Midterm Report: Defense


by - Correspondent -
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Defensive Line


If offensive tackle was the biggest question coming into the year, defensive tackle was a close second. It has become apparent that the loss of Donnell Washington was a lot bigger than anyone wanted to admit. The starters Eric Coleman and Trey Tate simply have not created any push up the middle and are not drawing double teams. In some aspects, you could make an argument that Cory Groover, Donnell Clark, and Chris McDuffie have been more productive in back up duties. The low point of the year for this front four came against Virginia, where in the second half the defense was manhandled up front and could not get off the field.

The struggles against the run are well noted, but they have been able to create a pass rush. The defense has 27 sacks on the year. Coach Ron West feels very comfortable playing Maurice Fountain, Charles Bennett, Gaines Adams, and Bobby Williamson. The staff knew what they had in Bennett and Fountain, but have received better than expected results from Adams and especially Williams. This group has gone up against some fairly dominant offensive lines in the first half, so the tough tests early could prove beneficial in the second half.


Grade: C-


Linebackers


Middle linebacker Leroy Hill was an All-American candidate coming into the year, he continues to be a disruptive force in 2004. Opposing offenses have schemed all year to go away from Hill, but Hill's instincts have allowed him to continue to make plays. Hill's backup David Dunham is one of the most physical players on the team. Dunham has been very sound on his assignments and does not miss tackles.

At outside linebacer Anthony Waters showed his toughness in the first game against Wake Forest. Waters played the second half with a broken hand. Waters has played well, but has continued to be pushed by Nick Watkins. Watkins actually surpassed Waters at Virginia earning his first start of his career. This competitive battle will bring the best out of both players as the season continues.

At the whip linebacker, Eric Sampson was not having a stellar campaign. He missed on assignments, and was very vulnerable when asked to play pass coverage. Before breaking his jaw, Sampson had become a vocal leader on the team. While he waits to come back and prove himself on the field his teammates need his senior leadership to right the ship. Tramaine Billie has shown that he is a star in the making. Billie may have been close to knocking Sampson out of the starting lineup before the injury. Billie is a sound run stopper and excels in pass coverage. This group has played solid so far this season, but has still left plenty of room for improvement.


Grade: B


Secondary


Another FAQ in the offseason was would Justin Miller return to the form he had in his freshman season. While there is no question Miller has been the biggest playmaker thus far this season, but that has been on special teams. Early in the year Miller missed tackles while going for the big hit. Also, Miller has had to play closer to the line because of the poor run defense, making him vulnerable to play action passes. Tye Hill came into the year with aspirations of being an All-ACC player. Hill's confidence really took a hit when he was victimized by Georgia Tech freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Hill and Miller are starting to improve, but I don't think anyone thought six games into the year both would be looking for their first interception. CJ Gaddis has struggled in his first year at corner. He is playing a lot of nickelback as well, and has caused confusion on where he is supposed to line up. Lining up in the right position is elementary stuff, and Gaddis continues to struggle. It is looking more likely that Gaddis will return to the offensive side of the ball next season. Sergio Gilliam has looked impressive in a limited role. Gilliam is a team guy who will do whatever is asked of him. Remembering he removed his redshirt last season over half way into the year, because he felt he could help the team win.

Travis Pugh and Jamaal Fudge have not been spectacular but solid. Fudge has the secondary's lone interception. Tavaughn Monts and Maurice Nelson are continuing to establish themselves as very dependable backups.

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