Starters Returning 2
Lettermen Returning 6
44 Bernard Smith (6-3, 240, Sr)
45 Emeka Onyenekwu (6-4, 242, Jr)
90 Derreck Dean (5-11, 283, Sr)
53 Chris Tucker (6-2, 242, Sr)
99 Tyrell Gaddies (6-3, 275, Sr)
94 Justin Hamilton (6-3, 310, Fr)
93 Cordian Hagans (6-5, 310, Jr)
96 Brandon McCray (6-4, 292, So)
Top Performer Emeka Onyenekwu
Top Newcomer: Justin Hamilton
Straight Talk: Done from last years unit are four very solid linemen in Terrell Richardson, Jermaine Rogers, Jordan Topp and Sharrick Moore. All four were very solid, if not spectacular last season before injuries knocked them out of the rotation. The Cajuns do return six lettermen along with two newcomers in what is the deepest position on the defensive side of the ball.
Who Returns: The Cajuns are fortunate to return their two top pass rushers in Emeka Onyenekwu (25 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks) and Bernard Smith (31 tackles, 6 for loss, 2.0 sacks) in addition to nose tackle Derreck Dean (21 tackles, 2 for loss) that has been on the field since his freshman season. Those three were named starters for the Oklahoma State game this weekend. Behind those three are capable players in Tyrell Gaddies (11 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 sack), Chris Tucker (24 tackles, 2.5 for loss, 2 sacks) and Brandon McCray (8 tackles). The two newcomers that are part of the depth chart are true freshman Justin Hamilton and LSU transfer Cordian Hagans.
The Good News: The D-Line is the deepest position on the defensive side of the ball, so a few injuries would not devastate the team. This is potentially a solid group with both size and quickness that will allow Coach Edwards to mix or match offenses in the Sun Belt Conference. How effective the defensive line will be in 2011 will depended on the development and performances of the big three in Cordian Hagans, Justin Hamilton and Brandon McCray.
The Bad News: The starting three are undersized to go against power running offenses, although they will hold there own in the Sun Belt Conference. At times, they will be susceptible to giving up yardage on the ground to good backs. The big three are young, inexperienced and have been inconsistent this fall. Hamilton is young and strong at the point of attack, but he is still learning the defense. Hagans and McCray have shown at times this fall that they can dominate when properly motivated. But both have struggled to pick up the new defense at times and don't always play up to the level of their physical talent.
Season Outlook: The D-Line will have some trouble at times early in the season executing a new defensive scheme. They will face good offensive lines in the early half of the schedule against OSU, Kent State, Florida International and Troy. But as this group gets a few games under its belt, look for them to perform well against Sun Belt Conference programs. I don't know if there are any all-conference performers in this group, but there are certainly two or three that are capable of playing at the level of some of the top defensive linemen in the conference.
Quotes of Note: ""All through spring and summer we've been challenging each other, saying four quarters, we've got to play four quarters," Derreck stated. "We've got to learn how to finish games and all summer after workouts, he would have to complete something called the "finish drill".- Derreck Dean
Season Preview: Defensive Line
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