One of the most important positions in the 3-4 is the outside linebacker. Coach Groh likes to equate that position to the fourth or fifth hitter in baseball. This is the position where he expects to see someone who is a playmaker. "We've made progress there but we're still looking for more production and that might be a process for a little while as we sort out some personnel issues out and we give some guys a little bit more time to develop their game."
One of the personnel changes that Coach Groh made was moving Albert Rocker to the inside linebacker position and moving Steven Sylvester to the outside. "We did it to give them a better chance but we've only had two days with it so we'll see as we're still learning about some of the players and what we want to do is put each player in the best position to accomplish what his goals are as well as to help the team." If the moves don't work out Coach Groh is not against moving them back to their original positions.
Sylvester looks at the move as a positive thing both for him and the team. "It's not really an adjustment because Coach Groh has the linebackers meet together so I'm familiar with the terms for both the inside and the outside linebacker." Sylvester doesn't have a preference between the two. " I just want to be on the field." Steven is looking for his size and athleticism to be an advantage on the outside.
One player that may take advantage of the moves is Julian Burnett. Burnett is not the prototypical size for a middle linebacker in Coach Groh's defense. "He's one of the inside linebackers and his size is what it is," said Coach Groh. "He's not going to suddenly be 6'4" but the tradeoff is that he has a lot of acceleration and good punch and one of the necessities of putting together a good team is taking what is available to you and make the best use of them." Coach Groh will make good use of Julian based on his good football instincts.
One of the players that are expected to make a big contribution on the defensive line is redshirt senior Robert Hall. Hall missed the spring following surgery but Coach Groh is pleased with his progress. "Bobby has been able to catch up pretty quickly but like any sport when you're off for an extended period of time you're a little rusty and your hands are not quite as fast as the other players but here of late he's started to make a move."
Hall is coming back from his surgery ready to contribute. "I'm feeling real good. My knees are doing as well as expected, and my conditioning is good." Although he missed the spring, Hall has been in the playbook learning the new defense. "I got all the mental reps and watched everbody so I was able to catch up pretty quick."
Robert likes what he sees at the defensive end position. "I feel like we have a group that is pretty deep and all of us are ready to go." The competition has been good for both Hall and his teammates. "The younger players are doing well and players like Shawn Green and the other freshmen and sophomores are progressing in the system.
When it comes to the 3-4 one of the favorite positions for the fans to discuss is the nose tackle. "It's going to be a positive position for us we think," said Coach Groh. "Logan Walls really fits the position and he's had 28 or 30 positive practices now since we started with this so we think he'll be a real solid player for us." Another player in the middle is T.J. Barnes. "He certainly has the size in the middle to force some issues," said Coach Groh. "He's a little bit behind Logan but we're hopeful for his development."