2010 Spring Preview
- No. 3
How's Your Unit? ... Part 1
Your Unit? ... Part 2
While all the big-time programs reload, there’s one unit, one spot, that needs to be worked on and improved or else it could be an Achilles heel and the team’s downfall.. Here are the most important
and interesting unit issues that’ll shape the college football landscape
and the 2010 season.
36. Cincinnati Defensive Line
Not only does Cincy lose productive ends Ricardo Mathews and Alex Daniels to graduation, but switching back to a 4-3 creates a need for more bodies. After Derek Wolfe, a budding star on the inside, the ‘Cats will be putting out help wanted ads, especially after struggling against the run. DE Dan Giordano and DT Brandon Mills impressed in their debuts, and it’s possible super-sized LB Curtis Young will be asked to put his hand back in the dirt.
35. East Carolina Defensive Line
It’s a good thing Ruffin McNeill’s specialty is defense because he’s going to be tested in his debut on the job. When all-star NG Linval Joseph declared early for the NFL Draft, East Carolina was essentially cleaned out on the front seven. Everyone of significance has graduated, including sack specialist C.J. Wilson, the program’s best end in years. Looking to impress the staff will be Maurice Mercer, Steve Spence, and A.J. Johnson on the outside and Josh Smith, Michael Brooks, Antonio Allison, and Robert Jones.
34. Houston Linebacker
It’s asking a lot, but these guys will simply have to be everywhere this fall, going sideline-to-sideline to string plays out. The program actually has a handful of quality athletes at the position, headed by all-star and league-leading tackle Marcus McGraw. Phillip Steward and Kris Johnston showed flashes of potential as freshmen last fall, and will be asked to do plenty more in their second season of eligibility.
California Wide Receiver
Yeah, head coach Mike Riley has had issues, but it’s not as if he’s had access to a big-time receiver since DeSean Jackson left Berkeley. This is a marginal collection of talent, with a couple of spots available on the depth chart now that Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng have graduated. Marvin Jones is a solid No. 1, but he needs more help and he needs to tighten up his game. Beginning in March, Michael Calvin, Alex Lagemann, Jeremy Ross, Isi Sofele, and Jarrett Sparks will all be competing to upgrade this position.
32. Texas A&M Cornerbacks
While the secondary was a nightmare in 2009, youth can be blamed for part of the problem with then-sophomore Terrence Frederick, then-true freshman Dustin Harris, and then-true freshman Steven Terrell playing key roles. They’ll get even more help this year from the defensive front seven, but they won’t have free safety Jordan Pugh to help out.
31.South Florida Defensive Ends
After being an area of strength for so long, the Bulls could be light at defensive end for a change. The graduation of George Selvie and early exit of Jason Pierre-Paul deprives the defense of last year’s two best edge rushers. With a rebuilt secondary likely to be more vulnerable as well, it’ll be incumbent upon Craig Marshall, Ryne Giddins, David Bedford, and Patrick Hampton to perform with a next-man-in mentality.
30. Oregon Cornerback
Outside of the offensive backfield, which really isn't that big a problem, there are no glaring holes on this team heading into the season. The Ducks, however, would like to build some depth in the secondary, particularly since corners Willie Glasper and Walter Thurmond have run out of eligibility. Talmadge Jackson has one spot locked down, but the other position is open, and developing reliable backups will be a top priority. Cliff Harris is the frontrunner, with Anthony Gildon and Chad Peppars in his rear-view mirror.
29. Utah Linebackers
Losing linebackers Stevenson Sylvester and Mike Wright hurts as the entire starting corps needs to be replaced. However, for all the talent the Utah defense had and for all the experience, there wasn’t a whole bunch of success against the better ground games. The Utes held the miserable running teams like San Jose State (22 yards) and San Diego State (55) in check, but they got ripped up by TCU for 342 yards and five scores and had problems with the spreads of Utah State and Air Force.
