Texas offered fast-rising LB David Gbenda on Sunday

For the second time in a matter of weeks, Katy Cinco Ranch linebacker David Gbenda made his way to Austin for an unofficial visit. This time, the trip produced an offer from the Texas Longhorns, Gbenda revealed on Sunday evening:

The 6’0, 212-pounder is one of the hottest commodities around the state, in part because the in-state linebacker class isn’t particularly strong at the top in the 2019 cycle. In recent weeks, Gbenda has picked up offers from Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, TCU, and Texas A&M.

The Horned Frogs and the Aggies are at the top of his list, along with the Longhorns, who picked up three 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions in the immediate aftermath of the offer. Another projection is now cloudy.

As a junior, Gbenda produced 56 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and two sacks. At The Opening Houston Regional camp in February, he ran a 4.74 40-yard dash, a 4.34 shuttle, and posted a 32-inch vertical, all good results. Since Gbenda relies on his athleticism to range from sideline to sideline and doesn’t have ideal size, the easy Texas comparison is to Gary Johnson, though Gbenda isn’t nearly as fast.

Since the Texas defense relies on a nose tackle and consistent slanting to keep the linebackers free, Gbenda is a good fit — like Johnson, he’s at his best when able to make plays without an offensive lineman climbing into his face at the second level.

Early on, it seems as if Texas is in excellent position to eventually land a commitment from Gbenda, which would provide a good start to the 2019 linebacker class as defensive coordinator Todd Orlando pursues higher-rated prospects like De’Gabriel Floyd and Lakia Henry.

Gbenda is a consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 332 player nationally, the No. 10 inside linebacker, and the No. 43 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

2018 UCLA Football Spring Preview: Who Will Replace Josh Rosen?

Our final 2018 Spring Football Preview focuses on the quarterbacks. This looks like it could be a rebuilding year as UCLA is absolutely loaded with freshmen. However, the collective talent of this unit and Chip Kelly’s ability to use it will be the tipping point.

Who’s Gone?

Well, yes, the obvious. Josh Rosen is making his way to the pros this year, most likely with the New York Giants. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m quite disappointed in the wasted opportunity we had with Rosen to move onward and upward when he took the offensive reins from Brett Hundley. The crazy thing is when you look at what Rosen accomplished at UCLA, something doesn’t add up:

  • 9,341 career yards
  • 59 touchdowns
  • All-American honors as a freshman
  • Pac-12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2015
  • Second-team all-conference honors as a junior
  • Set a new school record for single-season passing yards (3,756) in 2017.

How could we have a quarterback with a resume that looks like this and such crappy on-field results? I saw him going to Rose Bowls and maybe even the playoffs, but instead, we’re sitting here with a new head coach and six Mora years with no real accomplishments.

In addition to Rosen, redshirt junior Craig Meyers is eligible to return for a senior season, but he did participate in Senior Day last season. So, it’s not clear if he will be back for another year. If he does come back, he will be the oldest quarterback on the roster. If he chooses to move on, we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Who’s Back?

Well, we definitely have a lot of sophomores in the wings. Take a look:

2018 UCLA Football Spring Quarterbacks

Number Name Height Weight Year (as of Fall 2018)
Number Name Height Weight Year (as of Fall 2018)
6 Nick Juels 5-8 170 Sophomore
12 Austin Burton 6-3 195 Sophomore
15 Matt Lynch 6-4 218 R-Sophomore
17 Jackson Gibbs 6-1 190 Sophomore
18 Devon Modster 6-2 210 R-Sophomore
19 Craig Myers 5-11 185 R-Senior

Don’t get me wrong—this is not to say that these guys don’t have talent. Quite the opposite. But when it comes to experience and leading an offense and a team into the valley of the shadow of death, we don’t have a whole lot going for us.

Right now, Devon Modster is the lone man with the most playing time. It might seem that he’s the obvious choice as the starter, but Chip Kelly is not loyal to a fault like Jim Mora was. If he feels someone looks better, I have no doubt he’d start someone else. Right now, the competition this spring is wide open, especially since Matt Lynch also saw limited action last year and actually looked pretty good. Kelly will have a lot to experiment with and will no doubt choose the best man for the job.

Who’s Coming In?

