Scout Team Review: Defense

After taking a look at the offense yesterday, today we break down where everyone stands on the scout team defense--and the overall picture looks rosier...

Ishmael Adams, Cornerback (5'8, 186) FR: Obviously sat out most of the season after suffering a shoulder injury. He was impressive throughout the early season, and looked like the best of the freshmen defensive backs. If he can participate fully this spring and regain his form, he could be one of the front runners for the vacated cornerback spots. At the very least, he'll have a good shot at playing the same nickel spot that he won as a true freshman.

Prediction for this season: 1st or 2nd string cornerback
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string cornerback

Eli Ankou, Nose Tackle (6'3, 284) FR: Ankou came into school late after the coaching staff asked him to late in August. He had originally planned to greyshirt. Ankou is a big guy, looking almost like a nose tackle on the defensive line—we're slotting him there since he played mostly scout team this year and fluctuated between defensive end and tackle depending on the front. He doesn't have the greatest body, and is a bit stiff, but we heard good reviews about his work ethic.

Prediction for this season: Scout team
Long term projection: Back up nose

Isaiah Bowens: Inside linebacker (6'1, 211) RS JR: Bowens sat out this entire last season with a torn ACL at the end of spring. We had heard that he should be ready by spring of this year, although he might not be in full contact. If he can get back to where he was pre-injury, he could provide some nice depth at inside linebacker.

Prediction for this season: 2nd string inside linebacker
Long term projection: Graduating

Justin Combs: Cornerback (5'7, 165) FR: Combs isn't likely to contribute down the road, especially with the defensive backs coming in this fall, but he, surprisingly, progressed well this year. He's very small (likely not even the 5'7 he's listed at) and looked out of place in fall camp. By the end of the year, though, he actually was making plays in the scout on scout practices, and was a surprisingly big hitter for a guy his size. Again, though, he just doesn't have the physical tools to contribute at this level.

Prediction for this season: Scout team/special teams
Long term projection: Scout team/special teams

Keenan Graham, Outside Linebacker (6'2, 247) RS JR: We always liked Graham's athleticism as a defensive end and we figured before last year that he'd be a better fit at outside linebacker than Damien Holmes. We're still not entirely sure we were wrong. Graham did struggle with some of the pass coverage techniques, and we've heard he just wasn't as quick picking up the nuances of the new position as Holmes. The new year may bring about a return to defensive end, which could be a better fit for him. He'd likely have to bulk up a bit more.

Prediction for this season: Back up defensive end
Long term projection: Graduating.

Ryan Hofmeister, Inside linebacker (6'0, 225) RS FR: Hofmeister is kind of in the mold of the Sean Westgate/Christian Taylor type player. He's undersized, and not a great athlete, but on the mental side of things, he's very advanced and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. His body doesn't have much place to go, though, so there's a limit to his upside. Still, he can provide depth in a pinch without a huge dropoff.

Prediction for this season: Third string inside linebacker
Long Term projection: Second or third string inside linebacker.

Anthony Jefferson, Defensive back (6'1, 184) RS SO: Jefferson has not regained his form after the herniated disc he suffered two years ago, and it might simply be the case that he's never going to get his speed back. It's a shame, too, because you can still see flashes of where he was, especially when he bodies up a receiver. As a physical corner in press coverage, he's not bad, but if he doesn't win the press, he can't keep up with the receiver. As a safety, he has a better chance, but still probably doesn't have the speed to compete for a starting spot there.

Prediction for this season: Scout team/back up safety
Long term projection: Scout team/back up safety

Taylor Lagace: Safety (6'1, 200) FR: After taking a little while to adjust to college, Lagace actually looked pretty good, playing both linebacker and safety on the scout team. Body type-wise, he looks more like a linebacker than a safety, but we could see him filling that mini-linebacker role next year.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string mini-backer
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string mini-backer

Ellis McCarthy: Defensive End (6'5, 330) FR: Even though he played, we'll toss him in here as well. McCarthy obviously didn't have the greatest year, mostly due to injuries. His knee was injured coming into fall camp, and then he injured his knee again toward the end of the year. He also came into school heavy, at about 345, which put him in a difficult spot as far as competing for a big role. Even though he's got a huge frame, he should try to keep his weight down to around 310 or so. If he can do that, he might even be able to stick at end, but I like him more as a nose, even with his height. In any case, we're still high on his future, and last we heard is that he'll be at least a partial participant in spring after recovering from knee surgery.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string nose or 2nd string defensive end
Long term projection: Starting nose tackle or defensive end

Fabian Moreau: Cornerback (6'0, 180) FR: Despite never having played the position before, Moreau looked pretty good at cornerback by the end of the year. Naturally, he's got pretty good hips and can run with most receivers. He got a little bit of time throughout the season and we know that the coaching staff thought he brought a lot to the table on that side of the ball. However, with the situation at running back being what it is, we have to figure that could be an option for him. Our guess is that he'll get a chance at running back in the spring for the open competition for Franklin's vacated spot, and if that doesn't work out, he'll compete at corner in the fall.

