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 (DT Pearlie Graves; OLB Brian Duncan; CB Will Ford; OLB Daniel Cobb; DE Jackson Richards) | 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; IR Tramain Swindall; IR Detron Lewis) | 5-1 (LG Lonnie Edwards; WR Jacoby Franks; WR Eric Ward; RT LaAdrian Waddle; TE Ryan Haliburton)
#5 | Kerry Hyder | 6-3/255 | RS FR | DE
Rationale: You could make the case that Hyder is slated to be one of the starting defensive ends. Quick recap of this redshirt freshman is that he was a somewhat lightly recruited player from Austin. Hyder didn't have a ton of offers, but what he did have, something that I always scratch my head thinking about, is that he's incredibly athletic. One of the few videos I've seen of Hyder is that at he dunked a basketball (in a game) at his high school weight and did so fairly easily. He was also probably in-between positions as he might have been too big for linebacker and a little too small at defensive end. Well, I'm thinking that Hyder's redshirt year did him some good as he's added 10 to 15 pounds to his sign-in weight. I'm thinking that Hyder was pretty impressive if the new staff was willing to plug him into the starting spot, but he's going to have some competition and it will be good for him to be pushed a bit.
#4 | Bront Bird | 6-3/236 | SR | ILB
Rationale: Very, very solid. That's not intended to be disparaging, but rather that I really like what Bird brings. Personally, I think I would have left Bird at the outside linebacker spot, but it makes sense to put Bird inside if for nothing else, Bird will be on the field for just about every down, where he may have been replaced on certain pass-rush situations. At the inside linebacker spot, not having just a ton of responsibility to cover slot receivers might leave Bird with the ability to make some plays that might have been more difficult outside. Bird isn't the fastest player on the team, but I like having him on the field. I do think that Bird is a natural leader and I do get the impression that his teammates listen to him and he always seems to be a pretty good person to be a spokesman for the team.
3 through 1 after the jump.
#3 | Lawrence Rumph | 6-3/270 | JR | DT/DE
Rationale: I'm still thinking that the defensive line rotation is going to be deep and like Scott Smith and Donald Langley, I believe that Rumph is set to be a part of the defensive line rotation. I've thought that Rumph is a pretty good size for defensive end, but Tuberville has alluded to this all spring, which is that he wants every player to be able to play multiple positions, along the defensive line. DL coach Sam McElroy alluded to the fact that Rmph would be playing the 3-technique and although the staff seems to have him pegged as a defensive tackle, I'm also thinking that Rumph could fill positions all along the line.
#2 | Franklin Mitchem | 6-2/198 | SR | SS
Rationale: Mitchem and Cody Davis struggled in the Alamo Bowl, but they were pretty darned solid for most of the year. Mitchem and Davis were both seeing starting time for the very first time and although they were essentially complete unknowns prior to last year, they kept their end of the bargain. I said pretty much the same thing in Davis' write-up, which is that the new staff has stressed speed and both Mitchem and Davis aren't the fastest players in the defensive backfield, but they do have experience, which does count for something. What Mitchem and Davis have to be concerned about is the more athletically gifted player, but such player lacks their experience. Since just about every defensive back will essentially be on their own, Davis and Mitchem are going to have to cover some ground. This is going to be a pretty interesting position to watch through the season.
#1 | LaRon Moore | 5-9/200 | SR | CB
Rationale: Moore broke his leg during the spring, before the spring game, and Tuberville said that it could be a while for Moore (maybe one or two games into the season). Heading into the spring, Moore was one of the solid starting players for this team and a "known" in that we knew what we were getting in Moore, which is an undersized corned, but he plays the position well. With Moore out, I think that this opens the door for returning players D.J. Johnson, Will Ford and Jarvis Phillips and freshmen Tre'Vante Porter and Urell Johnson. I'd like to see Moore get back on the field as I think he's probably this team's best cover cornerback. This of course assumes that he comes back from his leg injury fully healthy, but I'm pulling for Moore.