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Attrition & The Texas Defense

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I put together a post on attrition as it pertained to the offensive side of the ball over the weekend. My intention was to do same for the defense, so here it is. As a quick caveat, I readily admit to being somewhat cavalier about the facts of where some of the backups might have actually been playing during practice and such. I also virtually have no interest in anything the staff says publicly, as it it usually unreliable at best. If you know something better, please add a thought to help me out with the counts and positions. Some did that on the offensive post and it helped me for the future.

I failed to note it in the offensive thread, but I'll note it here as follow-up from that and for consideration as we think through the defense and special teams. The offensive side of the ball, with recruits coming in and projecting on that side, accounts for 47 of the allotted 85 scholarship positions heading into the spring. Obviously, that meshes pretty well with the notion that there is going to be some considerable attrition on that end of the ball, whether it's moving folks from that end to the defensive side (not overly likely), transfers, dropouts, med-reds, or "other".

Looking at the defense with those number considerations for the offense, it should stun no one that the defense appears to be somewhat painfully imbalanced by comparison. This side of the ball lacks depth in key areas. The lack of continuity at the DC level has probably hurt recruiting on the defensive side a bit. As it stands now, there are 37 unique players on the defensive side as opposed to the 47 on the offensive end (the offensive numbers include Howard, although I list him at DE in this post to account for the possibility/probability of moving back to DE and staying there). There are also 4 scholarship players at Kicker/Punter. If the math is right, that means at least 3 guys from somewhere on the roster/list of incoming recruits won't be back for next season. It usually works out to equal 5-7 guys in a given year. Anyway, some info to think about as you go through this post.

On to the breakdown:

DE

Sergio Kindle - SR

Eddie Jones - JR

Sam Acho - JR

Ahmard Howard - SO

Russell Carter - SO

Dominique Jones - FR

Kyle Kriegel - FR

Alex Okafor - FR

Consider that we're coming off a season in which Orakpo was one of the most decorated players in the country and Henry Melton surprised all of us including himself, and it shouldn't be difficult to consider us as probably being down a bit here for the upcoming season. Maybe so, but that means the competition will be fierce and we're sure as hell likely to not see much attrition. I have some concerns about debilitating injuries, so perhaps that's a risk. Jones has never been healthy. He looks good in flashes and then he's gone. 5 stars is a curse to some players and it's looking like an albatross to him. More offseason surgery this spring doesn't bode well for his growth. Kindle is a welcome non-attrition event at DE/LB. Acho and Howard have great shots to compete this spring so it is doubtful they leave. Of the Freshmen, Jones is coming off of surgery, but he figures to be making it back healthy. Kriegel and Okafor look like guys sure to make it in and Okafor will see action right away.The signing of either or both Tevin Mims and Devon Kennard would be big helps here. It sounds like we've got a great shot with Mims, although could he grow into a DT? Maybe. Kennard is a mystery. It looks like he planned on committing to USC, but he can't pull the trigger and the case for Texas is compelling. I am rooting for a skiing accident for Pete Carroll within the week.

At DE, our risk of losing any players is minimal, and I'd guess we lose zero heading into next fall. If we do lose anything here, it will be an unwelcome event.

DT

Ben Alexander - SR

Lamar Houston - SR

Kheeston Randall - SO

Tyrell Higgins - SO

Michael Wilcoxon - SO

Jarvis Humprhey - rFR

Calvin Howell - FR

Derek Johnson - FR

Not unlike DE, DT is a position in which it is very difficult to anticipate much attrition. We're as thin at this spot as ChrisApplewhite's "root for the sooners" logic.

Remember when Ben Alexander was being touted as a guy we snuck into SEC country and brought back? I didn't realize that the hype was around his ability to be a good kid who would graduate. That's great and all, but it would be nice to see someone's head be torn off as he finishes. Houston is a welcome returner. Wilcoxon played occasionally but appears to be a bit buried. Is he a guy who might leave? I've heard nothing of the sort. Higgins is a non-scholarship player for the time being, so arguably, he could pack it and go whenever he likes. He had some strong reviews from bowl practice, so a departure seems unlikely. Humphrey didn't make it to Phoenix due to a staph infection, more or less. I was encouraged that he didn't do something goofy like try to sell his tickets on ebay or anything. My understanding is that he'll be healthy for the spring, so that's good news. It would be nice for him to step up. Both incoming Freshmen appear to have their heads on straight and have a strong desire to play. That's good, because unfortunately they could be needed.

