This week marks the halfway point of spring football.
With some spots up in the air, this week we'll be taking a look at some of the position battles that have started this spring and likely will continue through the fall.
Cross-promotion alert: If you've noticed on the Daily Chronicle home page, our special Election night blog is up for today's big day and that needs to stay prominent and available on the home page, so today's video interview with defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle is at the bottom of this blog entry instead of included in a separate entry. In other words, make sure to check out our Election night blog at 6 p.m. for a live chat with editor Kristen Schmidt. Look for a live chat with me to talk about the Huskies, just like the one we had on National Signing Day, next week at a date and time TBA.
For all of the video interviews from spring football, be sure to check out the HuskieWire YouTube channel.
Today's closer look: Defensive line
A few notes before we begin:
This is the third week of spring ball, not the third week of two-a-days. An impressive spring only opens the door to start or play.
The Huskies love to rotate about eight or nine-deep on the line to try and keep everyone as fresh as possible, so the difference between starter and backup can be as little as 5-10 snaps a game.
I haven't touched on the players who will show up in the summer/fall, which include three-star recruit Anthony Wells, Zach Anderson, Alan Baxter, Nabal Jefferson, Stephen O'Neal and Jon Phillips. If the coaching staff likes the recruiting class as much as they've said, someone from this group should emerge and take away some playing time.
Senior Brandon Bice, a third-team All-MAC selection this past season, probably will see the most snaps at this point and I would say is locked into a starting job at defensive end. Bice was a pleasant surprise last season for the Huskies, when he had 22 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
The other defensive end position has junior Jake Coffman, redshirt freshman Sean Progar-Jackson, junior Kyle Jenkins and junior Darnell Bolding all pushing each other for playing time, likely in that order. Progar-Jackson ran with the No. 1 defense this morning, but Coffman has been there for the majority of the spring. Coffman played well at the Independence Bowl (two tackles and a sack) and is trying to build off that.
Jenkins has turned in two solid weeks and it will be real hard to keep him off the field, and Bolding is probably best used as a situational speed rusher right now as he's learning the basics of the position after moving from linebacker.
Senior Mike Kritikos was rotating with the top two units before a leg injury ended his spring and he shouldn't be counted out when the fall begins.
At the tackle positions, juniors D.J. Pirkle and Mike Krause have been with the No. 1 unit all spring, but don't count out sophomore Adam Coleman – one of three freshmen to play last season – to make a hard charge in the fall and make his case to start.
If the coaching staff was going to use a fourth freshman last season, my guess is that it would have been Brian Lawson, who has entrenched himself as a No. 2 tackle.
Other news and notes from Tuesday:
The punt block unit turned in its best practice of the spring, blocking or tipping several punts. Of course, if the punt block unit is getting to the ball, that means the punt coverage team isn't doing a good job of blocking.
The three most impressive catches of the day were all made by defenders. Linebacker Pat Schiller, safety Jody Van Laanen and defensive back John Kremer made nice plays on the ball to get picks. Van Laanen also did a nice job breaking up a catch made by wide receiver Nate Palmer. Willie Clark ran a beautiful deep route to beat Kiaree Daniels and Chandler Harnish got Clark the ball for a long touchdown. Also, cornerback Patrick George is participating in most drills despite an injured hand.