It. Is. Freaking. Game. Week.
I know the excitement is starting to boil over in Raiderland. For the first time in what feels like a century, the hype surrounding the defense is palpable. 96% of the production from a defense that took what felt like a monster step forward last year, is back on campus.
The favorite program player is Dakota Allen, and most can name more defensive starters than receivers. Some of the most exciting plays were the 29 takeaways instead of the theatrics of the offense. Going in to game one, how does our defense really stack up? Is the hype deserved?
Defensive Line: B
The defense is bringing back a ton of production, but the D-Line did lose some pieces. The anchor Mychealon Thomas and regular insert Zach Barnes both graduated.
But this line is going to be just fine. Eli Howard and Broderick Washington will likely be the biggest stars on the line and should give more production. Lonzell Gilmore is back from injury, and the depth is solid through the two-deep.
This unit needs to produce more sacks. The defense took a step forward stopping the run, but quarterbacks still had a ton of time to pick apart our secondary. The hurries and pressures need to take a step forward this season.
Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks might make the best starting linebacker corp in the country. Allen has the nations’ attention, deservedly so, but Brooks is a beast.
There is not really much more to say, these guys can play. Riko Jeffers will get some regular playing time as well, and he is no slouch either. This unit will be the heart and soul of the defense. Critical in stuffing the run, and in coverage, with the linebackers goes this defense.
The secondary is suspect, but the takeaways forced last season were a great sign. Octavious Morgan is reportedly out for a significant chunk of time, but for once we have depth to fill in.
Jah’Shawn Johnson and Vaughnte Dorsey are studs at safety, and the surprise of last season Justus Parker is back to ballhawk even more. Desmon Smith also looks poised for a big year. The question is can the corners and safeties stack up one-on-one against the receiving fire power they will face.
That has been a huge issue in the past. We have seen these guys can step up in run support, and make the big play. But can they finally become lockdown coverage players?
If the secondary gets better against the air attack so often employed in the Big 12, this defense could be special. Even a top 80 pass defense would be a massive improvement.
The secondary looks poised for their best season under Kliff, but like the defensive line, there are real questions. If the defensive line can generate more pressure, that should really help along this secondary.
Coach Gibbs has installed a more physical, determined culture. Everyone has bought in to what this defense needs to do. The defense sees 3rd and short and instead of just giving up the first down, they get mean and force offenses to work. We saw more short yardage stuffs last year than we had seen in forever.
The takeaways are the biggest impact. Gibbs is very much a believer in bend, but don’t break. That philosophy demands turnovers to work. And this defense answered the call becoming the 6th best turnover forcing unit.
But that same mentality comes with drawbacks. Offenses will generate yards and points, and this season we need the defense to be an absolute force. I love Coach Gibbs, but this year is the real measuring stick. Can he take this talent and take another step forward?
This defense could be a top 50 product, and Gibbs would be responsible for that. Or, we could see more promise but not the leap forward the fans so strongly desire. I believe in this coaching staff to take our expectations and blow them away. #806D4Life