We're releasing our predicted depth chart for the defense in anticipation of tomorrow's spring game. There are probably less position battle on this side of the ball, but the defense looks pretty stacked this year and we can't wait to see the guys play tomorrow! Let's see what Mike C. put together...
RDE1: Max Holloway
RDE2: Dan Williams
RDT1: Dillon Quinn
RDT2: Jaryd Rudolph
LDT1: Conor O'Neal
LDT2: Dominic Appiah or Bryan Murray
LDE1: Kasim Edebali
LDE2: Mehdi Absemad or C.J. Parsons
SLB1: Steele Divitto
SLB2: Nick Clancy
MLB1: Luke Kuechly
MLB2: Will Thompson
WLB1: Kevin Pierre-Louis
WLB2: Will Thompson
FC1: Donnie Fletcher
FC2: C.J. Jones or Albert-Louis Jean
BC1: Jim Noel
BC2: James McCaffery
SS1: Dominic LeGrande
SS2: Dominique Williams
FS1: Okechkwu Okoroha
FS2: Sean Sylvia
Note: Kaleb Ramsey is out of Spring practice and the Spring Game due to offseason surgery. He projects to start at one of the DT spots
With Ramsey out the DL looks very weak. Projecting into next season Ramsey is a great college starting defensive tackle with NFL potential and Dillon Quinn brings a lot of athletic ability but minimal production so far going into his red shirt sophomore season. The backup spots at tackle are very up in the air - Conor O'Neal will eventually take one going into next season, assuming Quinn takes the starting spot next to Ramsey. That leaves the fourth tackle to one of Jaryd Rudolph, Dominic Appiah or C.J. Parsons. Rudolph spent some time on the 2-deep last season as a freshman but I would prefer Appiah who took a red shirt year to gain weight and move from end to tackle. Rudolph moved from OL to DL after high school and given the respective positions Appiah would probably bring more athleticism and possessed above average height and length coming in.
Defensive end presents another problem as both of last year's opening day starters have since moved on in Brad Newman and Alex Albright. Max Holloway has locked down one spot and presumably will take the RDE or strong side spot. While he doesn't bring ideal size for the position, as of right now, he is the best most established pass rushing end they have. Edebali who got playing time as a red shirt freshman and seemed to acquit himself well on the left side should be penciled in as a starter for next season. Dan Williams is nothing special and Abesmad is an early entrant for this year's recruiting class. Defensive end is a position where recruits are going to need to contribute next season. Top recruit Connor Wujciak could help out in the fall, if BC decides to keep him at end.
The only question at linebacker is who will start on the strong side. Kuechly returns at the middle spot and Pierre-Louis at the weak side. The strong bet here is that Devitto will win the competition. While as he is not ideal on the strong side he brings the most talent of the remaining linebackers. Will Thompson will end up being the top backup.
I'm hoping that Noel to boundary corner will only last as long as it takes for Louis-Jean to prove himself as at least a third option which would allow Noel to go back to strong safety and form a formidable backfield of Fletcher, Jones/ALJ, Noel, and Okoroha.
Mike R. I'm probably not as down on the D-line as you are, although I agree we lost a lot of talent. I don't think many people thought the D-line was a position of strength going into last year and they seemed to do just fine. I think that this is the year Quinn turns the corner and we did see some positives from him last year in short yardage situations. I can't recall him getting a penetration into the backfield but he is someone who's strength could command a double-team on the line in running situations.
Strangely, I agree with your depth chart exactly, which is as odd as McShay and Kiper agreeing on anything. Let me add, though, that my preference is for Noel to stick at corner because I would like to see Louis-Jean get a red shirt. I don't think he's going to get the red shirt, but I would be even more upset if we burned it for something stupid like special teams play.
Steele Divitto, who's mother I would really like to meet one day in order to ask what she was thinking when she named him after an author of women's books, concerns me a little because his size might be a liability. I'm hoping he hit the weight room hard this winter and gained 10-15 pounds. Luke might be able to give him some tips there.
Overall, I like the look of this defense and think it has a solid chance of being better than last year's.