certain coverages. The playbook is much thinner.
Chandler still has things to improve on, such as using his hands and staying low in his three-point stance. But he believes the skills will come with time and more repetitions. For now, it's just buckle down and go.
"I feel like I'm learning something new every day," Chandler said. "I'm not saying the D-line is easy because the physicality took some getting used to."
I wish I had a chance to watch him closely while attending practice last week. Seems like CRN and his staff have been generally happy with the early results from this experiment. Chandler should only get better.
Besides Chandler there has been another player who has gone through multiple position switches since arriving to Westwood. While Chandler moved from TE to OL to TE to DL, looks like Connor Bradford has moved over to TE (switching over from OL and DL). From the OC Register:
"I was a tackle, guard, defensive end and now tight end," Bradford said. "I like it. Everywhere they put me, I enjoy it.
"I think just because catching and running routes is foreign to me, that's a bit of a challenge so far."
That stands to reason.
After spending most of his career as a tough guy, Bradford now has to show that his hands are soft enough to catch and cradle a football.
This isn't the first time the thought of tight end has been planted in Bradford's head. The subject came up when he was playing at Palmdale High.
"Just because I was faster than all the other offensive linemen, guys said that I could have played tight end," he recalled. "I wasn't expecting it but now that I'm here, I'm going to go and make the best of this opportunity."
Bradford seems to have the perfect team mind-set which I imagine coaches really appreciate.
As mentioned above Bradford and co. gets back out on Spaulding around 4 pm today. They have a scrimmage tomorrow before taking the weekend off. So not counting the scrimmage (scheduled for April 24) Bruins have only 4 spring practice dates left. So if you haven't made it out to Spaulding yet, time to make those plans starting today.