Here’s where is gets really interesting. University of Washington backup quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels announced on January 18 that he would be transferring to UCLA as a graduate student, and he will actually bring some much needed experience to the quarterbacks unit. He was given a full release by UW head coach Chris Peterson, will enroll in spring, and will immediately be eligible to play this fall. He was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, and may be a dark horse in the quarterback competition this spring. He spent the last two years watching Jake Browning sling the ball at UW, and saw some limited game time with a total of 310 yards and three touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how the competition plays out between Carta-Samuels, Modster, and Bishop Gorman alum Dorian Thompson-Robinson, when he shows up for fall camp. It’s actually nice to see that there is more than one viable man for the job.

Outlook

While we don’t have a superstar on the roster anymore, I have a lot more confidence in Chip Kelly than I did in Jim Mora to coach these guys up. The one thing UCLA has not been able to do in recent years is develop players—take the three star guys and help them reach their potential, don’t let the four- and five-star guys flatline as soon as they get on campus. This is where we see wasted opportunities. We have plenty of talent—now, we just need to use it.

That’s a wrap for our 2018 UCLA Football Spring Previews! UCLA Spring Practice begins at 7:15 am tomorrow with new head coach Chip Kelly’s first practice.

Go Bruins!

Michigan State releases spring football roster

The Michigan State Spartans began spring practices this past Tuesday, and have released their spring football roster.

The roster, which includes just under 100 total players, returns 49 letterwinners and 19 position starters from the 2018 campaign, according to the Spring Preview on MSUSpartans.com

In addition to the returning players, the Spartans also have seven early-enrollees from the 2018 recruiting class: Javez Alexander (WR), Theo Day (QB), Dimitri Douglas (OL), Kalon Gervin (CB), Xavier Henderson (DB), Julian Major (WR) and Edward Warinner (LB).

Douglas will sit out spring ball with an Achilles injury, however. As will redshirt freshman Weston Bridges with an “undisclosed” injury.

There were some notable absentees on the roster, starting with Jalen Watts-Jackson. He was the hero of the 2015 game against Michigan, but has dealt with injuries since, and didn’t see the field much in 2017 (appearing in just six games).

Defensive back T.J. Harrell and defensive tackle Kyonta Stallworth were also not listed on the roster. It is possible that these players could be on the summer roster, however.

Overall, the Spartans will be returning 10 starters on offense, nine starters on defense and three specialists (placekicker, punter and long snapper).

MSU has the most returning production returning in the country, as it returns 100 percent of its passing yards from the quarterback position, 82 percent of its receptions, 81 percent of its receiving yards, and 71 percent of its rushing yards on offense, according to MSUSpartans.com.

Defensively, the Spartans return 23 letterwinners. Of the nine returning starters, five of which started all 13 games last season — Khari Willis, Raquan Williams, Mike Panisiuk, Andrew Dowell and Joe Bachie. The unit ranked top-7 in the country in both rushing yards allowed (No. 2) and total defense (No. 7).

The Green-White Spring game takes place at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, April 7 at 5 p.m.

Check out the full spring practice schedule below:

No. 1 – Tuesday, Feb. 27
No. 2 – Thursday, March 1
No. 3 – Tuesday, March 13
No. 4 – Thursday, March 15
No. 5 – Friday/Saturday, March 16/17
No. 6 – Tuesday, March 20
No. 7 – Thursday, March 22
No. 8 – Friday/Saturday, March 23/24
No. 9 – Tuesday, March 27
No. 10 – Thursday, March 29
No. 11 – Tuesday, April 3
No. 12 – Thursday, April 5
No. 13 – Friday, April 6
No. 14 – Spring Game, Saturday, April 7, 5 p.m.
No. 15 – Tuesday, April 10

Texas Tech spring practice set to begin

In the very recent pass, Texas Tech beginning spring practice was king. Now, it’s taking a back seat to the basketball team eyeing a deep March run in the NCAA Tournament and a baseball team that is undefeated through their first nine games. But, spring practice is here and like with all things in the spring, hope springs eternal this time of year.

Despite the concerns about Kliff Kingsbury as head coach for 2018, following a 6-6 regular season and bowl loss to South Florida, Texas Tech is in great position to get over the mid-tier hurdle in the Big 12. Texas Tech is returning 10 of 11 starters on defense that proved to be a takeaway machine and shouldn’t miss a beat this year with an abundance of depth joining the ranks. Texas Tech’s offense was good, but not to the same standards Tech and its fans have been used to in the past, including during the Kingsbury era. Most of that, once again, coming from their struggles in the red zone that will undoubtedly be addressed this spring.

