Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Linfield College Football's Recruiting Class of 2012.

With the 2nd release of the Linfield Wildcats 2012 recruiting class we're are happy to present to you an all-recruit highlight video of this year's incoming 'Cats.  The press releases on Linfield Sports gives you all the great background that you need on this year's class.  I just wanted to touch on my overall thoughts on what I saw on film.  I did my VERY best to capture all the players that are coming to Linfield but I missed a few.  It wasn't intentional but it was a tough to track everyone down  However, what I do have is 33 minutes and 19 seconds of kick backside action of this group of very talented and dynamic football players that will be headed to the 'Catdome this fall.

First thing that jumps out to me is the depth and quality of both offensive and defensive lines.  Both sides of the ball are loaded with guys that will be able to excel under Linfield coaching and our schemes.  A number of teams have quality skills players but the difference between being an up and down program and a consistent power and contender is what program can bring it at the point of attack year after year.  High quality line play is a Linfield trademark and that's what the 'Cats will continue to do.  This is a very promising group on both lines so keep an eye on these names in the upcoming seasons. 

Offensive line: Thaddeus Cox, Zachary Curliano, Logan Lamb, Eric Pitassi, Alex Richardson

Defensive line: Nate Aamodt, Morgunn Ewing, Alex Hoff, Stephen Hordes, Franklin Lime, Michael Nichols, Marq Randall, Dallas Tuumalo, Connor Williams

Another position group that jumped out at me is the defensive backs.  Love the diversity of styles and this group has explosive hitters (Mike Arkans & Robert Strys), speed (Austin Lee, Kipp Marstall, Josh Cole), agility (Keanu Yamamoto, Tyler Bergeron, Jordan Hirai, Riley Heath), and tremendous length with ability mixed in (Kyle Belcher).  The 'Cats landed a huge group of talented DB's in 2010 and to me this is a very similar grouping of players in terms of quality. 

The running back group, again, is a nice compliment of styles.  The 'Cats have a tough tackle breaking back with a nice burst through the hole (Nick O'Sullivan) mixed in with backs that can fly in the open field (Tavon Willis, Sam Robinson, Chase Russell, and Reiko Moss).  Obviously, running backs was a point of emphasis to recruit with both Josh Hill and Steven Nasca graduating this season.  This group of inbound RB's should have an early opportunity to showcase their future potential.

Some of you might have wondered why Linfield is only bring in one wide receiver.  The answer is simple; the staff was selective this year and that's because the current roster is stacked with talented sophomore pass catchers.  There might be one or two more WR recruits that might commit but staff is very happy to land the quality of receiver they have so far (Conner Purnell). 

The program once again is bring in a high quality leg into the program.  The kicker from Sunset (Mike Metter) looks to have a strong leg and should fit in well with the 'Cats veteran kicking core.  Again, this is another area the staffs done a great job in identifying players at. 

Coach Rombach has to be a fired up linebacker coach right now.  Not only does he have great talent returning but has a fine group of new linebackers to work with.  There are some physical players in this class (Eli Biondine, Adam Bullard, Diego Garza) , flat out speed that will fit our defense(Alex Bolton), explosive play making (Derick Turner, Nic Orlando), and some quality hard working LBs (Clay Monahan, Zayne Sather).

Linfield went big at Tight End this year in landing large bodies this year.  Both Tight Ends (Connor Floan, Spencer Kelley) have excellent size for incoming freshmen and shown the ability to not only make tough catches over the middle but move people off the ball. 

