Spring Viewing Guide: Defense

Spring drills begin for the Wildcats on Wednesday. While the team returns a host of starters, there are still some great battles and some new players trying to win jobs. We take a look at the offense first.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE:
What To Watch: The unit had a very good year. They lose two seniors but should have enough on the roster to make up for the loss of Marcus Smith and Paul Phillipp. About the only interesting subplot is how much undersized guys like Lionel Dotson and Donald Horton will fare with another year in the strength program.

All Eyes Are On: Donald Horton Horton had a solid freshman season, but he could surprise this year. Sure he's on the short side but he's very strong and has a great motor. Horton works as hard as anyone on the team and is very athletic.

The Pressure Is On: Yaniv Barnett Yaniv has been a good DT, but may need to step up his game a bit to make the defense even better. Most importantly, he'll need to stay healthy. In the few games he missed a year ago, the defense suffered.

Name To Learn: Mana Mikaelel He redshirted a year ago, but expect the him to see a lot of time this season.

DEFENSIVE END:
What To Watch: The group will have to step up their pass rush. The Wildcats will not be blitzing all the much and it is up to the ends to provide some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

All Eyes Are On: Louis Holmes Holmes had a good first season, but with the hype he had coming in, many felt he failed to live up to expectations. He hgas one more year to become the dominant defensive player many envisioned.

The Pressure Is On: Johnathan Turner J.T. was a freshman All-American two years ago, but lost snaps to Jason Parker last year. He's got the talent to be a force, but has to work harder and show better leadership.

Name To Learn: D'Aundre Reed After last year's fall camp many would expect Ricky Elmore to be in this spot. While Elmore may indeed be a factor this season, Reed could shock many. He's always been a terrific athlete, but now he has the size and strength that could turn some heads.

LINEBACKER:
What To Watch: Two seniors and a junior lead this solid group. They have depth, talent and great leadership. There is no question they will be good, just how good can they be?

All Eyes Are On: Spencer Larsen Larsen was probably the most consistent of the three last year. He has the skills to be All-Conference.

The Pressure Is On: Ronnie Palmer Palmer had a good sophomore season, but has the size and skill to be a great college linebacker. He had some troubles in pass coverage a year ago and could be a more consistent tackler.

Name To Learn: Xavier Kelley Kelley is a tackling machine. Smaller than the other backers, he has great speed and a nose for the ball. He'll be hard to keep off the field this season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:
What To Watch: Last year it seemed that whoever the Wildcats inserted intothe defensive backfield was an instant success. Dominic Patrick replaced Darrell Brooks and became the team's big hitter. When injuries struck the safeties Cory Hall and Michael Klyce had big games. Now the team must replace Marcus Hollingsworth and Michael Johnson, but there are plenty of quality players.

All Eyes Are On: Antoine Cason Cason put the NFL on hold in an attempt to lead the Cats to a bowl and pick up some personal hardware. Anything less and some may feel anything less will be a disappointment..

The Pressure Is On: Brandon Tatum Tatum is the best athlete on the team, but can he put it all together? He played sparingly as a true freshman and was injured last season. He has to prove he is more than a workout warrior.

Name To Learn: Nate Ness There are plenty of new and young players to choose from here, but we think Ness could really turn some heads. He had a great fall camp, but the Cats had the luxury of redshirting the big-play safety.


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