One of the things a person might think to look forward to in regards to spring football is nice weather. Obviously the Pacific Northwest didn’t get the memo as this week has just been downright miserable in terms of the forecast. While it might have been cold on the outside what I was watching during spring practice was making me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. (OK, it wasn't as bad as the photo above but it felt like it...plus my battery on a camera died before I could take any photos)
I’ll give you a down and dirty version of what the ‘Cats are looking at on the defensive side of the ball and we’ll talk offense next week.
Seriously…we could be at the beginning of great three year run at the position. First we get Junior Phil Zahn back after suffering a 2006 season-ending ankle injury. Phil didn’t lose his junior year of eligibility due to the medical-redshirt and that is great news for many Wildcat fans.
A reason why I’m not as worried about the Linebackers lack of experience is this group. Led by Senior All-American candidate Keone Tawata the entire starting defensive backfield is back for the ‘Cats. Senior Safety Brian Mehl will be starting for the 3rd straight year. I’m a true believe that Mehl could be poised for an A-A type of senior year along with Tawata. He contains a great combination of smarts and physical ability. Hard hitting Senior Rover Andrew Bean had a breakout 2006 season and with him returns all three corners in Andrew Woods, Rodd Booth, and Bubba Lemon.
Both Bubba and Andrew are participating in track so Rodd is the only starter that has been able to workout during spring ball. In watching Rodd during one-on-one drills he’s been looking sharp versus Linfield’s All-NWC wideouts Tyler Kaluza and Josh Vierra.
Junior defensive end Tyler Summers really started to come into his own towards the end of last season in terms of rushing the quarterback. If he continues to develop his game he could have a true breakout season in 2007. Vets Jeff Denney and Chad Foglesong are also back for the ‘Cats at d-end. Denney started the beginning of the year and really shined until a bad wrist injury vs. Willamette effectively ended his season. Chad also went down during 2006 with injury that limited his time. A youngster to keep and eye on is Sophomore Ryan Circle. He’s still a little raw but has a great base to build upon.
Senior Scott Olsen had a fine 2006 playing out of his natural position of Defensive Tackle. Due to a number of injuries at defensive end, Scott was moved to play the strong side DE where he provided solid play. I believe that Scott will be back at DT paired up with big Nate Arnold. Nate will be a great space eater for the ‘Cats this next season. Other DT’s that could make waves next year are Sophomore Ian Estrada (coming off a knee injury in 2006) and Sophomore Paul Nishizaki.