What defense you may ask, as George Webster, Percy Snow, Carl Banks, Julian Peterson, and Max Bullough wouldn’t recognize what we have been trotting out on the field lately.
Last year we were the easiest team in the league to convert a third downs against, and lots of them were third and long as we gave up the most plays of over 10 yards of anyone in the league.
We gave up 200+ yards rushing to Rutgers and Indiana who were both bad rushing teams, and had one of the worst rushing defenses we have had in many years.
We were not even in the top 100 in rush defense, after being in the top 10 six times from 2011-18.
The ease of running took some of the pressure off the pass defense, but it was still horrible ranking 124th of 130 teams in pass efficiency defense, and dead last in interceptions by the secondary.
We kept the same defensive coordinator, and secondary coach, so why should this year be any different?
Let’s break it down by positions from worst to best.
Henderson the leader of the secondary unfortunately ran out of eligibility, we also lost Ronald Williams, Ameer Speed and Kendell Brooks.
Brantley is now the only member of the entire secondary with more than one interception, and one of only three secondary players who have started more than 2 games for us.
Starters: Chuck Brantley (11 starts), Dillon Tatum (1 start) or Terry Roberts (0 starts for Iowa)
Starters: Angelo Grose (8 starts) or Chester Kimbrough (6 starts)
Starters: Jaden Mangham (2 starts), Malik Spencer (0 starts)
Reserves: Armorion Smith (Cincinnati), Justin White (1 start), Semar Melvin (0 starts for WIS), Sean Brown ( 0 starts), Malcom Jones (0 starts), Khalil Majeed ( 0 starts), Harold Joiner III (0 starts), Marqui Lowery (0 starts), Khary Crump (0 starts), Ade Willie (0 starts), Caleb Coley (0 starts), Chance Rucker (0 starts), Eddie Pleasant (0 starts), Philipp Davis (0 starts)
On paper it is hard to figure out how things will improve as there are only two four stars, and very little experience across the board.
We did add another new Cornerbacks coach ( our third in three years ), so maybe that will help.
I think things will actually get better, mainly due to the next two position groups.
Last year I expected big things from the defensive line as I liked the two new coaches ( now both gone and replaced by a head scratching pick from Stanford who’s sacks and rushing defense both averaged outside of the top 100 the past three years running ).
After that our pass rush that had looked good, totally disappeared.
We lost a lot of experience in Mallory, Hunt, and Pietrowski but did extremely well in recruiting, and the transfer portal.
We are as talented as I can ever remember with Kris Bogle (former top 50 recruit), Dre Butler (former top 10 JUCO), Tunmise Adeleye (former top 100 recruit), Bai Jobe (top 100 recruit), Andrew DePaepe (top 150 recruit), Jalen Thompson ( top 250 recruit ), Alex VanSumeren (top 250 recruit), and Ken Talley (top 275 recruit). That is an OSU/UM/Pn St level of talent on the defensive line.
In addition at DT we also return Simeon Barrow who started 10 games last year, and brought in Jalen Sami who started all 12 games for Colorado.
Starters: Simeon Barrow ( 10 starts ), Derrick Harmon (5 starts) or Jalen Sami (12 starts for Colorado)
Reserves: Maverick Hansen (2 starts), Jarrett Jackson (Florida State), Dre Butler (liberty), Alex VanSumeren (4 star, 0 starts).
Starters: Khris Bogle (4 star), Tunmise Adeleye ( 4 star, 2 starts for TX A&M)
Reserves: Brandon Wright (2 starts), Avery Dunn (2 starts), Zion Young (2 starts), Ken Talley ( 4 star, 0 starts), Bai Jobe ( 4 star, 0 starts), Andrew Depaepe ( 4 star, 0 starts), Jalen Thompson ( 4 star, 0 starts).
The defensive line has great size, good experience, great talent, and great depth, what more could you want aside from actual on field performance and a better coach?
Once again the LB corps is talented and deep.
Windmon who was the big ten player of the three times in a tunnel gate shortened season returns, along with All big ten Cal Haladay.
Starters: Cal Haladay (11 starts), Jacoby Windmon (8 starts)
Reserves: Aaron Brule (2 starts), Jordan Hall (4 star 0 starts), Ma’a Gaoteote (4 star 0 starts), Darius Snow ( lots of starting experience but still recovering from injury)
Once again our talent fits much better with a 4-3-4 than the 4-2-5 that Halzeton favors, and it is amazing that none of our talented linebackers transferred out.
The front seven is loaded with Talent and depth and if they aren’t one of the top teams in both sacks and rushing defense, our coaches should be let go.
We should be disruptive enough to generate more turnovers, and avoid the negative turnover margin we had last year.
If we can generate the kind of QB pressure that we should with all this talent, it will take a lot of pressure off our questionable secondary.
If it works out our defense could take a giant step forward this year.