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Defensive Line and Linebackers

August 28, 2010

Since the 3-3-5 defense may sometimes be a 4-2-5, or even a 4-3, with defensive lineman and linebackers shifting around, it makes more sense to group them together.  Collectively, the front 6, or 7, should be a strength. 

The anchor of the defensive line is without question Nose Tackle Mike Martin.  Martin showed glimpses of stardom as a sophomore, and I fully expect him to become an All-Conference performer this year.  He’s strong, plays with great leverage, and loves to hit.  In essence, the perfect nose tackle.  The guys joining Martin on the defensive line are no slouches either.  Ryan Van Bergen is a consistent, steady defensive tackle, who stepped up last year when Brandon Graham was double teamed.  With plenty of double teams coming Martin’s way, Van Bergen could again have a big year.  The other lineman is defensive end Greg Banks.  Banks is a 5th year senior, and a guy who has put in his time to get into the starting lineup.  Since Van Bergen and Martin should be the playmakers, Banks’ role will be to play at a high enough level that other teams have to respect him.   That shouldn’t be a problem.  Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson has promised to shuffle in lots of substitutions to keep the defensive line fresh, so expect to see plenty of guys like William Campbell, Renaldo Sagesse, and perhaps Adam Patterson.  If a freshman gets into the mix, it will probably be Jibreel Black, who has impressed already this fall. 

The segue into discussion about linebackers starts with Craig Roh.  Roh played as a true freshman at defensive end last year, where he was a menance.  Forcing fumbles, causing bad passes, and getting QB sacks were his forte.  Now Roh has a year of experience, a year of added muscle, and a new scheme that should make him even more dangerous.  As an outside linebacker, Roh will be able to wreak even more havoc with the ability to lineup as a down lineman, or as a blitzing linebacker.  This defense will play to his strengths.  

As for the other linebackers, the news may not be so good, as everyone’s favorite punching bags, Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton, return.  As you’ll recall, in 2009,  nobody was excited about the return of everyone’s target in 2008, Stevie Brown, so I’m cautiously optimistic that Mouton and Ezeh can have similar years.  Mouton has had a great camp so far, and is certainly in line for the Stevie Brown “Where the hell did that season come from?” Memorial Award this year.  Ezeh is a less likely candidate, and may not even get the starting nod in the first game.  Converted fullback Mark Moundros, who previously was best known for being the wedge buster on a kickoff return that left him wobbly and nearly unconscious, is giving Ezeh quite a run for his money.    If Moundros can shed blocks and get in position better than Obi, I’m all for it.  

If Mouton, Ezeh or Moundros can’t get it done, Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald and Mike Jones to get a chance to shine. 

 While losing Brandon Graham to graduation was a large blow to this unit, I fully expect that due to experience, a little more depth, and a system that will better maximize talent, the front 6 should be better than last year.  If the linebackers can got a level they couldn’t find last year, this area of the defense could be very special. 

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