Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Football: Defensive Preview

So, as the season previews roll out in advance of the opener Saturday, we'll start with the one that presents the most challenges....the defensive side of the ball.  BG's defense has been dreadful the last two seasons...so dreadful that Coach Jinks had to remove his friend from the position of DC and bring in Carl Pelini, who in turn ended up with a whole new set of defensive assistants.

I've already passed on reporting that says that BG is heading to Oregon without the full defense installed, which is something that is repeated in The Blade's preview.  In fact, the hope is to have the defense fully functioning by the middle of the season.

Here's what Pelini told The Blade

“Every time, it’s been a season-long process,” Pelini said. “Some teams responded more quickly than others, but in all four instances, it’s been a season-long process.

“I think our improvement from week one to week 12 is going to be vast. We’re going to show vast improvement.”

Note:  Pelini is talking about his three other defensive turnarounds, which give him an impressive record.

So, a couple points.  If that happens, it would be a significant step forward for a defense that did not improve (or got worse) from game 1 to game 24 of the previous regime.  I think people understood that the defense was undermanned, but I think you expect to see your team play better as the season goes on and that just didn't happen either year.  Coach said as much when he talked about the changes.

The other issue is the one mentioned in David Briggs' column, which makes the point that everyone is thinking about, which is what things have to happen for Coach Jinks to be back next year.  If the defense isn't matured until game six and the team is (say) 1-5 at that time, it is hard to imagine that the Pelini experiment will have time to mature.

As an aside, every year Coach has claimed we would be ready for conference play.

The best news was announced at Monday's presser, which is that Jamari Bozeman will start in Eugene.  He fills a position of need:  defensive playmaker.  He had a very serious injury and was questionable to start the year on the field, so all the credit to him for the hard work and perseverance to get back onto the field.

The shortage of proven playmakers is mostly because the defense had some issues in the off-season, losing Cam Jefferies, Armani Posey, and David Konowalski unexpectedly.  There were a couple of other plays lost who could have provided depth.

Here's the deal.  BG's defense allowed 38 a game in conference play last year, which was 11th.  The average in the MAC was about 25 points a game.  Getting there would require a 34% improvement over the year before, which is going to be tough.  Even getting teams under 30 would help--although that would still be 9th in the MAC, based on last season.  If the Pelini defense continues to improve though, that's not completely impossible, unless the Toledo and Miami games have put BG in too big a hole.  Anyway, you're going to need an average that starts with a 2 to have a shot, in my opinion.

That has to come everywhere, but especially on the run D.  BG was last in yards allowed per game in total and on the ground.  BG allowed 258 yards per game, and the next worst team in the MAC allowed 210.  (MAC Games only).   BG allowed 5.7 yards per rush, which was last in the MAC and 126th in the nation.

Obviously, that has to improve up front, with Schweiterman and Konowalski gone from last year.  Beyond the rushing issues, BG was also last in the MAC in sacks.

So, if you're trying to get under 30, that's the place to start.  Actually vital.  If BG (or any team) can't stop the run, they have no shot, giving up points and not getting the ball enough.

As for pass defense, BG was actually not too bad last year, even given the lack of pocket pressure. BG was 9th in pass efficiency in defense.  Teams completed on 54% of their passes (4th), and BG was 6th in INT/ATT.  The biggest issue for BG was yardage....BG allowed 13.8 per completion, which was 11th in the MAC and something you should be able to improve on right away with better communication.

The first depth chart is now out, and certainly reflects what we have been hearing.

On the d-line, the starters are Roland Walder at DE, he's a Kentucky transfer who was his region's DIII defensive player of the year in HS.  He was a LB on the roster and weighs 243.  Behind him is true FR Karl Brooks.

The tackles are Kyle Junior, probably our best defensive lineman, and Josh Croslen, who I believe is one of they key players to make or break the defense this year.  They are backed up by Nico Lautenen and DeMontage Haigler, one of last fall's JUCO transfers.

The other end is Jonah Harper, a R-SR who started in DII.  He's backed up by RFR Jordan Murphy, who has not played as of yet.

Overall, I think the line looks very light and I worry about how deep the rotation is. One note is that Brian Sanders is a Redshirt Senior who has played in the past, but does not show up on the depth chart, for whatever reason.

At LB, Brandon Harris and Kholbe Coleman are not surprises on the 1 line.  The other starter is Hassan Belton, another of the guys I think is key to having us succeed.  Belton was a highly productive JUCO LB.  Backups are RFR Jerry Roberts, RSO Jerry Judd and JUCO Eldridge Salguero.

Overall, that's not bad and actually pretty good if Belton plays the way we expect him to.  Depth isn't proven....

The backfield is interesting.  BG starts 4 RSrs and 1 JR on a backfield that, as noted above, was good against the pass last year.  (The depth chart has 5 DBS.)

As mentioned, the biggest is that Jamari Bozeman is back starting and Fred Garth is his backup.

Also newsworthy is that Clint Stephens is back starting at CB, across from Montre Gregory.  Not sure either is an all-MAC player, but they are experienced and not true FR.  Their backups are Troy transfer Jai Nunn-Liddell and Ty Redding.

The nickel back is Marcus Milton, backed up by Robert Jackson, Jr. both of who have some snaps under their belts.

The safeties are Bozeman/Garth, as mentioned, and Jerry McBride with Torrian Hampton back of him.

The back lines have the potential to be decent, if the line can hold its ground.  Tomorrow, the offense.

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