I'm combining our pass rushers into one piece. We still aren't getting great production out of this group, though last year Josh Hartigan and Chidera Uzo-Diribe combined to record 13 ½ sacks. With Kanavis McGhee on staff, this number will hopefully increase. We need this group to be special to succeed in the Pac 12. It isn't there yet, and we lose our most productive guy there in Hartigan. Lets see what we have going on in the getting-after-the-quarterback department:
Defensive End / Jack Linebacker
- Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Jr - He was leading the team in sacks for a chunk of 2011, and he has the ability to do so for all of 2012. He made improvements this year, and I'm hoping that more time with the new coaching staff pushes him even further in his development. He's got great long arms, and is still raw as a defensive end. He's still out there going on pure athletic ability at times, but he's playing with better technique and discipline. Unfortunately, we now need him to take another few steps forward, because we have little else there. He led the team with 3 forced fumbles in 2011, and again, we need him to have an even larger impact next season. He's played through injuries each of his seasons, but managed to play in every game, and we need to see him on the field even more going forward. It may not be fair, but there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform at a high level.
- Andre Nichols, So - Walk on who has really long arms, but needs to add some weight.
- Juda Parker, So - He played as a true freshman and the jury is still out on him. He saw time as the Jack linebacker, but he didn't quite have the footspeed to drop into coverage. He made some good plays and didn't seem to be physically overmatched out there, and the experience should serve him well going forward. He's got good size, but he needs to work on his quickness and his pass-rushing moves. He's another guy that will be counted on. He did manage to make two tackles for a loss in just over 100 snaps last season, and we'll need to see more of that from him.
- John Tuso, RFr - Walk-on.
That's right, we have two scholarship pass rushers going into the spring. That's it. I like both of them, but that just simply isn't enough. Especially since they played different positions in 2011. If we stick with the same kind of 3-4 we played, that means we have CUD as our only experienced 5-technique defensive end and Parker as our only experienced Jack linebacker, and he was only a part-time player. We need to bring in a BUNCH of guys at these spots, and hopefully at least one who can be an early enrollee. We need to have AT LEAST 4 guys who can rush the passer in the upcoming recruiting class. Since this is a big class, I would be fine with 5, or even 6 if we can get at least one in early. We are just obnoxiously thin at this spot, and it's one that's so incredibly important. And we need 3 who can give us snaps from the get go. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of them start games for us. My bold prediction is that a true freshman leads the Buffaloes in sacks in 2012.