Thursday, July 3, 2014
Preseason position reviews: DT
By Ted Miller
We're continuing our preseason position reviews. Please, hold your applause until we are finished.
Here's how we do this. We provide three evaluative categories: "Great shape," "Good shape" and "We'll see."
Hint: You'd prefer your team to be in "Great shape."
"We'll see" doesn't mean you're going to stink at said position. It means just what it says -- we'll see, because there's no way at present to know.
You can review last year's rankings here.
Up next: Defensive tackle. This is a difficult position to stagger when teams vary their scheme between 3-4 and 4-3 looks.
Washington: The Huskies welcome back both starting defensive tackles, including potential NFL first-round pick Danny Shelton, a 327-pound mountain in the middle. Evan Hudson had four sacks last year, and the expectations are high for redshirt freshman Elijah Qualls.
USC: The Trojans are strong across the board on the D-line, and we're not just talking about DE Leonard Williams. They welcome back the top four names on their 2013 depth chart at nose tackle, including starter Antwaun Woods and backup Cody Temple. Redshirt freshman Kenny Bigelow is expected to see plenty of time, too, and there are a number of talented players who could slide inside from end.
UCLA: Sophomore Kenny Clark eclipsed Seali’i Epenesa last year and he looks like a budding star, but the Bruins have several players big enough to play inside, including Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes, who are listed as ends. Kevin McReynolds and Eli Ankou also are options.
Stanford: DT David Parry is a returning starter, and redshirt sophomore Ikenna Nwafor could provide quality depth, though a nagging foot injury kept him out during spring practices. Aziz Shittu could move inside from end to bolster depth if Nwafor is hobbled.
Washington State: If you consider Xavier Cooper more a tackle than an end in the Cougars' 3-4 hybrid, then this position is even deeper. Kalafitoni Pole, who had 28 tackles and two sacks last year at end, will replace Ioane Gauta at nose tackle. Redshirt freshman Daniel Ekuale and junior Darryl Paulo will provide depth.
Oregon: The loss of the underrated Wade Keliikipi and his solid backup, Ricky Heimuli, is significant, though NG Alex Balducci has significant experience. Depth is a question. Junior Sam Kamp, who has added 30 pounds to his frame in order to hold his ground at NT, and some youngsters need to step up. JC transfer Tui Talia played well enough in the spring to be in the mix, though he's more of an end.
Arizona State: We consider Will Sutton more an interior DT than an end, so his loss hits here. NT Jaxon Hood has plenty of experience, though he battled a hamstring injury last year. The Sun Devils also are replacing Davon Coleman, who replaced Hood in the lineup last year. If in shape, 380-pound Mo Latu could be a force. The Sun Devils aren't afraid to shuffle guys up front, too.
Oregon State: On the one hand, the Beavers lose both starting DTs from 2013: Mana Rosa and John Braun. On the other, they feel much better about their interior D-line compared to this time last year. Miami transfer Jalen Grimble offers an immediate athletic upgrade on Rosa and Braun, and Edwin Delva, Siale Hautau, Brandon Bennett-Jackson and Noke Tago provide solid depth. Junior college transfer Kyle Peko also could play his way into the rotation.
Colorado: Five of the top six defensive tackles are back, including Josh Tupou, Juda Parker and Justin Solis, veterans with significant playing experience. Tupou, in particular, is promising inside. The Buffs are far more confident in what they have inside than outside on their D-line.
Utah: The Utes lose Tenny Palepoi, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors, and fellow starter LT Tuipulotu as well as backup Latu Heimuli. So this is a bit of a rebuilding effort, though this is traditionally a position of strength for the program. Viliseni Fauonuku and Sese Ianu are the likely starters with promising redshirt freshman Filipo Mokofisi and Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, who's returning from an injury, providing depth. There also are some incoming JC options.
Arizona: With Tevin Hood and Kirifi Taula gone, the NG position in the Wildcats' 3-3-5 scheme is a question. Aiulua Fanene and Saneilia Fuimaono have returned from two-year missions, and both have playing experience. Sophomore Dwight Melvin likely gets the first look, though. LSU transfer Jordan Allen could be a factor inside, though he's a natural end. Jeff Worthy, a former Boise State player, at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, could play any of three positions along the line, and there's also 280-pound recruit Jerod Cody and some incoming JC transfers.
California: The Bears lose both Deandre Coleman and Viliami Moala, but all should be well if Mustafa Jalil returns to 100 percent after missing last year with a knee injury. When healthy, Jalil has looked like a budding star, but he's a decided "we'll see." It doesn't help that Jacobi Hunter left the program. Harrison Wilfley and Marcus Manley also are interior possibilities.
OTHER POSITION REVIEWS