Wrapping up the recruits is at Quarterback and the staff has to be very happy to land two players with different styles but both have the talent to compete at our level of football.  Bobby Heaterington is very well schooled and looks to be very accurate and a heady signal caller and Tommy Knecht has some very Aaron Boehme like similarities in terms of size, arm strength, and some ability to pull it down and run.  There is established talent in front of them but both of these signal callers should be in the long term mix as a Wildcat signal caller.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buddy Saxon awarded Linfield's Vern Marshall Award

Buddy Saxon was a man among his NWC peers.
Linfield Senior Wide Receiver, Buddy Saxon was named the 2012 male recipient of Linfield's Vern Marshall Award.  The now yearly award is decided by a group of coaches in the Linfield athletic department as they select both a male and female student-athlete exhibiting great tenacity during their athletic career.  The award is name after Linfield Hall of Fame member Vern Marshall, who is thought to be the 1st Linfield athlete to play on NWC title teams in Football, Basketball, and Baseball.  Vern Marshall wasn't just a member on each of these teams but a standout on the field in being a 4-year starter in football and was tapped all-conference in baseball during each of his 4 years at Linfield.

Buddy Saxon is a great selection for this year's male recipient.   Buddy was named as the top WR in the Northwest Conference during the 2011 season after making 38 catches, for 463 yards, and snaring 8 TD grabs.  Saxon was very well regarded by his coaches and teammates for his sophisticated knowledge of the Linfield offense, his toughness, and leadership on the field.  Buddy was a tough customer that played football the Linfield way and was a contributor to the program since his freshman year in 2008.  The moments that stood out to me regarding Buddy is that when the stakes where the highest, he was able to elevate his game to meet the challenge and make a number of big plays during the post-season.

Immediately the memory of Boehme to Saxon to tie the score up with St. Thomas in 2010 with 17 seconds left in the game comes to mind.  Another big memory; the 'Cats were starting to gain the momentum vs Mary-Hardin Baylor in the 2009 playoffs that could have been derailed when the 'Cats fumbled the ball into the end zone, but Saxon saved the score by scrambling for the recover and TD.  Later in that game, the then Sophomore, caught a dagger of a score while walking the tightrope in the back of the end zone.  Jump forward to this past season when Linfield and CLU faced off in the post-season.  CLU's defense was tight in the red zone but early in the 2nd quarter Buddy worked the middle of the field beautifully and Mickey Inns found the 6' 6" receiver for the games 1st TD.

Buddy was a stand-out WR, and while he didn't put up jaw-dropping numbers, he did what the team needed him to do.  Simply put, he helped Linfield win football games and did it when it mattered most.

Congrats to Buddy Saxon on the well earned recognition!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Video of the week: 2011 Linfield vs Lewis and Clark

Watch out!
Your video of the week is now on-line! Go check out the highlights of the 'Cats 2011 47-14 thumping over the Pios of Lewis & Clark

VIDEO: 2011 Linfield vs Lewis and Clark

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012 Linfield Football Spring Review: Linebackers

#23 Dom Forrest will be looking to swallow up the opposition in 2012.
For the 1st time since 2009 the Linfield College defense will have a group of returning starting Linebackers anchoring the ‘Cats 4-2-5 defense. Before the start of the 2011 season there was some in the Linfield faithful that had questions about a group of sophomores stepping into the starting roles. I understood that, especially starting the year versus a talented CLU offense, but those questions where quickly put to bed as Dom Forrest and Tim Edmonds led the ‘Cats with 10 and 9 tackles a piece and Tyler Robitaille chipped in with another 4. During that game you saw the talent of all three guys, and from that moment, I knew the LB core was in great hands moving forward.

You may ask me: “Hey WC11, if Linfield plays a 4-2 front how come you have three guys listed as starters?” The reason I listed three is that while Forrest started all season at Sam Backer (strong), Edmonds and Robitaille split starts at Will (weak side backer) and I think they’re both worthy of that status. All three share the strength of having speed, but beyond that, they have different skill sets that play off each other well. Forrest is a supremely well rounded football player: bright, explosive, a sound tackler, and getting more comfortable as the quarterback of the defense. Tim Edmonds is a freakish athlete at Will and has shown that he has all the tools to be a dominate defensive player (see CLU playoff game). And Tyler Robitaille is just savvy as hell. He would be the 1st to tell you he’s not the biggest LB around but his ability to close is exceptional and he packs a mean pop for being listed at 190lbs. All three have areas to improve upon but Linfield fans should be in for a treat for the next two seasons watching these guys in the defense.