Key Dates:
March 3 – Start of Spring Practices
March 24 – Midland Scrimmage
April 7 – Frisco Scrimmage
April 14 – Spring Game, Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock

Key Losses:
QB Nic Shimonek – Graduation/Draft – 328/493, 3963 yards, 66.5%, 33 TDs
RB Justin Stockton – Graduation/Draft – 132 att, 797 yards, 6.0 avg, 4 TDs
WR Keke Coutee – Draft – 93 recs, 1429 yards, 10 TDs
WR Derrick Willies – Graduation/Draft – 18 recs, 304 yards, 3 TDs
WR Cam Batson – Graduation/Draft – 59 recs, 487 yards, 5 TDs
WR Dylan Cantrell – Graduation/Draft – 71 recs, 816 yards, 7 TDs
DT Mychealon Thomas – Graduation/ Draft – 41 tackles, 25 solo, 1 sack, 1 INT

2017 Redshirt players and returning from injury:
DL Houston Miller – Injured
DL Lonzell Gillmore – Injured
WR Xavier Martin – Redshirt
DB Quincy Addison – Redshirt
DB John Davis Jr – Redshirt
DB Adrian Frye – Redshirt
FB Henry Howard – Redshirt
DL Aaron Calcote – Redshirt
OL Casey Verhulst – Redshirt
OL Dawson Deaton – Redshirt
OL Will Farrar – Redshirt
DL Nelson Mbanasor – Redshirt

Incoming Players:
QB Alan Bowman – 3 Star
OL Troy Bradshaw – 3 Star
WR Sterling Galbon – 3 Star
LB Case Gatlin
QB Nick Gerber – Transfer
DL Jaylon Hutchins – 3 Star
RB Andre Johnson – Transfer
RB Ta’Shawn Henry – 3 Star
WR Miller Royals – 3 Star
RB Shadrick Thompson – 3 Star
WR Erik Ezukanma – 4 Star
WR Corey Fulcher – 3 Star
WR KeSean Carter – 3 Star
LB Xavier Benson – 3 Star

With more than enough reinforcements coming to replace key losses in 2018, the only question is, who will be able to separate themselves before entering the season? Kingsbury recruited speed, speed and more speed in his WR’s this past recruiting cycle and if anyone thinks that Henry will be red-shirted because of the players in front of him, I would’t count on it. Ta’Shawn Henry was a huge get for Kingsbury who needed to stabilize the running back position and is versatile enough to line up in the backfield or in the slot. I think Kingsbury will use him right away if he shows what he showed in high school namely, tough running and play-making ability in space. Seeing as how Texas Tech struggled so much in the red zone last year, Kingsbury won’t hesitate to use any personnel that will give him an edge.

Key Position Battle: Quarterback

The Favorite – McLane Carter, Jr
Carter started the last game of the season, vs Texas, in place of a struggling Nic Shimonek. In the first quarter he showed that he could be the quarterback going forward, going 11/15 for 175 yards. Some concern came after he struggled the following two quarters going just 5/22 before being replaced in the 4th quarter by Shimonek. Carter has the most experience and has shown his capability especially when considering he’d get most first team snaps in the spring and fall.

Texas Tech v Texas

Texas Tech v Texas

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Fan Choice – Jett Duffey, So
Duffey has the backing of most of the Tech fan base due to his Mahomesian style of play and ability to move the pocket under pressure. Duffey was highly acclaimed out of high school and heir apparent to Mahomes, before being suspended from Texas Tech in the spring of 2016. With Shimonek’s good, but not great numbers especially late in games, fans are even more wanting to see what Duffey can do in the Red Raider offense, despite his limited sample size.

The Dark Horse – Alan Bowman, Fr
Some believe that Alan Bowman has a real shot at the job. Seeing as this is the first full on QB battle since the great Mahomes/Webb battle of 2015, it’ll be interesting to see if Bowman plays well enough to beat out Carter and Duffey for the job. Bowman had a fairly good high school career and has gotten praise from Kingsbury and recruiting experts throughout the recruiting cycle leading many to believe he can be the guy for the next four years in Lubbock.

Key Group: Special Teams

The special teams group left a lot to be desired in 2017. Beginning with an injury to Clayton Hatfield that led to kicking issues throughout and at key points in the game to inconsistent punting by transfer punter Dominic Panazzolo, all culminating in the dismissal of special team’s coach Joe Robinson.

