Pre-Spring Depth Chart: Defense

A look at the defensive depth chart heading into Tim Beckman's third spring in charge.

Defensive end:
Kenny Nelson: 6-6, 250, Junior
Jarrod Clements: 6-3, 285, Sophomore
The Word: Both Nelson and Clements flashed potential in 2013, so expect this to be one of the better position battles of the spring.

Defensive tackle:
Teko Powell: 6-3, 295, Junior
Jake Howe: 6-3, 300, Senior
The Word: The staff needs Powell to fulfill his potential and take a step forward in production, starting this March. The defensive tackle position has been among the weakest groups during the Beckman Era.

Defensive tackle:
Austin Teitsma: 6-2, 290, Senior
Vontrell Williams: 6-4, 300, Redshirt Sophomore
Joe Fotu: 6-3, 275, Junior
The Word: A healthy Williams and figuring out what Fotu is all about would help establish depth at this spot. Teitsma is an A-plus-plus in terms of personality and character, but his starting job isn't a guarantee.

Houston Bates: 6-3, 250, Senior
Dejazz Woods: 6-3, 255, Senior
Dawuane Smoot: 6-3, 250, Sophomore
The Word: Smoot is one of the more promising young players on the roster and could use this spring to prove he needs more playing time. Bates was supposed to be a force last year, but finished with only 3.5 QB takedowns. Another offseason and spring to prepare at the spot can only help him improve those numbers.

Mike Svetina: 6-2, 235, Junior
Eric Finney: 6-1, 215, Junior
James Crawford: 6-2, 205, Redshirt Freshman
The Word: Svetina did his best to fill in while Finney was recovering from a knee injury early last season. While Finney never reclaimed the starting spot, the general consensus was play from the STAR position could have been better. The young Crawford is a player to watch after redshirting in 2013 after a successful fall camp.

Middle linebacker:
Mason Monheim: 6-1, 235, Junior
Zeph Grimes: 5-11, 225, Junior
The Word: Monheim enters after two seasons as a starter, although he won't have tackling machine Jonathan Brown alongside him. He's the new face of the linebacker group.

Weakside linebacker:
T.J. Neal: 6-1, 235, Redshirt Sophomore
Ralph Cooper: 6-1, 230, Senior
The Word: Neal came on strong at the end of last season, totaling seven stops against Ohio State and five versus Northwestern.

V'Angelo Bentley: 5-10, 190, Junior
Darius Mosely: 5-11, 185, Sophomore
Dillan Cazley: 5-10, 190, Sophomore
The Word: A spot with plenty of depth, Mosely and Cazley played as true freshmen and will be starters at some point, either next season or later on. Bentley was up and down in his first season as a starters in 2013, but should be on the field as a starter again.

Eaton Spence: 6-0, 185, Redshirt Junior
Jaylen Dunlap: 6-1, 175, Sophomore
The Word: Dunlap very well could earn this spot, and will certainly be in the mix with Mosely to be on the field in nickel packages if Spence holds on.

Free safety:
Zane Petty: 6-1, 200, Senior
Jevaris Little: 6-1, 185, Redshirt Sophomore
The Word: Petty earned a starting spot late last season and immediately jumped to the top of the tackling stat sheet.

Strong safety:
Earnest Thomas: 6-2, 210, Senior
Taylor Barton: 6-1, 215, Redshirt Sophomore
The Word: Thomas had over 100 stops last season, but came under scrutiny for failures in both pass coverage and stopping the run. He'll return for one more year, with back-up Barton at the ready after making a few starts in 2013.

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