The next wave of Wildcat Linebackers is formidable. Senior-to-be Brian Dundas proved his value and worth late last season as injuries provided Dundas with an opportunity and he made the most of it. He’s a guy that will continue to push for more time and a larger role in the defense. Keep an eye on him in 2012. Louie Colasurdo will be a valuable veteran presence and will have his chance to earn his spot in the rotation at Sam Backer.  Our last returning vet is Billy Simon.  Billy is fearless and a heck of an athlete.  I feel he'll make a big contribution during the season as the opportunities present themselves.

Rounding out our returning linebackers is a solid group of sophomore players that are looking to expand their roll in the upcoming season. Newcomer Wes Meng transferred in this spring from Oregon State and Nick Fairhart, Cody Mariner, and Mason Haye each have stand-out Linebacking pedigrees. In getting glimpses of these four during spring ball there is no doubt they each can play in the ‘Cats defense but it’s a matter of being ready when the opportunity comes calling.

As a whole, I’m looking forward to see where this group goes in 2012. Going back to last season’s opening game vs CLU, I remember talking to one of the defensive coaches afterwards about the ‘Cats new linebackers. He just chuckled and told me how often our LBs were out of position during the game but their SPEED closed down those gaps so quickly that CLU couldn’t expose it. He summed up the conversation by saying “Once they figure out what they’re doing…watch out.” I couldn’t agree more.

Returning Starter 
Dominique Forrest, 5-11 215, Jr, Portland, Ore.
Tim Edmonds, 5-11 205, Jr Portland, Ore.
Tyler Robitaille, 5-11 190, Jr San Jose, Calif.

Steady Vets
Brian Dundas, 6-0 215, Sr, Bellingham, Wash
Louie Colasurdo, 5-10 215, Jr, Portland, Ore.
Billy Simon, 5-11 205, Jr, Tracy, Calif.

Up and Coming 
Wesley Meng,  6-0, 220 So, Gresham, Ore.
Nick Fairhart, 6-0 210, So, Morton, Wash.
Cody Mariner, 5-10 195, So, Elk Grove, Calif.
Mason Haye, 6-1 210, So, West Linn, Ore.

Talking Ball with Linfield Linebacker Coach Phil Rombach 
Linebacker Coach Phil Rombach will be entering his 6th year on the 'Cats defensive staff.
(Wildcat11) Coming into 2011 you knew the talent was there but it was just a matter of seeing what happened when the lights came on. The results were darn good, IMO. Looking back on last season, from a Linebacker perspective, what were the biggest positives that came out of the year? 

(Phil Rombach) Last year our linebackers were all first year starters, which was both a challenge and a blessing. It was a challenge as many of our guys, Robitaille and Forrest in particular, had changed positions and were still adjusting early in the season. There were some growing pains, but the guys caught on quickly and we all recognized the immense potential this group had. The backers worked hard every day to master their trade and as a result their play improved significantly as the season progressed. By the end of 2011 we had a dang good group of linebackers. We really saw this group emerge last year as having not only the athletic potential, but the work ethic and leadership capabilities necessary for our defense to be successful.

(WC11) For the 1st time since 2009 Linfield has returning starting linebackers. How has this spring been different for you over the previous few seasons with regards to your returning personnel? Has the experience made a notable difference over the course of the spring? 

(P.R.) It has definitely made a difference. With many of our backers returning, we’re able to focus more on fine tuning our play and correcting our weaknesses. For many, this means correcting/mastering individual technique and/or understanding the big picture of our defensive scheme. As the backers become more comfortable with their own position it enables them to take a larger role in leading and calling the defense. That is the biggest challenge for the backers this year; to take ownership of the defense and fill the leadership void left by the graduating seniors, in particular the DB’s.

