Ive seen improvement every day, said Nielsen, in his second year as the Rebel DL mentor. They have given us great effort as a group. They have been ready to roll at every practice and they are a physical, tough bunch of players.
Nielsen specifically pointed to the March 25 scrimmage effort to prove his point.
The defensive line recorded eight quarterback sacks that day. Thats a good days work in anyones book, he explained. We dont have the experience we had last year, but we have several kids with good experience who understand the effort required to succeed on this level.
The following is a breakdown of Nielsens DL depth chart and a few comments on each player:
Defensive End Peria Jerry Sophomore, 6-2, 290 What a treat he is to coach, said Neilsen. Peria is tremendously quick, strong and talented. He has progressed the most of any player from last season until the end of spring. Peria is a difference-maker, a potentially dominant player. Hes had a great spring. The good thing about him is that he has proven to this staff that he can play any position on the DL. We wanted to see if he could handle DE. We already knew he could handle DT. He can do either and that versatility is extremely valuable when we start putting the finishing touches on the team in August. Whats been doubly gratifying is that Peria now understands the tempo needed on this level and hes delivering that.
Viciente DeLoach Junior, 6-4, 260 Viciente put on some weight during the offseason and thats helped his game versus the run, Nielsen stated. Hes gotten better since last season. He just needs to keep working at it and he will help us in the fall.
Defensive Tackle Hayward Howard Sophomore, 6-4, 300 Hayward started out the spring as a number two guy, but quickly moved up to number one. Hes big, strong, quick hes got it all, Ryan said. He gives us that big presence at DT. I also like the way he can get in the backfield in a hurry. And the upside is that he will only get better and better. Hes impressed us in just one spring and hes still got a lot to learn.
Trey Poole Sophomore, 6-3, 260 Trey was moved over from offensive line this spring and has given us great effort. Hes out there every day giving us everything hes got, stated Ryan. I like kids who love the game and Trey does.
Nose Tackle Brandon Jenkins Junior, 6-5, 280 Brandon has done a good job inside this spring. Hes extremely talented, he hasnt missed any work and hes been physical this spring, Nielsen evaluated. Hes had a good spring, but we are hoping for a great August. We need him to keep plugging and improving.
Jeremy Garrett Junior, 6-1, 285 Jeremy turned it on midway through the spring and has played extremely well. Hes becoming a great technician and the extra weight hes put on has helped him prove to us he can be an every-play guy, said Neilsen. Jeremy is tough and physical and strong. I like what he has done this spring and look for him to continue on that path through August and the 2006 season.
Leo End Chris Bowers Sophomore, 6-2, 237 Chris has put on some weight which has helped him playing the run. Hes stronger now and it shows in his play, Neilsen added. He had a lot of sacks and pressures in spring and hes good off the edge. The bigger and stronger he gets, the better hell be, but I can already tell a substantial difference in his production this spring versus last season.
LeRon King Sophomore, 6-0, 212 We moved LeRon from linebacker to defensive end this spring to give us a pass rush specialist from the LEO slot, Ryan explained. He has tremendous get off. Hes undersized, but he doesnt let that stop him from making plays, which is what this game is all about. He could be a guy who comes in on third down and gets some QB sacks for us. Plus, hes an excellent special teams player.
Our Take: Hayward Howard could well end up as a rock in the middle, the kind of guy who draws double teams and makes everyone else around him a little bit better because of the extra attention he draws. Jerry is angling to become not only the Most Improved Player of spring, but also The Most Valuable. His realization of the needed tempo to go along with his immense ability is a dynamite combination. He could very well be a disruptor type of talent in 2006. Its good to see Bowers gain some weight so he can hold up against the run more effectively. Ditto on Jeremy Garrett, who was very good for 20 or so plays a game last year, but needs to be able to go for 50 in 2006. But perhaps one of the more pleasant surprises of spring happened late in the session, when junior Brandon Jenkins was moved from backup DT to first-team nose tackle. If Brandon can harness his talent and become more consistent play-in and play-out, he would give a tremendous boost to the DL. Things are coming together nicely at DL and with the influx of young talent like Jerrell Powe, Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett and Greg Hardy, the DL should be productive in 2006.