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.
Here's my top 25 for the defense. Tell me who should have made the list and who shouldn't have made the list. Reasons in the comments why would be most helpful.
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 (DE Kerry Hyder; ILB Bront Bird; DL Lawrence Rumph; SS Franklin Mitchem; CB LaRon Moore)
There are some revisions that need to be made to this list as events transpired, including Mahoney (made the list) and Yashua Williams (did not make the list) are no longer with the team. DL Britton Barbee and S Jared Flannel were lost for the year with a torn Achilles and obviously, Moore is still a question mark at this point of the season. Here's my "just missed" list:
OLB Dion Chidozie, DL David Neill, DE Christopher Knighton, and DB Urell Johnson
Anyone that I missed?
Here's the things that I think that I thought when I made the list:
*Defensive Line Questions: I couldn't help but think that there's still a ton of question marks for me as to the positions where players will play (defensive end or defensive tackle or both?) and whether or not playing time will go to the JUCO players (Smith, Rumph, Langley) or the freshmen and redshirt freshmen (Barr, Richards, Knighton, Hyder).
*One-Gap 3-4: Tuberville has said that this is going to be a one-gap 3-4 defensive alignment, which means rather than thinking that the defensive line will control two gaps along the offensive line, the defensive line will slant and be responsible for one gap. If you're familiar with the pro-game, Dallas runs a one-gap 3-4 (I think) while New England runs a two-gap 3-4. The difference between those two teams is that New England has massive defensive linemen who can occupy space, while Dallas doesn't have the size/strength inside for two-gap responsibility
*Linebacker Questions: I think I have a pretty good handle on where players will play and where they'll line up on opening day, but I'm really interested in who back ups Duncan at the OLB/DE position.
*Secondary Versatility: Tuberville has preached this all spring and fall, and truthfully, this applies to every position, but I think Tubs and Willis are all about having versatile players. Players like Ford, U. Johnson, Porter can play multiple positions. If I had to do the list now, I think Urell Johnson makes the list without a doubt.