Our declaration of starters tells me a little more about what we'll be on both sides of the ball.
Declaring definitive starters with no soccer trophy ribbons, young faces throughout the two deep, and a more accepting attitude to young talented mistakes vs. experienced mediocrity suggests that Muschamp's impact hasn't just been on the defense.
We're a long way from Killebrew, Toto.
Cody Johnson as the clear starter - no either, ors, or ands to be found - is a big deal. Starting Tre Newton or Fozzy offers zero identity. For all of the reasons I've already explained. When you start a 250 pound running back with good leg drive and low pads and pair him with an inner OL trio of Mason Walters, David Snow, Michael Huey, you're attempting to establish a physical identity between holes 0-5.
That choice is interrelated to this...
1. This OL is more athletic and aggressive than what we've had the last three years, particularly inside. Cody IS inside identity.
2. The OTs will need help handling the elite Big 12 DE/OLB talent. Running the ball hard inside those DEs so they can't sprint upfield on every snap and then chipping them with a 250 pounder on passing downs helps.
I don't think the WR AND/ORS are reflective of soccer trophy everyone-is-a-starter mentality. We have a bunch of guys who are pretty good, some with upside, some without. Play them all, let the studs emerge, and use depth to wear on people and get favorable mismatches on the other team's 3rd and 4th DB.
Though our talent differential at WR 1 vs. opponent CB 1 isn't great (or there at all), we should be able to make hay at WR 3 vs. DB 3 and so on. Marquise, Mike D, and Malcolm are fast, fresh legs and the physical threat they provide will wear on people. Darius White is an interesting dark horse once he gets his feet wet.
Understanding our defense in terms of 11 starters is wrong.
We are base guys at DB, DT, DE, LB, and then a swirl of context-specific plug-ins.
If we've learned anything from watching Muschamp, it's that we are a bunch of situational packages. Muschamp does a beautiful job of crafting specific roles to exploit the talents of a guy with one or two outstanding attributes rather than bemoaning what they don't do and refusing to develop them.
That's why you can list the dead weight on defense on one hand. On 2-3 fingers. We've evaluated better than on offense, but we also find things for people to be good at. Previous DCs spent a lot of time bitching about what Player X couldn't do.
Anyone remember what Carl Reese used to describe in what he wanted at MLB?
We're going to play six DBs in 4-6 starting slots throughout the year. It depends on whether we need to go Big or Small, we need run support or not, or whether we need pure coverage. And it will vary in the same game depending on context and personnel. Some weeks Kenny Vaccaro will be a star with 8 tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack, in others you'll see him 30 snaps a game only in nickel and dime.
Don't get hung up on it.
The same goes for DE. Forget that we have a position called DE.
Just as often, it's situational guy on edge. Best run stopper. Or best guy against a mobile QB. Some guys like Acho are complete against the run and pass so he's a core DE. Dravannti Johnson, whether the words SLB are by his name or not, basically has a defined role as an edge rusher hustle guy that gives us more in pure pass rush, pursuit, and zone blitz coverage than Alex Okafor. He was never competing with LBs for minutes. Then two freshmen phenoms come on, Eddie Jones has the best first step in the DL group, and suddenly the decisions make sense.
Why would you bury Okafor at DE when he can give you 35 snaps a game inside and 15 outside? He's a multi-purpose tool. You also don't have to substitute personnel when you want to go to 3-4 look. He just slides out to 5 technique.
Bottom line: with Muschamp, adopt a basketball coaches mentality. He has X number of snaps (minutes) to distribute. When he's overweighted with talent at guard, he's not going to play an average small forward just because that's what convention dictates. Muschamp shits on convention and wipes his ass with cliche. He's going to a three guard lineup, pressing full court, and bringing the fucking hurt to you.
Emmanuel Acho at MLB is a great example of defining defensive philosophy with personnel. Acho is not a traditional plug and shed MLB - Uno Ocho Acho isn't Butkus Cinco Uno. What he has is the freakiest stop-start speed of any big guy on the roster. That means we're going to have a run blitzing terror who inflicts negative plays, an excellent cover 2 MLB who can get deep drops to harass the intermediate middle, and a team defense, that when paired with inconsistent DT play, can be had from time to time inside when Acho guesses wrong. He should lead our LBs in TFLs, if not the team.
That also means Keenan Robinson's role at Will is purely simplified into clean-up. Think Derrick Johnson. His job will be to stay clean, pursue sideline to sideline, and provide a run force.
I expect him to lead the team in tackles.