The Cats are almost cursed at defensive tackle. Injuries, suspensions and departures have left the Cats with almost no depth. In less than a month the Cats lost three key reserves and a starter. Freshman Chris Kolone left the team to attend to a family crisis, Yaniv Barnett was suspended following a second drug arrest and Jonathan Turner dislocated his elbow. Starter Paul Phillip injured his shoulder and missed two games. He may go this week, but won't be 100%.
Senior Carlos Williams has been a workhorse. The 300-pounder has taken more than 95% of the snaps and rarely comes out of the game. He's not a huge playmaker, but does a nice job clogging up the middle.
If Phillip can't go, the Wildcats will again turn to redshirt freshman Lionel Dotson. Dotson is a converted rush end who has been playing DT at only 255 pounds. He's done a nice job despite the lack of size, but really isn't the answer. Junior Brad Brittain is also getting a lot of snaps, but he's been dinged up off and on and hasn't made the impact the coaches had hoped.
The Cats have used a three-man rotation at defensive end, but haven't gotten consistent pressure on opposing passers. Marcus Smith (6-4, 260) and Andre Torrey (6-4, 240) will get the start, with Copeland Bryan (6-4, 240) being used to spell the starters.
This group has been a revolving door all season. The team has started five different players and six guys see action on a regular basis.
Senior Kirk Johnson recently returned to the starting line-up and has been a
big tackler. He had 10 stops against UCA. JC transfer Randy Sims and redshirt
freshman Dan Krogstad should get the nod alongside Johnson
against Oregon State. Sims is on the short side (5-11) but has a good motor. The young Krogstad has shown to be a big hitter.
The Cats will rotate backers. Senior Pat Howard, converted fullback Sean Jones and sophomore John McKinney all see a lot of snaps. Jones may lack the instincts, but he can lay the wood. McKinney gets a lot of time on short yardage, while Howard brings a lot of experience to the unit.
The corners are young, but talented. True freshman Antoine Cason was Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week after his first game against Northern Arizona and added a pair of picks against Cal's Aaron Rodgers. He has good size and great instincts, but still makes some freshmen mistakes.
Lining up on the other side is redshirt freshman Wilrey Fontenot. He too has been solid, but his lack of height can be a detriment against bigger receivers.
Injuries have forced the team to go with another true freshman, B.J. Dennard, as the primary back-up at corner, although senior Zeonte Sherman will occasionally see some action.
Safety is the strength of the team. Junior Darrell Brooks is getting a reputation as being one of the Pac-10's biggest hitters. Twice he has caused opposing receivers to leave the field woozy after legal hits. He's a heady player who is the real leader of the defense.
Joining Brooks is Lamon Means, another safety who can deliver a nasty blow. The two have been crushing people all season long and opponents are starting to notice. UCA rarely threw over the middle and when they did the receiver usually dropped to the turf after catching the pass. Other teams have shied away from the middle of the field at times.
Senior Tony Wingate serves as the team's nickel back and sophomore Marcus Hollingsworth also sees action.