Here's something a little bit unexpected from me right now: A dose of optimism about the 2015 UVA football team. Today, I'm focused on the defense.
Coming out of spring practice, here's the [my] projected starting lineup for the base 43:
RDE) Kwontie Moore, Sr.
DT) David Dean, Sr.
DT) Andrew Brown, So.
LDE) Mike Moore, Sr.
WLB) C.J. Stalker, Fr.
MLB) Micah Kiser, So.
SLB) Zach Bradshaw, Jr.
S) Quin Blanding, So.
S) Kelvin Rainey, Jr.
CB) Tra Nicholson, Sr.
CB) Maurice Canady, Sr.
Rush End: Trent Corney, Sr.
Nose Tackle: Donte Wilkins, Jr.
4th Defensive Tackle: Andre Miles-Redmond, Jr.
Nickel Linebackers - Pass Rush: Mark Hall, Jr. / Chris Peace, RS Fr.
Nickel Back: Tim Harris, Jr. (In a perfect world, Nicholson slides inside to cover the slot, because that's what he'll need to do in order to become an NFL prospect.)
Dime Back: Divante Walker, Jr.
7th Defensive Back: Wil Wahee, Jr.
8th Defensive Back: Kirk Garner, So.
Note: Virginia runs more nickel than base defense, in general... so you'll see more of guys like Trent Corney, Mark Hall, Chris Peace, and Tim Harris than maybe you'd expect at first blush.
"Plus" Players on the Defense
I like to use The Paul System when I look at a team, and this season's defense stacks up well.
-- Depth in the secondary. Blanding, Nicholson, Rainey, Canady, Harris, Walker, Wahee, Garner... that's eight guys ready to play this season. To me, that's a good amount of depth in the secondary; plenty of firepower for special teams.
-- Nice DT rotation. Dean, Brown, Wilkins (who is really good enough to be a starter), and AMR. We should be able to play in waves at those spots, keeping everyone fresh and effective.
-- Interior pass rush. Dean is really good at this, and Andrew Brown figures to be a revelation, finally healthy in his second year.
-- Depth in general. I count 20 players on the defensive roster whom I would classify as "ready to play." That's not quite a full two-deep, but honestly, it's better than what we usually have in terms of playable depth.
-- Jon Tenuta. Specifically, Jon Tenuta's ability to hone pass rush weapons. Remember, none of us knew anything about Max Valles until he came out and became Max Valles. We have Vallesian (new term, just coined) bodies in Kwontie Moore, Trent Corney, and a ton of kids recruited in the last two classes. Tenuta just needs to find his guy(s) and hone those weapons.
-- Star power. Quin Blanding, Mike Moore, David Dean, Andrew Brown, Mo Canady, and Tra Nicholson should headline not just the defense, but the entire 2015 football team. I'll be pissed if Blanding, Mike Moore, Dean, and Nicholson aren't on the poster. (Has the poster been released yet? Yep, it has. On the poster: Mike Moore, Greyson Lambert - ugh, Ross Burbank - who?, Canaan Severin - at the prime center location, Maurice Canady, Taquan Mizzell, Tra Nicholson, David Dean. Where the hell is Quin Blanding? Freshman All-American last season, and not on the poster... but Greyson Lambert and Ross Burbank make the cut? Sheesh.)
-- Pass rush. Specifically from the edge. Jon Tenuta seems to think Kwontie Moore and Trent Corney are ready to step up. ("We changed some of the things we do schematically to help them but Trent Corney, the light's gone on for him," Tenuta said. "Now he can use his athleticism and do the things he needs to do to be productive. That's a big plus for us.") I have huge faith in Jon Tenuta in this area, but this is a question mark until it becomes an exclamation point.
-- Linebacking. We lost Henry Coley, Daquan Romero, and Max Valles, and into the void steps relative unknowns Micah Kiser at Mike, Zach Bradshaw at Sam, and C.J. Stalker / Mark Hall / Chris Peace at Will. Three new starters at LB is a huge concern... which is probably a reason we'll play even more nickel this season.
-- The offense is going to suck, putting the defense in precarious situations. SSDY, right? Seriously, my kingdom for a quarterback.
-- Punter. It looks like James Coleman exits the spring as the unquestioned starter. Of course, he'll be a first-time starter. He kicks a high punt with lots of hang time, but often questionable distance. So between that and the offense hemorrhaging turnovers, the D could be stuck with a short field behind them on a regular basis.
-- The schedule. It is pretty tough.
|There you are, Quin Blanding!|
Add it up, and I'm actually feeling a little bit froggy about the 2015 defense. Too bad the offense and head coach are going to fuck it all up (more on that later, maybe), but I think this D might just be able to hold its own.
A rare little ray of sunshine from your feel-bad blog, Hoofans! Enjoy it!