Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Position Analysis: Defensive Line

Like last year, this offseason I will roll out a series of position reports to give you my analysis, expectations and hopefully point out something you did not know. This installment covers the Defensive line. (Read Part I: WRs and TEs here, and Part II: Running Backs here).


Projected Starters

DE -- Jim Ramella, SO, 6’4, 244lbs
DT -- Ron Brace, SO, 6’3, 343lbs
DT -- B.J. Raji, JR, 6’1, 337lbs
DE -- Nick Larkin, JR, 6’4, 244lbs


Other guys who should see time

DE -- Austin Giles, FR, 6’3, 283lbs
DT -- Jerry Willette, SO, 6’5, 261lbs
DT -- Keith Willis, SO, 6’1, 266lbs
DE -- Brendan Deska, FR, 6’5, 243lbs



Having lost one of the most decorated players in BC history (Kiwi) and a steady performer (Washington) many are wondering what we can expect from the defensive line this year. I am not worried. While the unit lacks experience, I think there is enough talent for the group to maintain its productivity.


B.J. Raji is a star. He’ll be more of a focus this season -- which will just open up things for the guys around him. Many will talk about his size and agility, but what impressed me about Raji last year was his motor. For someone carrying so much weight on his frame he has very good endurance and does not give up on plays. I think his ability to collapse the line was one of the main reasons our run defense improved in '05. Raji’s year might be easier if Ron Brace can stay healthy. He is a big boy too. I’ve heard many good things about him but he hasn’t seen the field much due to different injuries.


Nick Larkin is serviceable. I am sure he will continue to improve, but I don’t expect him to ever become a dominating player. One guy who I do expect big things from is Jim Ramella. This might seem unusual given my limited exposure and the criticism Ramella received, but I think the guy is ready for a big year. Watching him on second viewings, I really liked his instincts...especially for a true freshman. He was good at shedding blockers and was pretty disciplined on keeping contain. Despite his growing pains, I think playing as a true freshman is a huge endorsement from this staff. He still needs more weight, but I think Ramella will surprise people this year.


One area of concern for the whole unit is lack of depth. Over the past few seasons Spaz has rotated these guys in and out effectively. This season his second unit guys will be pretty green. Can we still use the same rotation? The back ups will learn on the job. Fortunately for BC the schedule doesn’t get really rough until October.


Upside


Various reports on Redshirt Freshman Brendan Deska have been positive. If Larkin or Ramella stumble, Deska might step up as a starter.


Final Prediction


This group just has to be average. The linebackers and DBs will carry this team. As long as Raji can remain disruptive, I think we’ll be okay. I don’t think things will ever get bad and with Brace, Ramella, and Deska, I think there is potential for this group to be better than anyone expects.

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