(WC11) Let’s talk about your returning starters. You have Dom Forrest back at your Sam (strong) Linebacker and Robitaille and Edmonds back at Will (these two split starts during 2011). It’s an impressive trio of players that are all three blessed with speed, intelligence, and play-making ability. Tell us what makes these three standout and what areas of improvement have you been stressing to them during the off-season? 

(P.R.) Dom, Robi & Timmy are guys that we are counting on to elevate their game this season. These three are blessed with speed and are very explosive players. They’ve seen significant playing time early in their careers and we are challenging them to avoid complacency. Dom is working on becoming a more physical presence in the middle, Robi is working on his strike and vision in his zone coverage, Timmy is working on the mental aspect of the game and becoming a consistent tackler. The key for these guys is to identify their weaknesses and continually work to improve upon them. If they do that they have the potential to be great players at Linfield. The three of them have shown great work ethic this off-season and throughout spring ball. They should be very exciting players to watch next year.

(WC11) I like your returning vets in the program right now. Dundas started vs Lewis and Clark and played significant snaps in the playoffs, Colasurdo has a great command of the defensive schemes and is a physical player, and I think Billy Simon has excellent speed and explosiveness. These guys are going to have plenty of opportunities to make an impact in 2012. Tell us where these three vets have improved this off-season? 

(P.R.) We are definitely blessed with great depth at the linebacker position with Dundas, Colasurdo and Billy. Dundas has impressed the coaches with an improved understanding of the defense. He also is very fast, uses great technique and is one of our most physical backers. Colasurdo probably has the best understanding of our defense and is a consistent player. Billy is a guy who has played three different positions for us but has found a home at the Will Linebacker position. Once he develops a better understanding of that position he could be a key contributor. Depth is something that will dictate our success throughout the season and into the playoffs. These three players must rise to the occasion, push the starters and be able to rotate so players stay fresh.

(WC11) You have a sizable amount of Sophomore talent in the program right now. Being a young linebacker in the Linfield system isn’t an easy job. Can you tell us a little of what’s expected of a Linfield LB and what are the attributes you and the staff look for when recruiting this position? 

(P.R.) Our defensive system creates a steep learning curve for young linebackers. The variety of fronts, blitzes and coverages that we run are challenging to master. We’ve been fortunate to find young backers who are up to the challenge. When we recruit linebackers we look for players with physical talent; a good frame, speed, agility, and an explosive strike. We also look for players that are smart, hard workers, leaders on the field and love the game of football. It takes a special player to be successful in our system and we’re lucky to have a number of these guys in our program and in the incoming recruiting class. As coaches we are very privileged to work with these young men every day.

(WC11) Your linebackers are going to have big expectations of them next season. They’re going to have a lot of attentions and eyes on them especially early in the schedule. Just where do you see this group of Linebackers and this defense going in 2012? 

(P.R.) There are big expectations for this group not only because they’re talented physically but because of the need we have for leadership on the defense. Throughout the spring this group has shown they have what it takes to be the leaders we expect them to become. I’ve been very pleased with the hard work and dedication they’ve shown not only at practice, but also in their off-season training. I’m confident this group of young men will meet the expectations set before them and will be a force for our defense next year. There’s no doubt our defense will represent Linfield well, playing tough physical fast football, and playing with class.

A big thank you to all the Linfield Linebackers who have come through this program. We have a great position group and much of that is due to the linebacker lineage we have here at Linfield. Thank you all. Catdome.

Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 Spring Football is in the Books

YOUR Linfield Wildcats wrapped up their 2012 spring football practices this past Friday morning at the 'Catdome. From all accounts the spring season was a success as you were able to get an early glimpse of what the core of the 2012 Wildcats will be. What that glimpse told me that if this group continues to work hard and stay focused on their goals the 2012 'Cats are going to be a force to deal with in the NWC and on a national level. There are questions to be answered but the talent in those areas are undeniable. It's just a matter of getting them on the field and seeing what happens.

