April 21 Defensive Football Notebook

There are plenty of questions surrounding the defense coming out of spring ball. Read on for a notebook on numerous topics, including the line, early contributions, and more.

  • With spring ball over, Jeff Casteel's main focus was on the overall effort and basics.

    "Effort and trying to improve the fundamentals and take a look at a lot of different kids and hopefully we can find out where our strengths and weaknesses are and over the summer try to come up with a way to highlight our strengths and hide our weaknesses a bit," Casteel said of what he looked for.

    "The big thing is effort and fundamentals and understanding assignments. The pace of the practices is tough on new kids to adjust to because most of them are not accustomed to that. The football part is no different, but there might be a difference in terminology and those type of things, but the biggest adjustment for guys is the tempo of practice."

  • Casteel does not seem to be overly concerned with who the leaders of the defense are, as he believes it will come naturally.

    "Usually that takes care of itself as you play and I think that will end up taking care of itself," he said. "I think Hank Hobson has done a good job from a linebacker's standpoint and Reggie Gilbert does a good with the front guys. Jourdon Grandon, Jonathan McKnight, the kids that have played a little bit naturally will take on that role."

  • The second year players have generally improved, but are not where Casteel would like them to be.

    "They have a better understanding, but not enough to where it is to have the game slow down enough to where they know what to do," he said. "Sometimes it still goes a little too fast for them and you sit in a meeting with them and watch it on film and can point to what they did good or if they are still getting tired and the pace gets to them and they are making mistakes. All those kids are ahead of where they were in the fall."

  • The depth on defense may not be where the coaching staff would like it, but that is another aspect that could come with time.

    "That's what we are trying to look for," Casteel said. "Every kid out here is competing to get on the field, so the more guys we can identify, and the kids control it, we don't, the guys that can continuously make plays and give effort will determine how much depth we have.

    "You're trying to grow as a unit and it will take all of them. The key is that we are going to get better as we get more guys that can go out and play and if we can rotate people and keep guys fresh, we have a chance to be a much better football player."

  • The defensive line continues to progress, including one player in particular.

    "If you have to play an odd front, you better be pretty good," Casteel said. "Dwight Melvin is a guy who is developing and needs to continue to get coached and work.

    "He has gotten stronger and he's heavier. We would like for him to be a 290-95 pound guy for us. We will have some guys and Coach Kirelawich does a good job with those guys.

    "I like Luca Bruno. He is a tough kid, he will fight you. He is a scrapper and a guy that as he goes through the program and gains strength and mass, he will be a good football player for us."

  • The linebackers should be a strength of the defense and the coaching staff likes each player to know numerous spots.

    "Eventually those three linebacker spots should all be interchangeable," Casteel said. "The fourth kid you want to put in is your fourth best backer, not necessarily the second best whatever it is.

    "Most of those guys are young and really Keoni Bush-Loo is going to be a junior and he should probably be a redshirt sophomore and Scooby and those guys should probably be redshirt freshmen, but they are going to get their second year."

  • The strongest linebacker of the bunch may be Scooby Wright, who will remind some of Jake Fischer.

    "He is a tough kid and he has leadership qualities," Casteel said. "He's probably not as vocal as he would normally be because he is still the young guy, but it is real important to him.

    "He studies his tail off, football wise he watches a lot of film and asks a lot of questions. He is a tough kid and we just have to continue to try to develop him fundamentally with his footwork where he is not wasting his steps and those kinds of things."

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