There are rumblings that we're going to be "switching" to the 4-3 for our defensive alignment in 2012. I put switching in quotes, because that's basically what lined up in for the majority of snaps in 2011. But it means that we'll need to use some true freshmen this season in our tackle rotation. We're ridiculously thin inside. Lets see how thin we are:
- Eric Richter, Sr - I'm hoping I have this wrong and that he's actually only a junior, but I think he already spent his redshirt year. He's the biggest guy on the team (315 lbs) and also the strongest. If he can get even some of the technique down, he can contribute this year. And we need him. We don't have much else. Especially in short yardage situations, he could be a real force for us, and we need all the help we can get in defending the run. How many times did teams blow our defensive line off the ball in 2011? He would inject some real size in there, and if nothing else, he can be harder to move than the rest of the kids we have inside. I'm hoping that he can play and give us some meaningful time.
- Will Pericak, Sr - I'll be sorry to see him go. He's been very good for us in his time here, and he would be even better if we could give him some help. He has improved each year (though not enough last year), so hopefully we see even more improvement out of him. He'll start in 2012, so the real question is who plays alongside him, and occasionally in his place. He has played a lot of snaps for us over the last three years, and has started 37 straight games (unless I missed something). He has a lot of ability, but he's still learning how to harness it and how to play with leverage. His biggest challenge is to stay low, as a taller tackle (6'4"), and I'm excited to see what improvements he makes in year two under coaches Tuiasosopo and McGhee.
- Nate Bonsu, Jr - I'm concerned about Nate. He looked so good at times as a true freshman, flashing power at the point of attack and the ability to shed blocks. But since injuring his knee, he missed all of his first spring, the entire 2010 season, and then most of the 2011 spring. He only saw the field in 7 games (he didn't play at all in our 3 victories) and for only 54 snaps. And it's not like we were terribly deep along the defensive line last year. He just didn't look like the same player from his rookie campaign. I'm hoping his first fully healthy offseason will get him ready to contribute more, but we'll see.
- Kirk Poston, So - He was in for 6 plays over two games and didn't record a statistic. He also is still a little small to play inside. But we're really lacking in the depth department at defensive tackle, so he needs to start packing on the pounds and wrapping his head around the game. It would be nice if we could get some quality play out of him. The little I've seen of him in August practices, he looks like a guy who could make an impact if he could get up to a good playing weight.
- Kyle Koch, RFr - Walk on whose father played for the Buffs.
By my count, Will Pericak is the one interior defensive lineman we have who we can count on, and he often plays DE when we line up with 3 down linemen. That means we need guys who can play on the nose, and who can capably back up and spell Pericak at the other spot. If Richter isn't up to the job, then that guy isn't on the roster right now (unless Bonsu can finally bounce back). We need a lot of new players who fit at the 1- and 3-techniques. I would be very happy with 4 DT signees. Especially if two of them can give us minutes right away. To effectively defend in the Pac 12, we need a defensive line that can be disruptive, and we don't have one yet. The more new blood here the better. My bold prediction is that the 2nd and 3rd guys inside on the defensive line (after Pericak) will be true Freshmen.