- Constructing an offensive line that we feel comfortable with heading into preseason
- The progression of the Defense
- Special Teams, especially Kickers and Punters. [Quotes from NU Sports]
It may start on the Offensive Line - but on the other side you want it to end on the Defensive Line...
You can discuss the O-Line and Running back situation all you want, but if the Cats are going to have a decent season in 2005, Defensive Coordinator Greg Colby and D-Line Coach Eric Washington will have to find the bodies to plug the holes left by the graduation of both starting tackles - Luis Castillo and Colby Clark.And there's still a lot to talk about heading into the Spring Drills -
There's no doubt that Castillo turned into the defensive force last year that Wildcat fans had expected for several years. Forced into shouldering the bulk of the pass rush when Loren Howard got hurt, Castillo provided a bright spot in what was at times, a scary year on D.
So you have to replace two big guys in the middle.
The common wisdom would be to just move up the backups, but even last year, Coach Washington wanted to move Barry Cofield [6-4 295] inside to play tackle, a place the coaches feel is a better spot for him. The move also opens up a place for the 3 or 4 backup defensive ends to get on the field, looking to the future, when Howard graduates.
So you have Loren Howard and Barry Cofield at one end and tackle. Who comes in and where?
Look to see Junior Trevor Schultz [6-2 285] in with Cofield up front in the 4-3, and an untried, but highly regarded freshman, Matt Clark [6-3 290] should be recovered from last year's injury to challenge for a job up the middle.
You can go down the long list of DE's who will be trying for the spot to be the Anvil for Howard's hammer.
A pair of Davids were the backups last year - but David Thompson chose not to return, leaving Soph David Ngene [6-3 260] as the prime candidate for the other side. Soph Warren Anderson [6-3 255], Mark Koehn [6-3 245] and Kevin Mims [6-3 250] will all be trying to impress the coaches, but remember the Cats recruited a pretty highly regarded DE in Corey Wootton [6-6 240].
So the challenge to the D-Linemen will be to both secure a starting job, and get themselves in position to make and stay on the 2-deep come the fall. Remember too that if NU still doesn't have a DE on April 23rd, Cofield can move back.
There's also the matter of replacing John Pickens on the weak side, and Marvin Ward [and Dominique Price] in the backfield.
The good news at LB is that there are a lot of guys with experience. Both Adam Kadela [Jr 6-2 240] and Demetrius Eaton [Jr 6-2 235] started last season in the middle [remember that Tim McGarigle had to start last year as the Will LB and he could move back over there if needed].
The same with the D-Backs - they'll miss Ward and Price, but the Cats play most of the kids on the Defensive 2-deep, so there's a fair amount of game experience coming back.
Overall, the big challenge is replacing C & C - Clark and Castillo. We've probably seen pieces of this year's D on the field during the end of the season. The key this year will be the pass rush - look for the Cats to improve with a healthy Loren Howard starting the season.
We'll continue the discussion in Part IV - Can someone please make a field goal?
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