What was learned in the spring - The Defense

Inside Sparta brings you the second of a two part series, which recaps the spring and points out who impressed along with a possible depth chart. In this second part we look at the defense.

Spring 2009 Report - By Position
Part Two – The Defense

For what was learned in the spring - the offense, please click here

As was mentioned in the previous article, which covered the offense, a spring depth chart can become meaningless by the time the first game rolls around in the fall. That would be the case for the San Jose State defense this spring. Due to several key players being held out of contact drills during the spring, it's pretty much a given that the current depth chart will be vastly different by September. However, the departure of five defensive starters from 2008, including three NFL draft picks, has created a setting for great competition among the defensive players that are vying to fill those vacated spots.

Defensive Line

Freshman Tracy Pugh (No. 50) and Pablo Garcia (No. 97) could be instrumental in a the 2009 defense

The departure of two starters, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert and defensive end Jeff Schweiger, have left some rather large shoes to be filled. Both returning starters, DT Adonis Davis and DE Carl Ihenacho, were held out of contact throughout the spring; which left last season's back-ups and a slew of newcomers to battle for the top spots. Senior DT Kalvin Cressel and junior Justin Willis, who missed the entire 2008 season, appear to be the top inside linemen this spring. The coaching staff has specifically pointed out the play of redshirt freshman Pablo Garcia (6-foot-2, 290-pounds) from Mitty High School, calling him "our best lineman this spring". Redshirt freshman Raymond Rodriguez also had a very strong spring. Senior Liam Smith, who was part of the regular rotation in 2008, is currently the leader for a starting spot at defensive end. The battle for the other DE spot was waged between sophomore Vincent Abbott, and three freshmen, Tracy Pugh, Keenan Brown, and Abasi Salimu. Kalvin Cressal also took snaps at DE, as well as DT.

All three starters from last season return (Justin Cole, Travis Jones, and Duke Ihenacho). However, Ihenacho is moving to safety, which has created a job opening. The SJSU coaching staff is not short on viable candidates for that opening, either. The leading candidate, senior Mohammad Morah, was limited over the spring to non-contact for the most part, as was junior Ryno Gonzales. Sophomore Tiuke Tuipalotu, a safety last season may get the nod. Juniors Eric Bucholz and Braden Storaasli, both of who saw extensive playing time in 2008, received a lot of the playing time over the spring. Sophomore Wade O'Neill also received a lot of playing time in the scrimmages.

With 2008 starters Coye Francies and Christopher Ownes now on NFL rosters, the cornerback spots are the largest holes that need filling. It appears one of the spots will be filled by junior Devin Newsome, who has moved from safety. Battling for the other side of the field are last season's nickleback Austin Carter, and sophomore Ralph Johnson, a surprise walk-on last year. Joining those two in the battle are Alex Germany and Peyton Thompson, two sophomores that had very good springs as well.

As mentioned, All-WAC linebacker Duke Ihenacho has moved to one of the safety spots. Probably the biggest position battle on the team this year will be for the other safety spot. Tanner Burns returns from very good freshman seasons in 2008. Junior Pompey Festejo brings the most D1-A experience of any safety on the roster. Senior Billy Ring received a lot of playing time throughout the spring, and is a viable candidate. Walk-on JC transfer player Manu Ngatikaura, with excellent speed, was also given a long look by the coaching staff.

Spring 2009 Defensive Two-Deep Depth Chart*
DE Liam Smith / Tracy Pugh
DT Justin Willis / Pablo Garcia
DT Kalvin Cressel / Raymond Rodriguez
DE Keenan Brown / Vincent Abbott
LB Justin Cole / Eric Bucholz
LB Travis Jones / Wade O'Neill
LB Tiuke Tuipalotu / Braden Storaasli
CB Devin Newsome / Peyton Thompson
CB Austin Carter / Alex Germany
S Duke Ihenacho / Billy Ring
S Tanner Burns / Pompey Festejo

Mike Morgan is Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.com

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