5 DAYS TO KICKOFF: The Wildcat Defense

I originally planned this entry as the final countdown post of 2011, since there is no No. 1 on the roster this season (or since Bill Snyder came back, for that matter.

But it occurred to me that tomorrow's press conference likely will serve as the "unveiling" of the first depth chart, which sort of defeats the purpose of trying to predict said depth chart four days later.

So follow the jump for my best guess at what the defensive rotation might look like Saturday — a difficult task, because several player groups have been among the most hotly contested position battles of the fall.

That's good to hear when your defense was as bad as ours was last season. No job should be safe if we ever hope to bring back even a shadow of the Lynch Mob in the next few seasons.

Strongside Defensive End

  1. Adam Davis
  2. Laton Dowling
  3. Bo Tillman

Davis took all of the starters' snaps during Fan Appreciation Day. I expect Dowling to serve as his primary backup when the season begins, but don't be surprised if Tillman edges his way in there by October.

 

Defensive Tackle

  1. Raphael Guidry
  2. Vai Lutui
  3. Payton Kirk

From all accounts, Guidry just about has this locked up. Wyatt Thompson said a few weeks ago that he might be the most improved player on the team, which certainly is encouraging. Lutui must be pushing him pretty good.

Kirk always has been undersized for the three-tech and nose tackle positions. He'll provide depth, but not much more.

 

Nose Tackle

  1. Ray Kibble
  2. Javonta Boyd
  3. Jordan Allred

Kibble showed flashes last year, but it seemed like he let up on some plays, probably due mostly to fatigue. Having more bodies to throw out there should help him become a more consistent player in his senior year.

Among those bodies is Boyd, who apparently looked pretty good to begin fall camp and was in the primary rotation at Fan Appreciation Day. I'd have more confidence in Allred challenging him, though, but for the latter's knee injury.

 

Weakside Defensive End

  1. Meshak Williams
  2. Jordan Voelker
  3. Ian Seau

Voelker and Williams alternated snaps here during Fan Appreciation Day, but the coaches aren't fooling anybody. That was situational work. There is no way, barring an injury, that Williams isn't the starter Saturday.

That said, he may transition to more of a third-down/situational pass rusher if he hasn't bulked up his lower body beyond what we saw in the spring game. Of course, it's not like Voelker is a huge run-stuffer, either, so who knows.

Those two should see the majority of the time at the position. Hopefully, we can redshirt Seau, but with Brandon Harold off the team and Kyle Klein moved to tight end, I won't be surprised at all to see his name called at some point.

 

Strongside Linebacker (SAM)

  1. Emmanuel Lamur
  2. Jonathan Truman OR Tate Snyder
  3. Tate Snyder OR Jonathan Truman

The linebacker positions are pretty easy to predict, compared to the rest of the team. We've known who the three starters would be since before spring camp, and only an injury or a sudden reversal by the NCAA can change that.

Slightly more interesting and competitive are the backup positions. Snyder started during the spring game for the White team, but it was at MIKE linebacker in place of the injured Alex Hrebec.

Truman's currently running second at SAM, but both he and Snyder are freshmen, so I expect some flux here.

 

Middle Linebacker (MIKE)

  1. Arthur Brown
  2. Alex Hrebec
  3. Cody Marley

I really don't have to say anything here, do I? Well, I will anyway. I find it odd that we haven't heard more about Marley in the offseason, but considering what our other options look like (walk-ons), I'm sure he's in the right spot.

 

Weakside Linebacker (WILL)

  1. Tre Walker
  2. Blake Slaughter OR Jarell Childs
  3. Jarell Childs OR Blake Slaughter

The "OR" situation is due purely to Childs' uncertain injury status. He was nowhere to be seen at Fan Appreciation Day. Assuming spring reports are true and he suffered an ACL tear, it's hard to imagine him back before October.

 

Cornerbacks

Left

  1. David Garrett
  2. Allen Chapman
  3. Kelo Webster

Right

  1. Nigel Malone
  2. Kip Daily OR Randall Evans
  3. Randall Evans OR Kip Daily

Reports have varied regarding the cornerbacks, but Fan Appreciation Day put us right back where we started, with Garrett and Malone penciled in as starters.

At one point, I heard Daily was running with the ones, implying he was in an "OR" situation with Malone. Then I heard Evans was a lock to start, possibly moving Garrett back to a nickel cornerback/third safety role.

Then Fan Appreciation Day rolled around and Daily was splitting snaps with Evans for the second spot. Go figure. I say throw all three in hat and draw one out at random, because it sounds like they're that closely matched.

 

Free Safety

  1. Tysyn Hartman
  2. Thomas Ferguson
  3. Joseph Bonugli OR Logan Dold

I'll be watching Ferguson with great interest this season. Free safety is one of the few positions on defense that will have to be replaced effectively in order for the 2012 season to be as great as we all hope it can be.

Beyond Ferguson, I have no idea what we have. I'm guessing Bonugli will be there first because of Dold's injury history. This might be a position we need to shore up with a JUCO player in the next recruiting class, just for depth.

 

Strong Safety

  1. Ty Zimmerman
  2. Jarard Milo OR Matthew Pearson
  3. Matthew Pearson OR Jarard Milo

In spring, this probably looked more like Zimmerman, Pearson, Milo, based on who started for what teams in the spring game. But Milo supposedly was running ahead of Pearson at Fan Appreciation Day. At least it's competitive.

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