D-Line review

2007 Spring practice has come to a close, but many questions are still left to be answered as the dust settles over Howard Jones Field. Along with the nagging injuries that have plagued the Trojans in recent years, there were plenty of players who took the spotlight for the first time.

It's no secret that this year's defense has the potential to become one of the best in the nation, and arguably of all time. The motor to this iron wall defense starts up front, where the Trojans are loaded with experience and talent. The return of NFL Draft candidates Lawrence Jackson and Sedrick Ellis undoubtedly secured one half of the Trojan front-four, but it has been the emergence of Fili Moala and the progression of Kyle Moore that has this unit looking special.

Here is a rundown of the Trojans depth on the defensive line for the upcoming season, including all incoming freshmen.

Sedrick Ellis - Sr. - I'm not sure there is a better nose guard in college football today. Ellis continued his great play during the spring, also becoming one of the more vocal players on the defensive unit. Ellis heads into the fall campaign as the best interior linemen in the Pac-10, if not the nation.

Lawrence Jackson - Sr. - Jackson was seen as a sure fire first round pick heading into last year, but after a slow beginning to the 06-07 campaign, Jackson will again suit up in Cardinal & Gold, this time set on proving he is worthy of his preseason positioning. Jackson is one of the most experienced players throughout the entire defense, and I expect his 2.5 sacks to at least double by the time January rolls in.

Fili Moala - Jr. - Fili has been one of the biggest surprises in my eyes after a great spring. Moala really took off this spring, and even looks to have lost a few unnecessary pounds. There is no question that Moala has been solid since his first start as a Trojan, but if he keeps improving heading into next season, I see Moala as an All Pac-10 player when it is said and done.

Kyle Moore - Jr. - Moore has been waiting his turn, enough said. The highly touted defensive end out of the Peach State is ready to make some noise opposite Lawrence Jackson, but will face some stiff competition from All-World recruit Everson Griffen. Moore has obviously been working hard in the weight room, and looks ready to make an immediate impact. Moore saw limited action in last year's version of the 3-4 defense, but look for his reps, and his productivity for that matter to increase.

Chris Barrett - Sr. - Barrett has seen his fair share of positions since his arrival at Troy, but it looks like he has now found a spot to call his own. Barrett, along with Moala, provided a very effective 1-2 punch at the defensive tackle position last year, and I look for both players to push each other even harder this go-round. Moala will get the nod as the starter barring any injuries, but Barrett is experienced and will get a lot of action during the Fall. Barrett was held out of Spring toward the end with academic issues to take care of.

Averell Spicer - So. - Spicer is what you look for in a prototypical nose guard, and he did nothing to hurt his stock this spring. Spicer's only real problem when addressing the issue of playing time is the fact that he plays behind potential All-American nose technique Sedrick Ellis. Spicer was a big part of the goal line defense last year, but I expect Spicer to really step up and show he is capable of carrying the load as soon as Ellis is gone.

Alex Morrow - Sr. - Morrow is mister dependable at SC, and was a very important part of the rotation last season. Morrow adds much needed depth at the LEO spot behind Kyle Moore, and the eagerly anticipated arrival of "Super Freak" Everson Griffen.

Alex Parsons - So. - Most expected that Alex Parsons and running mate Derek Simmons would both red shirt the 06-07 season, but Parsons proved a very valuable role in special teams and reserve duty. Parsons displayed flashes of dominance during the spring, sacking John David Booty one play and picking him off the next. Look for Parsons to see more time in the upcoming season.

Derek Simmons - Fr. - Simmons is now a red shirt freshman, and adds depth to the tackle spot. Simmons, like Barrett, was also kept out of Spring practice toward the end with academics as the main focus. Simmons will be in an intense battle over the Fall with Parsons to see who lands behind Barrett on the depth chart.

Gerald Washington - Jr. - At 6-6, 250 plus lbs., Washington has everything you look for in an end. His main problem thus far has been finding a position to stick with. The former Navy member has bounced around quite a bit, but after watching Spring practice, I think he found his spot. Washington is still not the most consistent player, but he did show some signs that he is ready to make an impact throughout the Spring. Washington will play back-up to Jackson, and I expect Washington to see his minutes rise.

Lawrence Miles - Jr. - There may not be a player with more questions surrounding his health then Miles. Miles, who now dons #95, showed up this spring near healthy to nearly everyone's surprise. It really was nice to Miles out there making plays, and I look forward to observing his progression over the next few years.

There is no question that this year's defense is plentiful in talent and experience, and I expect this group to live up to all of the attention given.


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