One of the things that made the Spartan team truly strong last year was that its stellar offense was matched by a great defense. It finished 24th in total defense, ranking 7th in total sacks (42) and backed up by a competent secondary which recorded 15 interceptions (7 of which belong to Bene' Benwikere).
However, Ron Caragher is changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, so we'll see if that plays into the strengths of returning defensive starters. It is a change that makes sense when you look at how many good quarterback play is in the Mountain West division.
Losing Travis Johnson is a blow to the defense as a whole, but fortunately the defensive line for the Spartans has a deep depth chart. Travis Raciti, Anthony Larceval and Tony Popovich all return to make life hell for opposing quarterbacks. These are all big, quick guys who have good side to side speed. Freshman Travis Miller looks to join the rotation at nose tackle as well along with Junior Faloi Vae. Adrian Blake, a defensive tackle with the nickname of tank (always good to have a tank on defense) is also competing for playing time.
DT: Raciti and Larceval | Popovitch | Blake.
NT: Vae and Miller
An area with a few more question marks. It was recently revealed that starter Vince Buhagiar may redshirt this season due to an undisclosed injury. This is a major blow to the San Jose Spartans, who need all the continuity they can get to carry their dominance in 2012. Christian Tago and Keith Smith, who are both consistently good tacklers, return, and are joined by the likes of Garrett Guanella and Lemaki Musika (who have looked good in practices) as well as Derek Muaava and Sean Bacon (Always good to have bacon on defense?).
LB: Tago and Smith | Guanella, Musika, Muaava, Bacon
Secondary / Defensive Backs
Senior cornerback Bene' Benwikere (Ben-ay Ben-WICK-urr-rhee, it's not that hard...) was a beast last season, grabbing 7 interceptions and making 67 tackles. Sophomore cornerback Jimmy Pruit who performed excellently when he was rotated in, making 41 tackles and breaking up 11 passes, looks to start opposite of Bene Benwikere.
Cornerbacks Dashion Frierson and Dominic Barnes have had good games in practice, and will probably see some playing time.
Cornerback Damon Ogborn Jr. who did well last season is making the switch to free safety. He will be joined by Brandon Monroe who is making the switch from running back to safety. Sophomore Simon Connette is also in the hunt for snaps.
CB: Benwikere and Pruit | Frierson and Barnes
S: Ogburn, Monroe, Connette