Al Golden said he knew we’d have to outscore other teams coming into the season because our defense was so young. We lined up against BC with the following starting line up.
RE Shayon Green – Tenth year JR
DT Darius Smith – SR and returning starter who played solidly last year
DT Olsen Pierre – Sophomore who played a bit last year
LE Anthony Chickillo – Sophomore and returning starter who was solid last year
WLB Ramon Buchanon – SR and returning starter even if coming off injury
MLB Denzel Perryman – Sophomore and returning starter
SLB Thurston Armbrister – Sophomore just converted to LB in the spring from Safety shouldn’t have been starting especially not over this year’s best defensive player in Eddie Johnson. Why he was starting has yet to be understood.
CB Brandon McGee – SR and returning starter
S Kacy Rodgers – JR with playing experience
S A.J. Highsmith – JR who shouldn’t have been starting over Telemaque a SR 3 year starter
CB Thomas Finnie – Sophomore who played a bit last year.
Clearly, that’s not a studly defensive line up, but 3 SRs, 3 JRs, 5 sophomores and 5 returning starters starting with 1 returning starter on the bench who was a SR. Youth shouldn’t be the excuse. Guys missing their assignments cause its such a young defense shouldn’t be the excuse. We can say they aren’t that good, but they are still better athletes and football players than at least half the teams in the nation have. Yet Chase Rettig ate them up easily. We made it easy cause we had his top WR, who BC likes to play in the slot when they go 3 wides, matched up against a LB. And we did have bust in coverage when that same OLB has a RB and a TE to cover by himself somehow. Also, in that game we see a replay and Buchanon at the snap bails to play deep center field. Let me repeat that. Our WLB at the snap bails (what if there was a run on that play?) and plays deep center field in the coverage dialed up by OH-NO!-frio. We’ve discussed how OLBs shouldn’t be outside trying to cover slot WRs.
Now we get to discuss how OLBs shouldn’t be asked to play deep center field coverage EVER. Now later in the year the team did become very young after we started Dequan Ivery and Earl Moore at DT, had Eddie Johnson now at OLB (RS-FR), Deon Bush was getting a lot of PT, Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford would see snaps at CB, and Tyriq McCord was the first DE off the bench. Why we started Ivery and Moore at DT is still a mystery to me though. Darius Smith clearly was missing those extra 20 lbs he was instructed to lose, but his play still was at least on par with the freshmen DTs. Plus his experience had to count for something if inexperience counts against guys right? Having more guys on the field who know where to be, know what to expect, have produced in the past and can provide leadership has to be beneficial right?
Likewise, Telemaque’s being a 3 year starter and the success he was apart of have to count for something right? The excuse kept being said how young this unit was but it didn’t have to be. The younger guys playing at those positions weren’t doing better than what the older guys had done. And if this staff is supposed to be better than previous staffs at developing talent then those older guys should be expected to improve under them right? Add in later in the year JR and returning starter Jimmy Gaines came back from injury. That’s another non youngster. Curtis Porter eventually got healthy and was clearly the best linemen. He’s another JR. Had a JUCO CB starting, too. They were playing young guys but didn’t need to. They were sitting on older guys who could have been in there letting the younger guys not be all in at the same time at the least. Have Telemaque in there with Jenkins against Duke and Jenkins is probably less likely to blow a coverage or be positioned incorrectly.
With that said, no combination of players was going to work because OH-NO!-frio’s scheme just was flawed at the core. Creating excuses about youth only distracts people from the real issues with the scheme. Another excuse brought up at times was guys missing tackles. And I’ll admit plenty of tackles were missed – especially by the safeties who shouldn’t have been starting over the SR 3 year starter. But where those tackles were missed is never brought up. Most of the time those missed tackles are 5 yards, 8 yards, 10 yards down the field. So the play was already successful when that tackle was missed. That missed tackle is the difference between a good gain and big gain. It’s not the difference between a positive play for the efense and a big gain. There were a few times where we did miss tackles for loss, but not a lot of those.
Making Matters Worse.
This year OG Jeremy Lewis was the first OG off the bench. And he played well while in there. He got switched to OG from DT and our OC Jedd Fisch was able to make him a contributor after 1 year adjusting to a new position. Dyron Dye started about half the year and played extensively at TE after 1 year adjusting to a new position. David Perry played throughout the season when we went to jumbo sets at his TE position. Why these offensive players are significant is that they all were deemed unable to play for an OH-NO!-frio defense.
That note about smallish DEs? Well Dye is bigger than both Chick and Green. Perry is clearly bigger than Dye. They both move very well for guys their size and have long frames and long arms. They’d probably fit very well in an efense that has the DEs shedding the OTs because their long arms would allow them to keep blockers off their bodies once taught the proper technique. Plus their athletic ability would probably cause interior Olinemen problems as pass rushers. And if nothing else David Perry probably would do pretty good knocking down passes with his height and wing span. Yet we rather move move Shayon Green from his previous LB spot to DE on his surgically repaired knees and ask Chick to bulk up even when he’s had an off season injury. Then spell them by asking Kelvin Cain to bulk up and expecting a true freshman who came in at 215 to also be the back up. And for Jeremy Lewis we had Adewele Ojomo move to DT last year because of all the injuries at the position. If Lewis hadn’t been moved he probably has to step in at DT and ends up getting a lot of experience that could have helped at the position this year.
Again, letting young guys have time to develop is invaluable. So if nothing else Lewis could have done his part in the run efense and allowed us to RS at least one of the DTs that can’t get this year of eligibility back. Don’t even factor in guys who were pushed out the door like Travis Williams who would have been starting last year and come into this year the starter most likely and thus we’d have another JR returning starter on this unit. And don’t factor in recruits that were turned away like Jeremy Davis who could have helped in the secondary or Nick Menocal who could have provided another LB – one with some size and speed at that. Who knows if those guys ever do good at their respective universities, but they were speed guys with size and I’ve never heard a coach say he doesn’t want big, fast guys playing for him.
If OH-NO!-frio really is back running the efense next year then I think that limits the amount of progress this team overall can have. This year was a great year to play in our division within the ACC. Everyone sucked. But GT will start Vlad Lee all next year and should be better for it. Plus they’ll have a new permanent DC and again be better for it. North Carolina will be in its second year of Larry Fedora’s tenure and will be able to compete for the division. Virginia Tech gets Logan Thomas again at QB and now with some experienced WRs and RBs instead of breaking in all new ones like this year. Overall, the division should be tougher. We will need to improve in all facets of our game. Just think about this. We won our division this year while only beating 1 team with a winning record on the season – NC State at 7-5. No team we beat was ranked at the end of the season.