During spring practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville stated that he wanted to find 25 players on defense that he thought could play. With the season just around the corner, it's time to speculate who those 25 players might be (for offense and defense) and how they might fit into the grand scheme of things. This is not a top 25 list and the players are not listed in any particular order other than they're the top 25 players who I think will make an impact on each side of the ball. We'll alternate between offense and defense.
Defense: 25-21 (S Cody Davis; OLB Julius Howard; OLB/DE Aundrey Barr; DT Donald Langley; ILB Tyrone Sonier) | 20-16 (CB D.J. Johnson; DE/DT Scott Smith; SS Brett Dewhurst; ILB Brandon Mahoney; CB Tre'Vante Porter) | 15-11 (NT Colby Whitlock; ILB Sam Fehoko; CB Jarvis Phillips; DT Myles Wade; S Terrance Bullitt) | 10-6 | 5-1
Offense: 25-21 (IR Cornelius Douglas; TE Bo Whitney; RG Deveric Gallington; QB Steven Sheffield; C Justin Keown) | 20-16 (OL Beau Carpenter; RB Harrison Jeffers; IR Austin Zouzalik; OL Chris Olson; WR Lyle Leong) | 15-11 (WR Derrick Mays; LT Mickey Okafor; QB Taylor Potts; WR Alexander Torres; RB Eric Stephens) | 10-6 (LT Terry McDaniel; WR Shawn Corker; RB Baron Batch; WR Tramain Swindall; IR Detron Lewis) | 5-1
#10 | Pearlie Graves | 6-1/278 | RS FR | DT
Rationale: Graves didn't see a lick of time last year, but he traveled to each and every game, and was one of two freshmen, the other being QB Jacob Karam, who the former staff wanted to acknowledge their hard work and all-around good attitude. Graves was originally a Michigan commit, but changes his mind at the last minute to sign with Texas Tech and McNeill. Tuberville has said since the beginning of this process that he wanted versatile linemen and players like Graves and Myles Wade lined up at defensive end and at nose guard during the spring. The more and more I think about this, it's all going to be about making the offense guess as much as humanly possible.
#9 | Brian Duncan | 6-1/240 | SR | OLB
Rationale: I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't at all nervous about Duncan's move to the outside. I remember watching him this spring and thought that there were times that he looked small in comparison to the tackle he was trying to work around. If anything, it gave me a greater appreciate for guys like Daniel Howard and Brandon Sharpe, who essentially played that defensive end position at Duncan's size. But I take solace in the fact that Duncan is a solid and smart individual who I think gets it. He works hard and if there's anyone on this team that I feel comfortable learning a new position, it's Duncan.
8 through 6 after the jump.
#7 | Will Ford | 6-1/186 | SO | CB
Rationale: Ford will play cornerback or he just won't play. That seemed to be the message that the coaching staff impressed upon Ford during the spring drills. I get the impression that the staff didn't want Ford to have the ability or remote thought that he'd be able to switch back to safety. The staff consistently preached versatility and Ford fits this to a "T". This spring was baptism by fire for Ford and there were some stories where he's given up a touchdown pass or two, but give him time and I think he'll excel. He has the athletic ability and he's always had the speed (fake 40-yard dash time in H.S. at 4.4) or at least some semblance of what I think is pretty good speed. If everything goes according to play, Ford should be the man on one corner when the season starts in September.
#7 | Daniel Cobb | 6-1/210 | RS FR | OLB
Rationale: Cobb is backing up senior Julius Howard at this new outside linebacker spot and I keep saying that this defense is about putting pressure on the offense at just about every position. Cobb epitomizes that type of pressure. Even the prior staff thought it best to move Cobb to linebacker and this seems like the perfect fit for him. I get the impression that this outside linebacker spot is essentially going to give the defensive coaches the ability to use Cobb is a variety of spots, whether it be covering a running back out of the backfield, cover a slot reciever, or simply just make some havoc.
#6 | Jackson Richards | 6-4/235 | FR | DE
Rationale: There aren't a ton of freshman that I think can play immediately, but Richards is one of them. Richards already has good size to play either defensive end or an outside linebacker spot. As a high schooler, Richards possessed enough strength to push offensive linemen, enough quicknes to get to the quarterback on speed rushes and enough patience to actually make a read or two rather than just rushing up field. That's a rare trait to have as a high school player and of the freshmen defensive players, I think it's going to be Tre'Vante Porter and Richards who are most likely to make a difference.
Thoughts, comments, agreements and disagreements are welcome.