Run for the Ring 2018: Defense
Happy Saturday Bison Nation!
I already broke down the offense but now it’s time to look at what Code Green may be able to do this season.
NDSU has had a strong run of cornerbacks over the last half decade. It would be a major surprise and quite a boon for the defense if any of the current corners could even sniff the kind of production that Marcus Williams had in Green. But before we get to that part of the defense I’m going to start with Harrison Smith Jr's group also known as the safeties.
Robbie Grimsley may be the single best player on the defense this year. Not that there are slouches in front of him but with the graduation of Tre Dempsey it's Grimsley's position to dominate. If I may proffer a guess, the position won't skip a beat this year. Going from four interceptions to six isn’t a big jump but I could see the number actually go down for the senior safety. Even though James Hendricks also wrangled four picks last season, when the teams make a choice between Hendricks & Grimsley, the choice seems pretty obvious. So a dominant season will be about a lot more than just the number of balls that he can take away. Tackles, fumbles, passes defensed and even sacks will join interception in the statistical cocktail to tell at least some of the story of how jr’s final campaign goes. But in the ultimate team game and with a commitment to the team concept can't focus on one guy too much more so what about the rest of the fella's on the defense?
Odds are good that there will be a third safety to play compliment to Hendricks and Grimsley. The best case scenario is if it turns out to be either Dawson Brown or Michael Tutsie since they are both bushy tailed youngsters but whoever rises to third in the pack, it will be an interesting position to watch during fall camp.
Okay so that's the Safety spot but what about the cornerbacks?
Jalen (Allison) and Jaylaan (Wimbush) will more than likely be the top dawgs of this bunch so it would be nice if they spelled their names the same way for word play. Oh well, nothing to be done about it now. During their time at NDSU neither has been especially adept at taking the ball away. Maybe it was tougher to do last year when 14 got got by the Safeties but Marquise Bridges tallied three so maybe he will be able to do that even more this year as the possible third wheel. That will depend on opportunity but however that trifecta’s playing time shakes out it seems like the Fargodome will have a no fly zone this Fall!
As we move closer to the line of scrimmage we come to the position that i have the most questions about this year on defense - the backers of the line. Not that he was in the shadows much last year anyway but Jabril Cox will really step into the limelight this year. Being that he’s only a sophomore and linebacker is such a mix & match position he’ll still have to rely on the veterans in the room to make sure things run smoothly. Levi Jordheim, Dan Marlette & Aaron Mercadel are the most recognizable names and will each be key to the future pro continuing to develop. I don't say any of that to short change Matt Entz because he’s the man tasked with having the bunch ready to go.
The baseline should be to have the Linebackers avoid being a liability.
Considering history I'm thinking they'll be much better than that and will be a benefit to the whole of the defense. If it works out that way then the team as a whole could be flawless. Fortunately for the unit and the team they’ll have a few games to gel before the season really starts and that will be imperative for success when it matters most. They can get any kinks out against Cal Poly, North Alabama and maybe Delaware but the Blue Hens could prove to be a playoff caliber opponent in the non-conference so that one may prove to be a good challenge. Three games, no FBS schools, that’s good with respect to the linebackers, the defensive line and team overall.
Speaking of the defensive line, the return of Greg Menard is a neon level headline but it’ll take more than even the best of returns from him for the unit to succeed. Fortunately the front is far from a one man band. Whether it’s the edge or the middle there’s a lot of experience for this part of the D as well.
Derrek Tuszka, Stanley Jones, Caleb Butler, Cole Karcz, Aaron Steidl comprise the list of guys that are recognizable but none of them are the sort of standout that the team has had in the past but depth can make up for the lack of individual greatness. Maybe the collection of players can be even better than if one or two guys were elite level. I said maybe because then rotate in and out much more frequently which keeps them all fresh from the first quarter to the fourth and from the first game to the last. That’s how the best defensive lines are built today. I'm not saying that I wouldn't mind having a Kyle Emanual type guy because obviously the more talent there is, the better things can go but absent of that, having a bunch of competent guys to throw into the mix can work out just fine!
So that’s the defense for your 2018 Bison Football team.
To recap, the biggest question mark in my mind is with the Linebackers but there is enough experience there for them to get through this season well. If they can merely do their jobs in mostly error free fashion then the Cornerbacks & Safeties will be able to really shine and the Defensive Line will have many more opportunities to just get after the quarterback & stop the run!
When it’s all said & done the offense may be the strength of the team this season, even with some of the unknown that they have to work through. Don’t get me wrong, the defense will never truly take a backseat, never, it just might be more of a passenger then in the drivers seat this season. Either way, if things go well for both the offense & the defense, another perfect season may be within reach! So let's take it in. Have fun every Saturday along the way on the road back to Frisco. And appreciate these young men every step of the way!