As we noted previously, our projected starters are listed in normal type. Others we expect to see first-team reps are listed in italics.
DEFENSIVE LINE ONES
D-line coach Larry Johnson likes to rotate a lot of players. And he's never been afraid to throw youngsters into the mix with his first team. So this is going to be a fun area to track during camp and early in the season.
We'll start with the two players who appear to be locks to start.
End Deion Barnes was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season and looks to be bigger and stronger heading into 2013. He has a chance to be one of the premier pass-rushers in the nation.
Senior tackle DaQuan Jones started all but one game last season (he was replaced by the departing James Terry on Senior Day) and has been a member of Johnson's regular rotation since his rookie year. Jones has always been something of a complementary player to the likes of Devon Still and Jordan Hill, but now he is being asked to be THE guy at tackle. We're going to have to wait to see if he is up to the challenge, as he missed most of the spring with what was described as a minor back issue. If healthy, he'll be a starter, though.
From there, nothing is set.
At end, redshirt junior C.J. Olanyian has a chance to finally prove himself. In the past two spring games, he has logged five sacks. Unfortunately, he has yet to deliver such production in real games, with 18 tackles and one sack through two seasons of action. Classmate Brad Bars has been slowed by injuries in his career but will also have a chance to show his stuff this season.
We're not sure if redshirt sophomore Anthony Zettel will start. But he will see plenty of time and make plays. As a reserve at tackle and end last season, he had four sacks, which tied for third on the team. The 254-pounder just has to improve against the run, which should be a bit easier to do now that he is playing end full time.
At tackle, we see redshirt freshman Austin Johnson getting the nod alongside Jones. He actually practiced with the second team and even traveled to away games last year. But the staff was never forced to play him, allowing the athletic 6-4, 302-pounder to maintain his redshirt.
Johnson typically rotates five defensive tackles. You can count on converted end Kyle Baublitz and powerful redshirt freshman Derek Dowrey being part of the group. If the Blue-White Game was any indication, walk-on Tyrone Smith is in the mix for the fifth spot. The battle would appear to be between Smith and undersized redshirt frosh Brian Gaia.
Of the defensive linemen enrolling as true freshmen in late June, we think Garrett Sickels is the most physically prepared to contribute immediately. But, barring a rash of injuries, the staff should have the luxury of redshirting Sickels and fellow D-linemen Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren.
DE: Deion Barnes, Brad Bars
DT: DaQuan Jones, Kyle Baublitz, Tyrone Smith
DT: Austin Johnson, Derek Dowrey
DE: C.J. Olanyian, Anthony Zettel, Evan Schwan