The video above is my little tribute to the 2012 Spring ball. Acclaimed Hip-Hop artist and Seattle based Macklemore is going to be preforming this Thursday (May 17th) at Linfield's annual "Wildstock" so I thought I'd give a tip of the cap to Macklemore's visit with the clip's music track.

Go 'Cats!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Video of the Week: 2011 Linfield Football at Whitworth

Another trip to the Pine Bowl, another Wildcat victory.

Your video of the week is now on-line! Go check out the highlights of the 'Cats 42-38 come from behind win at Whitworth.

VIDEO: 2011 Linfield at Whitworth

Friday, May 4, 2012

The 'Cats put a wrap on week 3 of spring football

YOUR 'Cats wrapped up the 3rd week of the 2012 Spring Football season this morning. Wildcat11 was able to get out to the Catdome earlier this week and above is a video of some of the action.  This post is going to have to be a little light because I'm pressed for time but I hope this will give you a fix of Catdome football that you all crave. 

Also, If you're haven't "Liked"'s facebook page you've been missing out on some early leaks of incoming Linfield commits.    The staff released their 1st wave of recruits (we'll talk more about them later) but there are still some players still make decisions and we'll try to break news on our Facebook page or our Twitter feed as it comes in.

Twitter: Catdomealumni

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2012 Linfield Football Spring Review: Defensive Line

Returning All-American (#59) Tyler Steele will be a force for the Linfield Defense in 2012
Yes!  The defensive line is always my favorite topic of conversation (being a former D-Line hack) and why not?  Not only are we the best looking on the field, but usually are forward thinking trendsetters off it as well.  We just can’t help it.  But enough of talking about the qualities of “my” position group and let’s actually talk about Linfield’s defensive line.

Before the 2011 season kicked off, there were questions about how the ‘Cats would fill the void of departed 1st team All-American Eric Hedin, All-Region DT Paul Nishizaki, and solid vet DT Scotty Ray.  The 2010 defensive line combined for 200 tackles, 76 tackles for loss, and 40 sacks.  Those were some lofty numbers that were headed by Hedin’s video game-like line of 80 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, and 22 sacks.  As you can see, the question about productivity of the ‘Cats defensive going in 2011 was legit. 

How did the 2011 defensive front respond?  Only with a total stat line of 188 tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss, and 43 sacks.  Pretty stinking good if you ask me.  It was another stand-out year for the “strongest link” as the ‘Cats were led by 2011 All-American Defensive Tackle Tyler Steele.  Tyler had a breakout junior season for Linfield and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  The DT was a force of nature as his combination of power, savvy, and agility proved to be too much for offensive lines to handle throughout the season.  Obviously, the expectations for his senior campaign will be high but I feel that Tyler will be able to carry those type of expectations with little trouble. 

Along with Steele at DT, 2011 seniors Tommy Patrick and Joell Reyes proved to be steady contributors last season but it was sophomore Mike Maierhofer that made an instant impact opposite Steele with his quickness and great explosion/leverage.  Mike will be a key member of the ‘Cats 2012 defensive interior as he needs to make teams suffer for paying extra attention to Steele.

Rounding out the 2012 returning DT’s are Nathan Herrick, Jacob Olson, Trey Farber, and Jeremy Girod.  Coach Vaughan will speak on this below but Nathan Herrick looks like a different guy this spring.  He’s dropped a good amount of weight and looks much more athletic as a result.  Girod looks like a good fit at DT after sliding down from Defensive End and you cannot deny the raw power from Sophomore Trey Farber.  Each of these guys will have the opportunity to break the rotation but it’s up to them to make it happen.

