Post Camp Evals: Defense

The Wildcats have concluded fall camp and now they prepare for the regular season. After attending the majority of the fall practices and both scrimmages I feel that I have a pretty good feel for the team. We continue today with the defense.

For this story we'll not only break down how each position performed in camp, but we'll give them a grade for how comfortable I feel for each spot using the following scale:

5– I love this group! I do not have few, if any, reservations about the unit.
4 – I really like this unit. There are few holes, maybe one iffy starter or a lack of depth, but for the most part this group is solid.
3 – I am confident, but not convinced. There is a lot of talent, but I still need them to prove it to me.
2 – I am a little worried. There is some good stuff here, but there are also some big questions.
1 – I am scared. This group is thin and lacks talent. Any free agents out there?
0 – I am convinced they could not compete against a high school team. How did this happen?

DEFENSIVE ENDS
Hey, there is actually depth and talent here. Marcus Smith is a monster physically and hopefully he can play like one. Copeland Bryan led the team in sacks a few years back and now looks like a legitimate end. Johnathan Turner and Garrett Fields have big time ability while Jason Parker is steady. The Wildcard is Michael Shelton. He has shown flashes of being a great pass rusher.
LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE:: 3 I wish I knew exactly what Smith would give us, but there is talent, size and experience. Decent group.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES
For the first time in a long time this is not a huge position of worry. There are actually bodies here. Both Ricky Parker and Byron Smith missed time in fall camp and Paul Phillip has never been totally healthy. Lionel Dotson, Yaniv Barnett and Lawrence Ball add depth.
LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE: 3 I would feel a lot better if I knew exactly how healthy some of these guys are. Smith can be a very good one and the young guys have upside.

LINEBACKERS
Injuries are a concern. Randy Sims and Spencer Larsen are out for some time and James Alford is likely done for the year. Dane Krogstad and Ronnie Palmer are very good, while Adrian McCovy and Xavier Kelley have big careers ahead of them. Until those guys are ready, expect the Cats to throw out a lot of nickel sets with Lamon Means and Marcus Hollingsworth playing the nickel/rover spot.
LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE: 2 If Sims and Larsen were healthy I'd feel great about this group, as it stands they may have to play a few reserves who are just a notch below the first line guys. Any more injuries to starters and this could be an area of concern.

CORNERBACKS
Wilrey Fontenot and Antoine Cason are big time. Fontenot gives up some size, but that is about it. There is a tiny bit of drop-off to the reserves. Dramayne McElroy has been dinged up in fall camp, while B.J. Dennard has been splitting time with the offense. Michael Beach and Brandon Tatum look like capable back-ups.
LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE: 3.5 This is a very solid group. If the back-ups continue to develop this will be a great unit.

SAFETIES
The strongest group on the team. Darrell Brooks is a potential All-American while Michael Johnson and Means are very good players. Marcus Hollingsworth, Dominic Patrick and Michael Klyce bolster the unit. Group is so good that big time freshman Brandon Tatum is getting a lot of run at cornerback.
LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE: 4.5 This is the best spot on the team. Means, Brooks and Johnson are as good a group as you will find in the Pac-10. Hollingsworth is steady, while Tatum has a chance to be special.


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