Prediction for this season: Back up running back/Back up cornerback
Long term projection: Back up running back/ two deep at corner

Aramide Olaniyan: Outside Linebacker (6'1, 210) RS SO: Olaniyan is a tough fit in a 4-3, but he's even tougher to slot in in a 3-4. In a 4-3, you could make a case for him as a situational rusher from the defensive end slot, but in a 3-4, that position is outside linebacker, where you need to have some coverage skills. could still have a role as a situational rusher in the nickel front, but it'd be hard for him to do anything beyond that.

Prediction for this season: Back up outside linebacker
Long term projection: Back up outside linebacker

Kenny Orjioke: Outside Linebacker (6'4, 222) FR: Orjioke is a great athlete, as he showed in a couple of the open practices playing a little tight end/receiver. As an outside linebacker, he's still learning the position in this system, having played safety, largely, in high school. He'll compete for the open starting linebacker spot, especially in the spring when he and Wallace are two of the more viable candidates (along with possibly Jeremy Castro, who is coming in this spring), but we think he'd have some potential on the offensive side of the ball if that doesn't work out.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string outside linebacker
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string outside linebacker

Aaron Porter: Inside Linebacker (6'1, 230) FR: Porter came into school over the summer somewhere north of 230, but by the end of the season, he looked like he was about 205 or 210, and it didn't look like a very strong 210. Weight maintenance might be an issue for him, and this offseason, he's going to need to bulk back up and put on some good muscle. As a player, he has good instincts, but his overall athleticism didn't look great, which could have been due to his weight issues. With Isaac Savaiinaea and Cameron Judge coming in, and Bowens potentially coming back from injury, Porter will have some very tough sledding to compete for the two deep.

Prediction for this season: 3rd string inside linebacker
Long term projection: 2nd string inside linebacker

Dietrich Riley: Safety (6'0, 190) JR: Obviously, Riley sat out this entire last season after injuring his neck and undergoing surgery. He's a full go for spring, and you have to hope that he'll be able to compete without any negative repercussions. If he's fully healthy, he'd be a great fit for the mini-backer role, but we know the coaching staff likes his potential at safety.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string safety
Long term projection: 2nd or 3rd string safety

Marcus Rios: Cornerback (6'0, 185) FR: Coming in the spring was a big help for Rios, who took some time to acclimate to the pace of play that UCLA coaches were demanding. He's got some skills as a corner, and at times toward the end of the year he was looking more and more comfortable covering UCLA's better receivers in practice. He's got good hips, moves well, and is a big enough corner that he can jam effectively. He figured to be part of that big competition for one of the starting cornerback spots, and could go a long way toward making his case in the spring when the rest of the competition isn't yet in school.

Prediction for this season: 1st or 2nd string cornerback
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string cornerback

Sam Tai: Defensive End (6'3, 275) RS FR: Tai has seemingly not been healthy for any appreciable amount of time over his first two years. He tore his ACL last August, so it'll be a tall order for him to be fully ready by spring. Most likely, he'll do some non-contact drills and then look to be ready to compete fully in August. Given the amount of time he's been out, it'll likely be tough for him to get playing time this coming season.

Prediction for this season: Scout team
Long term projection: Back up defensive end.

Brandon Tuliaupupu: Nose Tackle (6'1, 315) RS FR: We've heard that the coaching staff is pretty high on Tuliaupupu's potential. He gets great leverage, being fairly short and having so much mass. In this defense, much more so than the 4-3, Tuliaupupu is a great fit at nose tackle, since he's so big and creates a kind of immovable object for the running game. He's more of that prototypical nose than McCarthy, since he's built more like a barrel.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string nose tackle
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string nose tackle.

Aaron Wallace: Outside Linebacker (6'3, 230) RS FR: Wallace was impressive during his limited game action this season, and looked the part in practice in both 2011 and 2012. He's a good athlete, and showed some instinctual ability from that position. With the open spot at outside linebacker, he'll compete with Orjioke (and possibly Castro) to try to win and solidify the spot in spring before the freshmen come in in the fall.

Prediction for this season: 1st or 2nd string outside linebacker
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string outside linebacker

Brandon Willis: Defensive End (6'2, 280) SO: Willis was the starting nose tackle throughout spring and into fall, but he really struggled to maintain a weight above 285, and by the end of the season, was probably closer to 265. We still like his ability, even at 265, and think he could impact at defensive end this season with the potential to start after Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Cassius Marsh, and Seali'i Epenesa graduate. We've heard, also, that he's actually making a concerted effort to put some weight back on and is committed to earning a spot in the two deep.

Prediction for this season: 2nd or 3rd string defensive end
Long term projection: 1st or 2nd string defensive end

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