I haven't seen Scipio give a breakdown on it lately, but one of my favorite posting exercises of his is when he begins conjecturing on which OLs might be candidates to spin over to DT. It's always been a foreign concept to me, but he's been an advocate for years and I'd be interested in hearing his thoughts on whether there is a guy on this upcoming spring's roster that might be a candidate.

If anyone is looking for someone to arbitrarily blame and rant about to friends, enemies, family, and strangers in regard to our predicament at DT heading into this offseason, I nominate the drugdealer that Andre Jones robbed at gunpoint. Andre Jones shows up on campus early, with good grades, and appears poised to play himself into meaningful snaps at DT over the early course of his career. I imagined an All Big 12 kind of guy by 2009. Then what happens? He pulls up in his clown car with future Rhodes Scholar Robert Joseph and robs a drugdealer in the dude's house. That should have been that and our loveable pieces of shit should have been able to simply return to their dorm, smoke out, and count money. But no, drugdealer guy has to turn around and call the police and implicate our players. What kind of world do we live in, where a man dressed up as a drugdealer can steal the playing time of all of our young star players? That dude should be forced to turn in his thug card yesterday. As an aside to these issues, I can't believe Jones is playing for UTEP now. That is easily one of the primary guys I'm going to be rooting against this upcoming year.

Hmm, anyway, it is borderline silly to assume that anyone besides the number zero makes an appearance in terms of attrition for DT.

SLB

Sergio Kindle - SR

Keenan Robinson - SO

Dravannti Johnson - rFR

Patrick Nkwopara - FR

Let's be realistic here, I have no clue where Nkwopara is going to play on the outside, whether Will or Sam. I put him here because it makes no difference to me. Has there been a recruit fly under the radar more thoroughly than him in recent memory? If there has been, it doesn't take long to call role to get to Nkwopara. Thank goodness Kindle is coming back. The man is going to be a hybrid terror. Robinson saw plenty of action in 2nd halves this year and I really like him. I wish there was a way to get him on the field more, and perhaps Kindle lining up at end occasionally will help. Dravannti Johnson is buried on the depth chart and is in the doghouse. He missed the trip to Phoenix not due to injury, but due to purported stupidity. I think there is a very reasonable chance that his status with the program is tenuous.

Do we see any attrition from this spot during or after the spring? My money is on "yes" with Johnson. We'll see.

MLB

Jared Norton - SR

Dustin Earnest - JR

Tariq Allen - FR

Ryan Roberson - rFR

Norton returns to finally play the majority of the snaps at MLB for his senior year. I am less excited about that now than I would have been a year ago. He had a roller coaster season and I am not sure his prospects change much next year with the ubiquity of the spread. How serious about graduating from UT is Dustin Earnest? It would seem very. More spitballing on a redshirt's position by me in regard to Roberson. I didn't follow the random practice updates or whispers during the season enough, but if I recall correctly, I think Roberson is getting looks at MLB. Does it really matter, Eddie? Tariq Allen coming in is a welcome addition. I wonder if he redshirts, however.

My guess on the MLB spot, like the aforementioned defensive positions, is that there is no attrition at the underclassman level. That said, the attrition from this spot by Rashad Bobino is one of the biggest single losses of the entire offseason. Remarkably, after years of having someone carry the torch of ineffectiveness and dogged futility at a starting LB position, the line dies with Bobino. That was a hell of a run, from the likes Kyle Richardson to Dusty Renfro to Tyrone Jones and Everick Rawls to DD Lewis to Reid Boyd to Eric Hall to Robert Killebrew down to Rashad Bobino, we've always been intent on playing a maximum of 10 on 11. It will be interesting to see how next season turns out with a slate of guys with skills and instincts actually filling out the starting slots within the linebacking corps.

WLB

Roderick Muckleroy - SR

Emmanuel Acho - SO

Patrick Nkwopara - FR

We don't discuss it much, but we're also pretty damned threadbare at the WLB spot on this roster. What we lack in depth we half-ass make up for in quality. Muckleroy is one of the best LBs we've had in years. I don't intend that be damning with faint praise, it just comes across that way. Acho looked good in the limited action he received this season. With Muckleroy ahead of him as a senior, there is little reason to think that he won't be able to wait his turn. Perhaps this is also where they slot Nkwopara in as well. I've listed him at SLB and WLB due to the WLB depth issues on the roster. I half-pondered listing him under every defensive position.

Again, I find it difficult to see us having much attrition at this linebacker position.

