2009 Football Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

AP Photo

The "Front Four".  The "Big Uglies".  The "First Line of Defense".

Call them what you will, but in terms of their importance to a good defense, there is no equal.  The ability of a defensive line to alter and/or dictate what an offense is able to do is unmatched by any other position on the defense.  They plug gaps and funnel offensive players into tackles at the next level.  Ends rush around tackles to force a quarterback to scramble or force the ball out of the pocket much more quickly than they'd like.  No matter what the purpose or the function of the defensive line is on any given play, the bottom line is that they are absolutely critical in the execution.

In the last few years, one of the positions that K-State has had spotty production from is the defensive line.  That's not necessarily a knock on all of the players who have left their blood and sweat in the trenches, but injuries, poor scheming, and personnel issues have caused a once solid position group to consistently be in flux from one season to the next.

Will that be the case this year as well?  Can the Wildcats get effective production from the defensive line, or will this be a position group that makes life more difficult for the linebackers and defensive backs?

Tackles

#99 Daniel Calvin

Class: Senior
Height: 6-3
Weight: 310
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (5 games)
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#93 Gabriel Crews

Class: Junior
Height: 6-1
Weight: 310
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#95 Jeffrey Fitzgerald

Class: Senior
Height: 6-4
Weight: 280
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (Virginia: 25 games)
Honors: Freshman All-American (2006: Scripps/Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News, Rivals.com)
Official Bio

#94 Raphael Guidry

Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-4
Weight: 274
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#61 Percival James

Class: True Freshman
Height: 5-11
Weight: 285
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#50 Hansen Sekona

Class: Senior
Height: 6-0
Weight: 230
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (3 at Linebacker)
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

 

Ends

#97 Chidubamu Abana

Class: Senior
Height: 6-4
Weight: 295
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (2 games)
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#46 Prizell Brown

Class: Junior
Height: 6-4
Weight: 265
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#90 Eric Childs

Class: Senior
Height: 6-3
Weight: 250
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (21 games)
Honors: Player Representative (2009)
Official Bio

#91 Brandon Harold

Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-6
Weight: 264
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: Yes (10 starts)
Honors: Freshman All-American (2008: Sporting News, Football Writers Association of America, Phil Steele, College Football News), All-Big 12 - Honorable Mention (2008)
Official Bio

#96 Payton Kirk

Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-6
Weight: 255
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#55 Kadero Terrell

Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-2
Weight: 235
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

#57 Grant Valentine

Class: Junior
Height: 6-3
Weight: 240
Previous Starter (Y/N)?: No
Honors: N/A
Official Bio

 

Projected Depth Chart:

Starters:

  • DE: Eric Childs
  • DE: Brandon Harold*
  • DT: Daniel Calvin
  • DT: Jeffrey Fitzgerald

Backups:

  • DE: Kadero Terrell
  • DE: Prizell Brown
  • DT: Raphael Guidry
  • DT: Chidubamu Abana

Justification:

Okay, I know exactly what you're thinking, and no, I'm not crazy.  It's true that Brandon Harold is injured right now...but we don't know how serious that injury is.  Therefore, I'm giving him the dreaded "asterisk of doom" meaning that, if he became healthy tomorrow (which he could be for all we know), he'd automatically be a first-string starter.  However, assuming that he's not healthy by the September 5th game against UMass, I fully anticipate Kadero Terrell to start in his place because Austin Meek said that he took most of Harold's missed snaps at Fan Appreciation Day.  Terrell gives up four inches and nearly thirty pounds to Harold, so we'll have to see how the JUCO transfer fills in for the Freshman All-American while he's healing from whatever it is that Bill Snyder has no intention of telling us about.

At the other defensive end position, Eric Childs has it locked down.  Considering that he's started at defensive end for nearly two years, I don't see that changing before the season opener.  However, according to Austin Meek (he's just full of good info), Prizell Brown (the same one in the Tight Ends preview last week) took the reps with the second string.  This is pretty interesting considering that you have more experienced options in Payton Kirk and Grant Valentine, and Brown was listed as a TE on the roster as recently as last week.  Either the play of Kirk and Valentine has been so bad that the coaches felt the need to move a tight end to the defensive line, or Brown brings something exceptional to the field.  I really hope it's the latter as opposed to the former, but at this point, we really have no way of knowing.  It could be that Valentine and Kirk are both injured as well.  If that's the case, it's equally concerning.

