Yes, another thread about next year's defense, so I'll be waiting for the obligatory snarky "lets worry about this year first" post. Which one of you will it be....
Anyway...this is a critically important subject because it will make or break our season. The offense will be even better next year, and even an average defese could propell us to the top of the Big Ten. The problem is, we arent even close to being average at this point. Also, this is assuming we dont go into the tank this year and blow everything up. I'm pretty confident we'll show enough to get into next season in tact with the staff. Here's my somewhat realistic hopes.
1. Keep Greg Robinson: Yes, this is controversial, but I just dont think going with a 4th different DC in 5 years is going to help us. At some point we have to have some continuity. I'd allow him to run the defense like he wants and hope that things really start clicking with the players in his third year.
2. Defensive Line: Martin stays and becomes an All-American at NT. Van Bergen proves to be strong enough to play DT in the Big Ten and steps his game up to All-Conference consideration. Black and Roh become competent pass rushers on the edge, and the redshirt freshmen Talbott, Ash and Wilkins provide quality depth. Q Washington is now the wild card in this situation, and if he impresses, our depth will be greatly improved. I think the defensive line will be considered an above average unit next year. And thats a great start.
3. Linebackers: Kenny Demens FINALLY provides us with a competent MLB. Mike Jones, fully recovered from injury, shows us that he would have made a huge impact this year if he had been healthy. A whole glut of players- Cam Gordon, T Gordon, Hawthorne, Carvin..compete at the Spur position and provide depth and competition. Furman bulks up a little and looks like a future star at WLB. Herron and Fitz provide senior leadership and deliver on some of the promise they had.
4. Secondary: Floyd improves to at least average, One of the freshmen CBs emerges as a solid starter, and the other 2 provide quality depth. As sophomores, having been through the wars in the Big Ten, they improve immensely. Marvin Robinson is impressive enough to supplant Kovacs, and Troy Woolfolk regains his speed and becomes an All-Big 10 selection at FS.
Obviously this is a lot to hope for and it wont all happen, but I really believe this defense will have a chance to become at least average next year, and that may be enough to make some serious damage.