Kingsbury waited until March 1st to make the hire of Adam Scheier, his new special teams coordinator. Scheier previously was a special teams quality control coach at Ohio State.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas

John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

The special teams group doesn’t need to be phenomenal to be an improvement from last year, it just needs to be sound on coverages and consistent on kicks. No one will fault the place kicker for missing a 50 yarder, but from 35 and in has to be money. Panazzolo had great moments and bad moments and was illustrated perfectly in Tech’s bowl game against South Florida. In the 2nd quarter, Panazzolo had a 43 yard punt downed at the South Florida 1 yard line and nearing the end of the half, while deep in their own territory, had a punt of just 15 yards to set up a South Florida score.

Key Coaching Hire: Clay McGuire

McGuire, at Texas Tech grad, previously coached at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2006 to 2009. He started as a video intern and worked his way up to running backs coach before following Ruffin McNeil and Lincoln Riley to East Carolina. When Mike Leach got hired at Washington State in 2012, McGuire served Leach as offensive line coach.

McGuire is a huge get for Kingsbury and it’s a move that irked Mike Leach, further proving how good McGuire is. With his experience as both a running backs coach and offensive line coach, he is uniquely suited to handled and improve the running game for Texas Tech. Something Tech has desperately needed since losing Mike Jenks and DeAndre Washington after the 2015 season.

McGuire will also serve as co-offensive coordinator along with Kevin Johns who will coach inside wide receivers. The move by Kingsbury to have two offensive coordinators, presumably shows his willingness to move play calling duties to one of them and at the very least shows an upgrade to have a coach specifically handle the passing game coordination and running game coordination.

Ohio State lands four-star 2019 offensive lineman, Ryan Jacoby

Slow starts on the recruiting trail aren’t particularly new to Ohio State under Urban Meyer. Back in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the Buckeyes had several silent months early on, and it wasn’t until Joe Burrow committed in May that the class really got going. Urban Meyer would like to avoid a repeat this season, and that effort just got a huge boost, as Mentor, OH tackle Ryan Jacoby announced his commitment to Ohio State on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

Jacoby, a 6-foot-5, 270 pound do-it-all lineman is the second member of Ohio State’s 2019 class, as he joins fellow offensive lineman Doug Nester, a tackle from West Virginia. Jacoby is ranked by 247Sports as the 353rd best player nationally, 39th best tackle, and 10th best player in Ohio.

While his rankings aren’t super lofty right now (though they certainly aren’t anything to complain about), he’s just now growing into his frame, and could be in for a massive senior season, and a pretty big recruiting bump around November, after all of the camps and games are over.

Jacoby held offers from Oregon, West Virginia, Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State, among others, and has received a ton of attention in the past few months after a great junior season. While the Big Ten trio of Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan certainly expressed interest in Jacoby, this was always a case of when, rather than if he would commit to the home-state Buckeyes.

Jacoby visited Columbus just a couple of weeks ago, on February 10, and knew he’d be announcing his commitment to the Buckeyes just shortly after, when given the green light by Meyer and Greg Studrawa, and apparently, today was that day.

In Jacoby, the Buckeyes are getting a versatile, impressive athlete, with good feet, and a very good core. He’s fairly inexperienced in pass protection (to be expected with high school linemen), but his ceiling is pretty much sky-high when he gets in a college weight program, and starts to learn from an extremely talented coach like Studrawa. Buckeye fans should be very excited about this newest commitment.

Will Kirby & Co dominate recruiting in ‘19

Can UGA pull the top class in 2019 again??

Longhorn OL Coach Herb Hand Wants You To Come To The Greatest City In The World

HOWDY. As we are well aware by now, recruiting never sleeps, and it also continually finds new ways of out-wanking-motioning itself. This past weekend it was A&M TE coach Tim Brewster causin’ a ruckus by claiming Jimbo Fisher taught a whole bunch of NFL stars key DB skills or something. Not to be outdone, Texas Longhorns Co-OC and OL coach Herb Hand dropped this gem on us yesterday:

Let’s unpack this slowly, beginning with the tweet.

  • emoji rating: 7.3
  • hashtag rating: 7.3
  • content: impeccable

Folks, this makes Tim Brewster’s double-exclamation-point trademark look paltry and weak. You want to know he’s talking about a city? Here’s THREE goddamn city emoji. With a check, thank you. And in case you still weren’t sure what he was referring to, there is extra clarification with EIGHT pointing fingers and THREE arrows. ELEVEN total indicators. Eleven players on a football unit. Coincidence? No, genius, I say. Cap it off with the holy trinity of hashtags (including “That 512 Lifestyle,” which presumably has a variety different meanings to a wide spectrum of people, and that’s okay!).