CB

Nylon Deon Beasley - SR

Chykie Brown - JR

Curtis Brown - JR

Aaron Williams - SO

Eryon Barnett - FR

Marcus Davis - FR

I honestly thought we were deeper at the CB spot coming into the spring than we actually are. We've got 4 guys that appear as though they'll be playing a ton on rotations and then the other guys probably redshirt. Beasley, Brown 1, Brown 2, and Williams should see a ton of PT. There is some talk that Aaron Williams will get looks at Safety this spring. I scratch my head on that, as the guy can play CB and is probably a Day 1 NFL pick at that position. That said, Safeties that can change games consistently are rare. Ed Reed being the gold standard, finding someone half as good would be a blessing. If Williams fits that bill, maybe he moves. If he does, there is no margin for injury with the remaining experienced CBs. It seems unlikely that they'd thin CB down any further. Barnett is a witch when he is healthy, but his injury could legitimately sideline him for the season, so it's difficult to count on him providing depth in 2009. Some folks think that this guy is a steal in this class. I hope so. I don't really know if Marcus Davis gets to play the CB role for the upcoming year, but if he does, that will be a welcome sight. We'll be seeing our nickel and dime guys come out of this group as well, so the lack of depth is pretty disturbing.

This is yet another position within the defense in which conceptualizing attrition for the upcoming season is pretty tough to see. My guess is that we lose zero guys on the CB front.

Safety

Ishie Oduegwu - SR

Earl Thomas - SO

Blake Curry - SO

Christian Scott - SO

Nolan Brewster - SO

Ben Wells - SO

Kenny Vaccaro - FR

It is apparent that the staff attempted to make up for the lack of numbers at all other positions on defense by simply signing as many safeties as they could over the last few seasons. Without anyone else moving to safety, whether Williams or Davis get looks, we're sitting on 7 guys for two positions. The nickel and dime guys are likely to not come from the Safety group, so it really winds up being two spots that rarely get rotated for 7+ bodies. Oduegwu is passed up by a minimum of 3 guys at this point who are younger than he is. Perhaps he's an early graduation candidate and he seems like a good guy. He also seems like someone who could be moving on if PT matters to him.

The great defense of Blake Gideon will continue to take on better technique than he actually takes on in games, but this thread isn't about who has skills as much as it is about who might be coming or going. Gideon and Thomas are the starters, so barring an absurdity or staff paradigm shift, they will remain as such. Christian Scott played well at times this year and he is a special teams standout. I really hope he's happy and content with his role, as I'm not bullish about it changing. There have been persistent rumblings that Brewster is probably not happy with his outlook on the roster and could be heading way north from here. I honestly don't think that would be a bad move for the guy. There is a lot of talent around him in this program. Ben Wells terrified me against Baylor. I am not sure whether the depth chart terrifies him, but I won't be surprised if it does. Vaccaro is recovering from injury and an obvious candidate for a redshirt.

Safety is going to see attrition this offseason. I am not sure who it will be, I left my crystal ball at home, but there is too much talent stacked up here for it all to stick around. My guess is that one leaves, and two wouldn't surprise me.

Kicker

Ryan Bailey - SR

Hunter Lawrence - SR

Justin Tucker - SO

We have three scholarship kickers on the roster right now. Bailey's might be a one-time reward for his hard work, etc. I hope so. I like the guy and appreciate what he did, but three kickers getting a ride is mortifying. Lawrence handled the FG duties this season, so my guess is that he sticks around for one more go and continues to do well. Tucker handled kickoffs and punts, so it seems like there is plenty for him to do as well.

Punter

Trevor Gerland - SR

Jon Gold - JR

Justin Tucker - SO

The good news here is that Gold is a non-scholarship player. The bad news is that we're still burning a scholarship on someone in this area. Tucker closed the year as the punter and seems to be a good candidate to remain in that spot. If so, does Gerland head off for track and never come back? Or does he stick with football through his senior year?

At least we're not using a scholarship in this 2009 signging class on a kicker or punter. The staff has not acquitted themselves well in that department during the Brown era. If just Lawrence and Tucker were scholly guys handling the duties, I'd think things were looking up. That's not the case at the current moment. That said, I assume we'll see at least one, if not two, kickers move on to other stuff or be placed back on walk-on status.

It's nice that Muschamp is providing some prolonged stability in the DC spot now. My guess is that the defensive unit gets somewhat evened up over the next few classes. As it sits now, outside of Safety, Kicker/Punter, and maybe LB, I don't see any players leaving from this side of the ball, barring something crazy, of course. My guess is 3 guys move on from the defense and special teams combined.

Thoughts?