During the 2011 season opener against CLU, senior defensive end Sparky Gonzalez looked fantastic but suffered a bad high ankle sprain that took him out of a large chunk of the 2011 season and limited him upon his return to the roster.  It was a big loss of a talented player but with the loss came opportunity.  2011 senior DE Brent Shimabakuro and the sophomore trio of Brynnan Hyland, KeAlli Poomaihealani, and Michael MacClanathan picked up the ball and ran with it, or rather, they spent a lot of time seeing the guy with the ball and ran them down.  Shims proved to be a standout leader and Hyland, Kel, and MacClanathan all grew significantly as the season progressed.

Coach Vaughan has to feel good about his trio of now juniors-to-be as their skill set does a fine job of complimenting each other.  Brynnan Hyland has all the tools to be an All-Region caliber player in 2012.  Brynnan proved he’s an excellent pass rusher with that long reach of his (11 sacks) and has a nice knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage (12.5 TFL’s).  I feel that this could be a breakout year for Brynnan.    KeAlli Poomaihealani is about as rock steady as they come.  Kel doesn’t make mistakes very often and is a perfect fit for the Eagle (non-tight end side) defensive end position in the ‘Cats 4-2-5 defensive system.  I’m expecting Kel to show significant growth this season and start picking his spots to take more chances.  Rounding out the trio is Michael MacClanathan who started off 2011 as a Linebacker and was slid down to defensive end about a week before the season opener.  All that Mac did was showcase his speed and terrorized quarterbacks for the remainder of 2011.  I feel that Mac’s combination of speed and power is going to be a major asset for Linfield 2012.

The other two returning Defensive End’s Nick Rhoten and Kyle Rehberger have been working very hard this spring to improve upon their skills sets.  There is going to be opportunity for each of these players to see time in the rotation if they can continue to improve.

If the 2012 Linfield defensive front can stay healthy and maintain a solid work ethic there is no reason why they cannot be one of the more dominate fronts in Division III.  They’re going to have a number of big tests out of the gate but if I was a betting man I’d go all-in on the ‘Cats defensive line.

Returning Starter
Tyler Steele DT 6-1 265 Sr. Salem, Ore
Brynnan Hyland DE 6-2 240 Jr. Eugene, Ore
KeAlli Poomaihealani DE 6-1 215 Jr. Kahalu'u, Hawaii
Mike Maierhofer DT 5-10 260 Jr. Mission Viejo, Calif.

Steady Vet
Michael MacClanathan DE 6-2 225 Jr. West Linn, Ore.
Nathan Herrick DT 6-2 290 Jr. Covington, Wash.
Jacob Olson DT 6-2 260 Sr. Milwaukie, Ore.

Up and Coming
Trey Farber DT 6-0 260 So. Wasilla, Alaska
Kyle Rehberger DE 6-0 230 So. Eugene, Ore.
Nick Rhoten DE 6-2 238 Jr. Salem, Ore.
Jeremy Girod DT 5-11 245 Jr. Vancouver, Wash

Talking Ball with Linfield Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Jackson Vaughan:
Jackson Vaughan will be in this 7th season heading up the 'Cats defense and 17th year on staff.
(Wildcat 11) As usual, thank you for taking time to speak with us.  Doing double duty with your elite softball program and coaching spring football has to be a little crazy for you.  Right out of the gates, the question people are going to ask headed into 2012 is how does Linfield replace that defensive backfield? 

(Jackson Vaughan) Well, I certainly don’t think we can just expect to replace them.  In that group of seniors, there was not only a very talented group of players but also a ton of experience.  Those guys had been in our system for a number of years and played in a ton of games.  So I don’t think we are just going to replace that kind of knowledge and savvy.  But with the graduation of guys comes opportunity and with opportunity comes enthusiasm.  So I think the guys that are going to step in are excited about their chance to make a mark on the defense.  We also know that many of those guys have been elite special teams players for us and if we can get them up to speed and able to play fast they should be a group that can be very good for us.  I think our biggest concern right now is just getting them the experience they need and developing a solid two-deep at each position.