That’s all well and good, because the true beauty of this tweet lies in the graphic.

ENHANCE.

#Business

Shall we begin?

#1 CITY IN AMERICA, BUSINESS INSIDER. Folks, if you don’t believe this is a keep-up-with-the-Joneses response to Texas A&M Football social media marketing, I don’t know what to tell you. NO ONE in college football is more obsessed with #Business. This is a clear effort to nudge in on that rich market of #Business-oriented blue-chip recruits that we’ve been freely harvesting unimpeded now for years. It’s shrewd, if a bit lacking in subtlety. But when did being subtle ever win at #business? You simply cannot argue that Austin is the #1 city in America, because Business Insider has declared it so.

POPULATION: 1.89 MILLION. And every single one of them is on I-35 heading to San Antonio or Dallas every Friday at 4 p.m. AMIRITE? Wow. According to the 2016 U.S. Census (via Wikipedia) the population of Austin is about half that. We knew it was growing, but holy hell! We know, we know. It includes the “greater metropolitan area,” whatever that means. But hey: if you want to gerrymander Round Rock, Williamson County, and the complete, engulfing hellscape of suburban tract housing and drab corporate office parks that surrounds Austin just to inflate your numbers, it’s somewhat disingenuous to tout a weird indie culture as a major selling point. Internet!

QUALITY OF LIFE: 7.3

VALUE: 7.3

Can’t argue with these figures. You whip up a fancy graphic and slap some big block numbers in there, it’s impressive as hell no matter what it says, even if it’s completely devoid of context or meaning. We’ve been doing it on THE TAILGATE now for years.

The capital of Texas gains about 50 new residents daily, many seeking out the city’s “music, outdoor spaces, and cultural institutions.”

Y’all, we have it on authority that this quote comes direct from Tom Herman himself! This is his triumvirate of selling points; the first three facets of the program that he markets in every in-home visit he makes with recruits’ families. As for the 50 new residents, I’m going to be That Guy who embeds his own tweet in a post here because I’m too lazy to come up with a new taek or even completely retype this one.

Austin is beloved for its live music scene and is host to some of the country’s biggest music and culture festivals, including South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. The city was nicknamed “Silicon Hills” in the 1990s for its status as “among the top areas for venture capital investment in the country.”

  • “Silicon Hills” sounds like a cheap Red Shoe Diaries spinoff that would air on Showtime at 12:15 a.m. on Sundays in 1997.
  • Catch Radiohead this Monday at the Frank Erwin Center as they tour in support of their newest album “Silicon Hills.”
  • “Silicon Hills,” the only retirement community exclusively for exotic dancers.
  • Watch “Silicon Hills” on BravoTV! this fall, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
  • Fast And Furious 512: Silicon Hills

Report: Tennessee to be without key offensive lineman Trey Smith for spring practice

Tennessee received some bad news on Saturday night, learning that they would be without stud sophomore offensive lineman Trey Smith for the spring. Smith is the former number one overall recruit and perhaps Tennessee’s best player on either side of the ball.

Volquest.com was first to report the story. They report that it’s a “medical issue” and Smith is expected to be ready for the start of the 2018 season.

Tennessee already had issues up front as they are set to try and replace three starters from last season. Losing Smith for the spring certain isn’t ideal, but it’s not the end of the world either — assuming he’s ready for the start of the season.

Smith stepped onto campus last year and immediately became Tennessee’s most talented offensive lineman. He played guard mostly, but he has the ability to kick outside to tackle as well. The spring would have been the ideal time to try all of those possibilities out as Will Friend tries to come up with the right combination up front.

So Tennessee’s biggest question mark on the roster just got a little bit murkier. Spring practice is set to begin on March 20th. It’s going to be interesting to see the first few combinations they try up front.

Pat Narduzzi promotes Charlie Partridge, hires Cory Sanders and Paris Johnson

After a somewhat turbulent start to the offseason that saw some unexpected turnover on the Panthers coaching staff, Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi announced two hires and a promotion on Saturday, finalizing his staff for the 2018 season.

