Now for the fun part of the previews. Out are the previews that i’ve been writing of “but we have no experience in actual games” or “our depth is lacking” or “four stars everywhere, they just need to get on the field.” Defensive Line is basically how Frost drew up the rebuild when he got here in 2018. Keep your good guys around like Deontre Thomas, Damion Daniels, and Ben Stille, add key pieces like Casey Rogers, Ty Robinson, and Jordon Riley, and then oh by the way you have guys like Nash Hutmacher, Mosai Newsom, and Marquis Black waiting to take over.
I made mention of it in our OL preview, but the DL has been absolutely wrecking shop in practice. While our offense is trying to figure out who will step up to take the 4th and 5th starting spots, our defense is busy trying to figure out how they are going to get their embarrassment of riches on the field. Let’s start with what I know…
Damion Daniels is our starter at NG. The guy has done as good as he can getting his body as close to ready as it can be. and he is as good as it gets to stop the run in this conference as a 2 gap NG. Add in the fact of what I wrote in “Chinanders Chess Move” where our nickel package takes our NG out, and we may not be needing a whole lot more from him in terms of “getting his body right”.
So that brings us to the backup situation which we were a little thin at last year. Jordon Riley is your backup NG, and i’m not really sure what we are getting with him. He was 330 last year and has trimmed down, but he was hurt basically all last year. Is that a glimpse into what’s to come this year? Or was it just an anomaly? I feel confident that we will be fine though.
That brings us to the Polar Bear Nash Hutmacher… if you followed me on the other site, people got pretty frustrated with me when I said he just wasn’t going to be ready as a true freshman in 2020. I was ridiculed with “you don’t know how strong he is” or “he’s an absolute elite wrestler, you can’t keep that off the field.” Welp…. zero snaps last year. It’s just really tough to go from South Dakota high school football to 2 gapping in the B1G as a NG. He just wasn’t ready. I think he can pretty much be our third guy here if we don’t slide a guy like Robinson down, but do we keep his redshirt on him? He technically is a true freshman. So if we could make him a 3rd year Redshirt Freshman in 2022… that’s pretty awesome to think about.
You then move us to DE, where we have an absolutely deep position group. I think Ben Stille gets the nod at one of the spots, but you then have Ty Robinson, Casey Rogers, and Deontre Thomas vying for the last spot. That’s an entire two deep of really good guys. Robinson is the four star we all wanted, Rogers is the two star under the radar guy we developed, and Thomas everyone thinks got passed up but really he was hurt all last year. So it’s tough to know what we are going to expect from him. All that said it’s pretty crazy to think about, but DL is the deepest position group on this team. Hell, we have more DL on scholarship (we only start 3) with 14 than we do with OL (we start 5) where we have 12 guys.
You then have to look at how you develop guys like not only Hutmacher, but Newsom, Black, and Butler who we are really high on. While simultaneously working on Buckley and Weaver who need a year or two to get right coming in with the 2021 class. That’s really the only negative I can think of here besides possibly NG depth (but again i’m not worried and Chinander has his work around).
Possibly one other thing that I believe was an issue the first drive against Northwestern, or even in general throughout the season, is that when your DL dominates as much as they do, your defense doesn’t get a great look of how to fit into gaps and angles. Take this play for example, to me it looks like a bunch of guys that were used to their DL blowing things up for them:
The RT has the easiest block in the world as Nelson widens out to keep the edge, Robinson flies up field when he isn’t blocked and gets kicked out by the pulling guard, the WR cracks down on Reimer (could be an issue i’ll bring up on ILBs as we are small there), and the pull through H-Back picks up the backside LB. Everyone else blocks down on their guy for easy seal offs, and the DB takes a horrible angle while the last DB gets left in the dust.
That’s really nitpicking when you say a position group is dominating so much that they may not get a look. And i’m speculating on if that was the issue early against Northwestern, but I do worry about it. So let’s not overthink that “negative”. I’ll kill for position groups to be so good they may not be getting a great look in practice.
Nevertheless, this is a pretty fun position group to write about, because Tuioti has all sorts of toys to play with here. Shouldn’t be any issue along the lines this year. A good spot for our defense to be in.