Everyone knows the cliche term on defense “The game is won in the trenches”. While this can be true, there are plenty of teams that rely on athleticism in the back seven (linebackers/defensive backs) while lacking the necessary guys upfront.
This upcoming season bodes well for Tech with the amount of depth that they will have in the trenches. The leader of the group in Jaylon Hutchings will be a huge part (no pun intended) of controlling the line of scrimmage and letting the linebackers roam free and make plays.
With the new base scheme likely being a 3-4 (three defensive lineman, four linebackers) the defensive lines impact likely won’t show up on the stat sheet. The guys that will have their hands in the dirt will be above 290 for the most part and will be space eaters more than guys who will be relied upon to chase after the quarterback.
That being said, Hutchings and Tony Bradford Jr. were tied for second on the team in sacks with 3.5 each. There will be times where these guys push the pocket back and find their way to the quarterback, but they will be more concerned with staying in their gaps and allowing the more athletic guys to make their way to the backfield.
Hutchings and Bradford Jr. will likely be on the field the most amongst the group. After that, it’s a lot of guys who have little-to-no playing experience but have the size and have been talked about during this offseason.
Philip Blidi and Gilbert Ibeneme are two guys who have been at Tech for a few years now and have high expectations after developing behind some guys. Both were three/four star prospects depending on where you looked for your rankings, and both are going to be expected to contribute to the depth at this position. It’s one things to have a lot of defensive linemen on the roster, it’s a luxury to be able to sub guys in who play at or near the level that the starting guys do.
Some under the radar guys at the position are Blake Burris and E’Maurion Banks, two Redshirt Freshmen that will be the key depth pieces that are going to improve throughout the season. They’re both listed at 6”5 and are two of the taller defensive linemen on the team. Being able to have length and get in the way of the throwing lanes for the quarterback is a solid benefit of having guys that size.
Larry Moore III, Joseph Adedire, Syncere Massey and Trevon McAlpine round out the guys that I think could see some time this season. Moore III was an offensive lineman the past two season but made the switch over this offseason and should provide some size upfront.
Adedire, Massey and McAlpine are incoming freshman with the best chances to get on the field this season. Adedire was a four-star guy but his weight right now projects him rushing the passer instead of being a space eater. McAlpine is above 290 and could get on the field this season if he impresses throughout the rest of the offseason. Massey might have to redshirt this year but he’s a big body with plenty of talent that could develop into a key member of the defensive line in the coming years.
A few transfers to note are Myles Cole and Sam Carrell. Cole comes in from Louisiana-Monroe and Carrell from Washington State. Both are listed around 250-260 and have inside/outside versatility. Cole can definitely contribute as a pass rusher from what I’ve seen on film and Carrell will also look to add to the depth inside after transferring in May.
This group will be one of the most important on the entire team in deciding how games will go this season. I’m looking forward to a few guys stepping up and Hutchings providing that veteran leadership for us this year. A better overall scheme and a great Defensive Line Coach in Zarnell Fitch will have this group ready to go once the season starts.