Most notably, Narduzzi hired Cory Sanders as his safeties coach, filling his 10th assistant spot. Sanders brings 11 years of coaching experience to Pitt and most recently served as Western Michigan’s defensive backs coach in 2017. Prior to that, he spent four years as the head coach of St. Joseph’s and two as the defensive coordinator at West Florida, both Division II programs.

”Cory Sanders really impressed us during the interview process,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “We will be adding a young, up-and-coming coach who has outstanding football knowledge and really excels at teaching the fundamentals. Cory is also a relentless recruiter with a great eye for evaluation. He is a great addition to our staff and now gives us two coaches — along with Archie Collins — who will focus on the secondary.”

In addition to Sanders, Narduzzi hired Paris Johnson as Pitt’s assistant director of player personnel. Johnson previously served under Narduzzi as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, eventually going on to work in the Spartans recruiting department in 2015 and 2016 before joining FCS program Savannah State as a safeties coach last year.

Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was also promoted to assistant head coach after he recently interviewed with Alabama. Partridge has been vital to Pitt’s recruiting efforts in his home state of Florida, and Narduzzi described his impact on the program as “tremendous,” despite his brief tenure in Pittsburgh, which began in 2017.

Notre Dame Football Spring Positional Overview: Defensive Line

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have already finished an early signing day, concluded their season with a bowl win over the LSU Tigers, and wrapped up the final signing day. Now, it’s time to begin the transition to Spring Football. To prepare for that, we’re going to take a look at each positional group heading into spring. Early enrollees will be included in this, but signees who did not enroll early will not be included. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Defensive Linemen

Notes:

That’s a group you can get excited about.

Granted this is a group that didn’t exactly dominate last year – they were serviceable, but not much more – but returning experience and growth in the new system instills a bit of excitement in this Notre Dame fan. Especially with the potential on the edge in Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, and Julian Okwara.

If these young men make strides during the spring, watch out. They have the natural ability to develop into disruptive forces that could, in tandem, decimate opposing offensive lines. Okwara is the most naturally-inclined pass rusher out of those three, while Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem act more as all-around run-stopper, pass-rusher combos. They won’t get after the quarterback like Okwara, but they’ll prove to be more stout against the run.

Also on the edge – for now – is Jay Hayes. Hayes had his best season to date in 2017, although it wasn’t anything to write home about. He was solid on the edge, but still has room for improvement. With his size physical traits, it wouldn’t be surprising if he cross-trained inside this spring, and eventually went full time on the interior.

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On the inside, the three names to know are Jerry Tillery, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, and Jonathan Bonner. Bonner and Tillery were the starters last season, and Tagavailoa rotated in quite a bit as a true freshman. Bonner is a solid contributor, but unspectacular as a player. With that said, expect the Irish to lean on his experience and consistency. Tillery was a difference maker when his effort was there, although that effort was occasionally lacking. Tagavailoa flashed substantially this past season, and is definitely expected to develop into a bona fide leader for this defensive line down the road.

This “upper-7” (as I will refer to it) will likely rotate in and out with each other and receive the majority of the playing time. Behind the projected upper-7 on the depth chart are a plethora of names that are much more difficult to make projections for in 2018.

Darnell Ewell, Kurt Hinish, and Micah Dew-Treadway will likely be backups at defensive tackle. Ewell is a huge, athletic interior lineman overflowing with potential. If he can put everything together, he will be a force. Hinish had his moments as a freshman, but was clearly behind Tagavailoa. If he is to vie for playing time in 2018, he has to make moves this spring. Dew-Treadway will almost certainly – barring massive strides on his part – receiver limited playing time in relief of others. He is experienced, but has yet to truly push for significant playing time. I don’t expect that to change.

The backups on the edge will be Kofi Wardlow and Ade Ogundeji. Ade Ogundeji comes equipped with all the physical traits you could ask for in a defensive end, but the mental side of the game is the hurdle here. If he can get a better grasp on football and combine that with his natural ability, he will be a fantastic player for the Irish. Wardlow lacks Ogundeji’s size, but possesses the quick-twitch ability that you look for in defensive ends. Similarly to the Ogundeji, if he is to make an impact this season he has to develop the mental side of the game.

There’s plenty of raw talent along the defensive line for the Irish going into 2018. The short-term future looks as if it will be good. But as was mentioned earlier, this isn’t a group that dominated opposition in 2017. Progress will have to be made if they are to live up to that potential, and as always, that progress starts in spring.