In terms of defensive tackle, I'm going to list Daniel Calvin as the starter at nose tackle.  Based on Meek's FAD report, Calvin didn't start with the ones, but I find it really, really hard to believe that a 230 pound converted linebacker (Hanson Sekona) is starting because he's just better than everyone else.  If that's the case, we've reached threat level "Beyond Red" because there isn't a red that's red enough to communicate the severity of the situation.  That's not to say that Sekona isn't a good football player, but when was the last time a 230 pound youngster started on a defensive line that didn't have "High School" at the end of the team's name?

At the other defensive tackle position, UVA transfer, Jeffrey Fitzgerald, will be holding down the 3-Tech spot.  A Freshman All-American himself, Fitzgerald started twenty-five games at the defensive end position for the Cavaliers in 2006 and 2007.  Academic issues forced him to transfer from UVA after his Redshirt Sophomore season, so Fitzgerald found his way into Ron Prince's program.  Fitzgerald is considered to be a legitimate NFL draft pick, so his presence on the line will definitely be an upgrade to the unit as a whole.  In a depth chart that I've been keeping up since the Spring Game, I've had Raphael Guidry backing up Fitzgerald, but according to other FAD reports, he was actually taking reps alongside Fitzgerald.  I believe, in a perfect world, he would backup at the 3-Tech spot, but need may force him into action as a starter or primary backup at the nose tackle position, or he may move to 3-Tech as Fitzgerald moves over to the nose.  A lot of that will probably depend on the particular formation, but from a pure size perspective, you don't necessarily want the heaviest guy on your line to weigh 274.

That said, this leaves Chidubamu Abana and Gabriel Crews as the scholarship players on the roster not discussed.  Abana started a few games at defensive end in 2007, but after redshirting in 2008 for undisclosed reasons, it appears that he will be moving inside in 2009.  He looks to get into the rotation as a backup, possibly at either position.  Gabriel Crews, a 310 pound junior, finally started seeing some action last year as a Redshirt Sophomore, but there's been little to nothing about him coming out of camp.  It may be injury, or it may be his play, but considering that Sekona is playing ahead of him on the line, and Crews has an eighty pound advantage on him, I'm going to just go out on a limb and assume he's one of the banged up guys Snyder talked about in his last press conference.

Going into this season, the defensive line looked to be the most stout and deep on the entire defense.  However, after a few weeks of fall camp, and ten days from kickoff, it appears to be the most frightening position group on the entire team by far.  If Calvin doesn't start, the heaviest player on the line will most likely be Raphael Guidry at 274 pounds.  Recent reports have Fitzgerald dropping to 270 lately, so that would mean the defensive line would consist of two 270-pound linemen on the interior, and two guys that weigh 250 or less on the ends.  Some folks may find that to be a non-issue, but that scares the ever-loving crap out of me.  Combine that with the fact that a projected depth chart out of FAD from GoPowercat.com has two former linebackers (Terrell, Sekona) and a tight end (Brown) in the two-deep, I'm reaching Lewis Black levels of neurotic meltdown (Warning: Language).

(In my best Lewis Black impression...)

There is a 235 lb. defensive end bookending this line.  Certainly, if I look over to my right, I won't see a 230 lb. defensive tackle...but I do.  And that, friends, is what it's like to live in the football version of "The Twilight Zone."  GET THESE GUYS SOMETHING TO EAT!  A CHEESEBURGER!  ICE CREAM!  A "BIG ASS" AND SOME "POKEY STICKS" FROM GUMBY'S!!!  ANYTHING!!!

This depth chart from GoPowercat.com, and what was seen at Fan Appreciation Day, could be due to a lot of things.  It could be injuries.  Or, maybe, the coaches want to send a message to some of the players and light a fire under them.  Who knows?  Maybe Bill Snyder, that sly old fox, simply wanted to confuse the opposition by starting a defensive line that looks like the "After" picture in a Weight Watchers testimonial.  All we do know is that if that defensive line starts against any team other than UMass and/or Tennessee Tech, all of our worst fears have probably come to fruition, and this team will probably need a Texas Tech-like output from the offense if this team has any prayer of getting to a bowl game.

However, if Harold comes back early in the year, and everyone gets healthy before Louisiana to the point where the depth chart looks like the one listed above, the defensive line could end up being the strength of the defense.

Depth on the defensive line looks razor thin right now, and ironically, at this point, so do the linemen.  Hopefully that will change before Sept. 5th, or we could all be in for a very, very long season.

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