28. Arkansas Running Back
With a quarterback like Ryan Mallett and a passing game like the Hogs have, it’s easy to ignore the ground game. Michael Smith was supposed to be the main man last year, but he had problems staying on the field. Now the spotlight will be on a slew of backs who bring different things with massive junior Broderick Green the power runner and sophomore Knile Davis, junior Dennis Johnson, and sophomore Ronnie Wingo all taking turns at bat. Wingo, a slippery 6-3, 218-pounder, is likely to emerge as the star of the show.
27. West Virginia Receivers
Although Jock Sanders is back, West Virginia lost its top field-stretcher, Alric Arnett, to graduation. The slots are fine and Bradley Starks should step up at one outside position, but what happens on the other side? The coaches were cautiously optimistic that redshirt freshman Logan Heastie begins to bloom, but he might not even be on the team. One of the highest-rated recruits to ever choose Morgantown, he has the size and speed to really open up the field for the jackrabbits.
26. TCU Cornerbacks
The secondary loses two First Team All-Mountain West corners in Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest … whatever. In steps Jason Teague, Greg McCoy, and Malcolm Williams, and the pass defense will be as good as ever. The safety combination of Tejay Johnson, Alex Ibiloye, Jurell Thompson and Tyler Lutrell is tremendous with interchangeable options and great tackling ability. After finishing sixth in the nation against the pass, the production won’t drop off, if at all.
25. Missouri Defensive Tackles
The bulk of the defensive talent is on the end where Aldon Smith, Jacquies Smith, and Marcus Malbrough should all be fantastic, but the loss of Jaron Baston on the inside is big. Dominique Hamilton, Terrell Resonno and Bart Coslet need to form a steady rotation before the start of the year to allow the stars on the outside to shine. Mizzou is used to getting a big interior push, and the spotlight will be on to see if it can camp out in backfields.
24. BYU Defensive Line
The pass rush was fine at times, even if it wasn’t consistent, but there weren’t many plays made behind the line against the run. The Cougars were 101st in the nation in tackles for loss even with playmakers like Jan Jorgensen, Brett Denney, and Colbey Clawson on the front seven. The Cougars were tremendous at making big things happen up front two years ago, either, but they came up with a big, BIG sack on Sam Bradford and usually came through when they had to.
23. Miami’s Offensive Line
This seems to be a perennial issue for the Hurricanes. This year is no different. From a mediocre group a year ago, they lose all-star LT Jason Fox and starting C A.J. Trump. The balance of this unit is nothing special. If little-used Tyler Horn or rookie Shane McDermott can’t deliver at the pivot, it’ll force the staff to import and cross-train one of the guards. Quietly, line coach Jeff Stoutland will be one of the most important figures in Miami this offseason.
22. Oklahoma Cornerbacks
The offensive line doesn’t have any brand-name stars after losing Trent Williams, but there are enough talented big bodies to assume that the blocking will once again be fine. If OU could get through last year with all the different combinations, this season won’t be an issue. The bigger concern early on will be at corner where Demontre Hurst and former safety Jonathan Nelson will give it a shot. The safeties, Sam Proctor and Quinton Carter, are good enough to make up for some mistakes on the outside, but the spotlight will be on until the right combination is found.
21. Stanford Running Back
So who succeeds Toby Gerhart? Sophomore Stepfan Taylor is at the head of the line after lettering as a true freshman and playing rather well. A powerful 210-pounder, he turned 56 carries into 303 yards and a pair of scores, getting on the field for all 13 games. And don’t forget about senior Jeremy Stewart, the backup in September before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for the final eight games.
20. Wisconsin Defensive Tackle
The Badgers will be fine on the outside despite the loss of all-star O’Brien Schofield, but the biggest key
to the defense will be at tackle after losing underappreciated stalwarts Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle. The team is loaded everywhere else, but the machine could break down if there are problems on the defensive interior.
19. UCLA Defensive Line
After dominating at times up front a year ago, UCLA will be missing All-American DT Brian Price and underrated veterans Korey Bosworth and Jerzy Siewierski. While Datone Jones and Damien Holmes have bright futures on the outside, who’s going to plug the holes on the interior? It’ll be a big spring for David Carter, Justin Edison, and Andy Keane, among others, who’ll get a shot at expanded roles.
Your Unit? ... Part 2