(WC11) Coach Vaughan, you have to like the fact that you that you have another season with Tyler Steele anchoring the middle of your defense.  From what I’ve seen of Tyler this spring, he looks bigger and stronger from last fall, and that’s bad news for the rest of the NWC.  What are some of the qualities of Tyler’s that led to a tremendous 2011?  What should we look for out Steele in 2012 and what does he need to improve upon this spring and summer?

(JV) Tyler is certainly one of the elite defensive players we have had in my time at Linfield.  He is strong, very explosive off the ball, and is great at getting off blocks.  But as a three-year starter last season he really stepped up his mental game.  He studied offenses and began to take more chances and he happened to be right a lot of the time. This led to a lot more playmaking opportunities for him.  With what I have seen of Tyler so far this spring I think another great year is on the horizon – we just have to manage his reps in the pre-season and keep him healthy and I think pass rush is always something that he can improve upon.

(WC11) You have a fantastic trio of defensive ends in Hyland, Poomaihealani and MacClanathan.  They’re 3 starting quality players sharing 2 spots on the field.  Is that fact each of these players have different strengths make them work so well together as a trio and what is the ceiling on these guys in terms of production? 

(JV) It is nice that all three guys do have different strengths and weaknesses that complement each other rather well.  They have all added some weight and strength this off-season which is promising because they have been on the lighter side in the early part of their careers.  Now I am looking for each of them to take their game up another notch.  They each have quite a bit of playing time under their belt and the game should start to slow down for them.  This is the time when you start looking for guys to be more aggressive, anticipate plays, and make more of an impact on the game from a play-making and disruption standpoint.  I am anxious to see how these three guys continue to develop and improve their game heading into next fall because we certainly will need them to be major contributors.

(WC11) Also, there are a number of young DE’s in the program right now.  How are they progressing and what have you been stressing to them this spring?

(JV) The other DE’s in the program have made some strides this spring with their technique and knowledge of the defense.  They are a hard working group and we really have just stressed a lot of technique to them as that has to be a great strength if they wish to push some of the other guys for playing time.

(WC11) One thing I’m a little concerned about is the number of bodies at the defensive tackle position.  Maierhofer came on strong last season with his quickness and leverage but once you get past Steele and Maierhofer it seems like you have a group of guys looking to get establish in the rotation.  What are your thoughts about your depth at DT and what do you think about the group backing up Steele and Maierhofer?

(JV) I am actually quite pleased with our DT’s so far this spring.  Nathan Herrick worked hard in the off-season to drop some weight and has been moving around much better and gives us some size in the middle.  Jeremy Girod moved down to DT from DE and he plays with a great motor and does a nice job separating and getting off blocks.  I also have been happy to see the improvements made by freshman, Trey Farber.  Trey is one of the strongest guys on the team but was way behind in his technique and knowledge of the defense last year.  But he is playing faster and attacking more this spring so I am anxious to see what he is capable of next fall.

(WC11) I’m excited about this defense next season.  You’ll have an experienced group at defensive line and linebacker and a group of talented but untested defensive backs.  I wouldn’t expect much of a style change in 2012 but they will have a different identity/leadership this season.  Have you seen early glimpses of this during the spring and what have you found encouraging about this defensive group?

(JV) I think the guys are still finding their way a bit in the identity area.  The upcoming junior class has a lot of talent and they are pretty close as a group but we are still waiting for a few guys to emerge as THE leaders of the group.  I would like to see some of our LB’s and safeties really step up and take some ownership over the whole defense because there are some talented guys in those that group and those positions have always served such a huge role in the communication and decision making of our defense.  But we are pleased with the work they have put in so far and think a lot of the pieces are in place.  We certainly will be able to put a lot of speed on the field at all three levels of the defense, so I would expect us to be flying around, causing some chaos, and making plays again once this fall rolls around.