My thoughts have migrated to football, as baseball, for me, is the most stressful, volatile game in existence.........so forgive the ADD. I wanted to discuss the defense with some brevity, as I've manufactured a migraine.
I feel optimistic up front, commencing with our DT's. I have to start with Nkemdiche/Gross(the latter, if healthy, can be very good, if not great). I portend that Robert will have a breakout season, settling in full-time on the inside; we saw glimpses, in the Egg Bowl and especially in the Music City Bowl. he has all the ability to be disruptive in the backfield, is as mean as a rattlesnake, and with the pandemic of read-option, we need him to penetrate and make the opposing QB pay on his reads; if he hands off to the upback, he needs to be there to blast the QB. Same scenario if he keeps it. Interior penetration is the key, in my weak capacity, to stopping the read-option. Same applies for Gross, who may very well be quicker off the ball. We have quality depth in Woody Hamilton, Herbert Moore, Lavon Hooks, Breeland Speaks(who may be as talented as anyone inside) At DE, getting CJ back is paramount to our pass-rush. Fadol Brown, according to the coaches, should have a phenomenal year. Garrald McDowell has tremendous upside, though I don't know if he will redshirt or not. Bryon Bennett can be a consummate run-stopper. I'm looking for some production out of Victor Evans. He played at Skyline HS in Dallas, which is one of the most competitive divisions in all of high-school football. Certainly it is not college football, and especially not the SEC, but I have a feeling that if he can put on 10-15 lbs he can make an impact as a situational pass-rusher. Now, obviously I'm deaf, dumb, and mute compared to our staff, but Marquis Haynes needs to be on the field.more often than not. I realize we have some depth at OLB, with Lewis(our most athletic linebacker), Denzel, Serderius Bryant, and our rising freshmen, but the thought of a 6'3, 225 lb track star running sideline to sideline is salivating. In all likelihood, Haynes will likely get up to 240-245 and terrorize offensive tackles. Yet from what I've seen, he is starting material talent-wise.
At LB, I've heard Shack may man the MLB position. Certainly he is an athletic upgrade from Mike Marry(who was a hell of a player for 3 years), but with the past knee injuries, can he run down RB's sideline to sideline and have the burst to fill the A-gap when shading to the left or right? I do feel great about Keith Lewis. His speed, athleticism, and experience make him the most talented LB on the roster(had he just intercepted Dak's pass when State was driving to tie......right in his hands.......damn).
At Cornerback, I feel we have procured quality depth, Tee Shepherd or no. Golson is solid at field corner and has closing speed. He does lack ideal size however. Now, Derek Jones at 6'3" is a stud athlete who shut down 2 of the best WR's in the SEC in Landry and Beckham. I see Derek starting at the boundary. Kailo Moore, if he can make the transition technically and mentally, has speed to burn and fair size. I hear Kamara has made strides to contribute, and Carlos Davis, sans Kailo may be the fastest player on the team. If Tee takes care of his schoolwork I feel he can be a shutdown corner, at 6'1"+, superior cover skills, and ball skills. One never knows how these JUCO recruits are going to respond their first year, however...
At Husky, Tony Conner is.......Tony Conner. Possibly our most talented defensive player. I presume Hilton will spell Tony, but I like Hilton at corner He can tackle and cover a lot of ground, though dimunitive. At safety, someone will have to enlighten me on the 2-deep. I surmise Ealston will start at Rover, Prewitt at FS; my question is, will CJ Hampton play FS or Rover? And Anthony Alford, who has been hailed as the best athlete on the team? I know all 4 will see a lot of playing time because we rotate safeties like d-linemen. But I really, really like Alford. To close, this is the deepest, most talented defense we have fielded since 1992. But talent and summertime speculation is empty. How will they play? How will they gel? Who arises as new leaders? No matter who we pull for, these questions remain vacuous until August and September... RIP TONY FEIN