We're saying goodbye to some key defenders too. While most of our defense is very young, we definitely had some older guys contribute in a big way. Let's look at who their replacements will be.
Rush End - Zach Barnes
The loss of Pete Robertson is a loss that I feel is overlooked by our fanbase. For so long Pete was the hope of our defense, playing his butt off every single play and making whatever he could happen. Pete's stats took a hit this year due to his new role in David Gibbs's defense, but that doesn't diminish what he did for us over the years. Let's not forget that Pete led the conference in sacks in 2014. I don't think we can ever really replace a guy like Pete, but if anyone's up to the task, it's Barnes. He's more of a defensive end than Pete was, which means we'll probably take a small hit in the pass coverage aspect of this position. However, Barnes rushes the passer exceptionally well. He's a guy that we'll need some serious production from if we want to improve on defense.
Defensive Back - Thierry Nguema
We have a lot of young defensive backs, but we'll need Nguema to step up in the rotation to fill the spot that J.J. Gaines left. Gaines ended the year as a pretty good run defense safety, but hopefully we can use our DBs as, well, DBs next year. A lot of times I felt like we used Gaines and Johnson as extra linebackers out of necessity. If the linebacking corps can step up in run support, we can use our DBs for their intended function. We'll need a solid rotation back there, and if Nguema isn't ready to go, it could hurt us in the second half of games.
Linebacker - Kris Williams
Williams started off the season strong, but got some of his playing time eclipsed by our freshmen linebackers, Hinton and Allen. With the graduation of Micah Awe and transfer of Mike Mitchell, we'll need another guy to step up in the linebacker rotation. So many times this year it just looked like we were gassed in the 4th quarter of games, and having solid players that we can trust to give the ones a spell will go a long way. We'll need veteran players like Williams to be prepared to fill whatever role they can in the second year of the David Gibbs era.