Fall Camp: Three Questions - Defensive Line

Without Bill Swancutt, will the defensive line be able to pressure the opposing quarterback?

Let's get this out of the way. The defensive line does not have a player that will put up the numbers nor change the way an offense operates like Swancutt did last year. His senior season was a culmination of hard work, experience and determination.

Facing double teams the entire year Swancutt grabbed 65 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 12 games. If you combine Ben Siegert's, Alvin Smith's, Sir Henry Anderson's, Jeff Van Orsow's, Joe Lemma's and Joe Ruldulph's numbers from last year Swancutt harnessed three more sacks than the seven. Plus, the seven grabbed just 40 more tackles and just one more tackle for loss than Swancutt. If we break this down even further to just the ends, the Beavers return only 39 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

So, is this a cause for concern? Most definitely. Is all hope lost? Most certainly not.

Last year Siegert had to get back into shape after missing spring ball due to off season shoulder surgery. He was a little rusty but turned in a fine performance in the season opener against LSU recording a career high six tackles. Siegert will need to be more consistent and aggressive to propel the Beavers towards a winning season. As a veteran of the team he will also be relied upon for leadership on and off the field.

His counterpart at the tackle position, Alvin Smith, will also be asked to step up his game. Smith is one of the largest players on the team and can take up plenty of space. He is excellent at stopping the run and could warrant a double team. With the tackles being more experienced and more refined at their positions than the ends, Siegert and Smith must work their way into requiring double teams. This will free up the younger players on the ends to go one on one.

Van Orsow turned in a fine year in limited playing time grabbing a returning team high three sacks along with 5.5 tackles for loss. He struggles with the bigger linemen, but has a developing array of moves and benefited greatly from playing with Swancutt. If Van Orsow is left to one-on-one coverage he is quick enough and smart enough to get to the quarterback consistently.

Lemma is the most experienced end but lacks the body to be an every down player. He is effective in short bursts, but expect Joe Ruldulph, after he has paid his dues, to overtake the starting spot. Ruldulph is aggressive, confident and hungry to prove his worth on the field. The California product is also long, which is beneficial for knocking the ball down or impairing the quarterback's vision.

As stated in the previous article, keep on eye on freshman John Mayberry. He will most likely see the field this year and fill the vacant spot behind Van Orsow on the depth chart.

Former tight-ends Jeff Kruskamp and Jeremy Weldon probably will not see the turf this year unless it is a blowout.

Time to recap.

The defensive line, especially the ends, lack depth. If the starters (Van Orsow and Lemma or Ruldulph) go down the team is in for a world of hurt. But all is not lost.

Seigert and Smith provide a concrete foundation that will relieve a lot of pressure on the ends. If the pressure is gone, the ends will perform better, building their confidence which in turn relieves some of the pressure off of the tackles freeing them to wreak havoc at the line.

So, the answer is maybe. The first real test will be on the road at Louisville against Brain Brohm who is extremely comfortable outside of the pocket.


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