Let's Talk Defense

  • We all know that this year’s season being special hinges on two things. The team (especially JD) staying healthy, and the Defense taking a step forward. Camp hype is always a bit blown out of proportion, but I do think it is time to talk about the defense and what they can do this year. The area we really need to see improvement on is the run defense specifically. Both the LB room and DL need to take a step forward this year.

    • Defensive Line: We lost Phelps to the NFL (that one really stings). But we added some transfers to the line that could potentially help. Devin Phillips the NT from Colorado State has seemingly been what he’s billed thus far. What we have heard though, is that Austin Booker and DJ Withers (who is up to 315 lbs now) have really had strong camps. Hearing Gage Keys will be playable and in the rotation as well. Add in some depth from Joyner (Utah State Transfer) and Dylan Brooks, there may be a somewhat decent 2-deep across the front-line and I think we may even have a decent 3rd down pass rush with the ability to kick Robinson/Hatcher/Booker all inside. That let’s you bring on Joyner and Brooks. Overall - I’d say look for improvement here vs. last season.

    • LBs: Last season we felt paper-thin here. There was drama with Potter. It took several games before Craig Young looked comfortable out there. Our UCF transfer Gilyard really didn’t end up providing us the depth we wanted. It was disappointing to say the least. I’m not saying that we will be better at LB even necessarily, but the word out of camp on the depth is HIGH. Cornell Wheeler and JB Brown have gotten a ton of praise in camp to the point that JB Brown may steal Berryhill’s spot at the WLB (Berryhill has been out with Hamstring issues). Craig Young has added even more speed and it sounds like he will be a force. Rich Miller is a pretty solid MLB, but it would be nice to see him improve. Overall - I’d say expect similar results from this group… Which kind of sucks but I do think they have some guys with upside to make plays.

    • CBs - Maybe the most talented position group outside of QB, at least on paper? Just a really solid group of Corners with Bryant, Dotson, McGhee and Gervin. This could end up being a really special ball-hawking group. I would expect this group to maybe be even better than last season…

    • S - Steady as she goes. Kenny Logan back for that Super-Senior season. The other safety is TBD probably, but you’ve got options with Grant, Burroughs, and JUCO product Jalen Dye. I would expect this group to be about the same, however in a perfect world communication won’t just completely break down anytime Kenny Logan isn’t on the field. Hoping that the staff worked on that this offseason.

    I think in a perfect world the defense can get down to a conference PPG allowed of ~32 PPG. That is about a TD improvement over last season. I’m not sure I have a high-level of confidence that happens, but I would give it a 30% chance. More likely they get closer to 35ppg in conference. But even that would have ended in a couple more wins last season imo.

    Overall, I think the staff did as good of a job as they could addressing the team’s needs. They added a ton of playable transfers on the line. They added some LBs. They added some pass rushers. Hopefully, another year with Sleeve allows us to take that next step forward.

  • I guess I’m the eternal optimist . The call me stupid homer , I agree with you on the defense this yr , and do think we will be better. Our defense has been bad for awhile, but it’s coming. We have the pieces Guess I’m the eternal hope lol.

    We will be better this year and as you say I fully believe this - - I believe this with my entire Crimson and Blue heart .I think and really do believe that in two years, If these guys commit to Gildersleeve & continue to develop , I 100 % think this defense can e really ugly good, I mean rip your head off good - -you wil know when they hit you , you’ve been hit

    If we can keep these guys that has verbaled to us and commit in December , . the staff has went out and gotten some really good talent You can see they focused ALOT on the defensive side AND that the pieces needed are there. yes it will take a couple of years , but if they buy into the staff - - commit - - look the hell out

  • I wondered last year whether changes would be made with our defensive coaching staff. The spotlight will certainly be on Brian Borland to establish a better defensive unit. Coaches Onatolu, defensive ends and Panagos, defensive tackles have many new faces to whip into an effective unit. I’m hoping to see the same level of improvement on defense this year that we saw on offense last year. We saw some timely defensive stops against WV and Duke last year. I lean toward optismism in August every year.

  • One of the latest Swain articles was the coaches talking about the changes to the DL. To summarize:

    • Phillips was basically fat when he got here. 35% body fat He has reduced his body fat % by 8% and has gotten even more explosive. Most explosive DT they’ve had since being here based on some fancy tracking metrics.

    • DJ as mentioned above put on 30lbs of pure muscle. 315lbs from 285lbs and they say he looks like he would still weigh 285lbs.

    • Gage Keys put on a serious amount of weight, 260 to 290. His length, bend and speed is something they haven’t had before and it should be noticeable. Basically they used him as an example vs. Eddie Wilson to show the difference in height/strength/speed. They really think this group will be fast and athletic while maintaining a lot of the strength. Also he can run over 20 mph…

    • Gildersleeve says Booker may be some of his best work in one offseason. Said the guy was just totally committed.

    • Sounds like Gildersleeve is salivating over Dylan Brooks and what they can turn him into over the next few years. But basically they didn’t sound like they expected him to play too many snaps.(Not a surprise)

    They seem very excited by this group, especially from a long-term perspective. They feel like this is the first year they have the personnel to run the 4-man front.

  • Definitely some optimism there. Honestly I’d sprinkle some dough that Booker starts at WDE next week.

  • @FarmerJayhawk said in Let's Talk Defense:

    Definitely some optimism there. Honestly I’d sprinkle some dough that Booker starts at WDE next week.

    wouldn’t surprise me one bit. - -Kinda of got a feeling that J B Brown might have some influence on this defense too

  • Not a Defense related topic but wanted to ask if there is any concern with JD having back tightness.

    Hope he does not miss any time.

  • @AsadZ seems like they are simply taking the extremely cautious route with him. He recently said he expected to play game 1.

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