Creeper86 also covered the defensive side of the ball for the Spartans. This is from about a month ago.
Travis Raciti (SR) and Nate Falo (JR) - The best Lineman last year (Falo voted MVP) and the best DT in 2012 and arguably best lineman overall (OK, Travis Johnson was pretty good outside) in Raciti. Raciti's position is as an interior lineman in the 4-3-therefore, he should be the most excited Lineman on the field ready to get off in his Senior year. Had defensive coordinator Thompson returned he would have ruined two seasons for Raciti rather than just last year's. He and Falo should be very, very good inside.....I think Falo's ability inside allows SJS to, at least, start with juco transfer Victor Vernon at DE. This twosome, combined with the 4-3 is a step up from 2013, where Falo played the nose; depth with veteran Foloi Vae (SR), and Keenan Sykes (SO), who played pretty well later in the season as a true freshman. Edge 2014
Vernon/Bacon/Blake/Popovich/Taylor vs Bacon/Raciti .. Again, I think we all are eager to get back to the 4-3 and have the personnel to be better and more seasoned outside. Vernon looks like an immediate impact player, and Adrian Blake (SR)/Eugene Taylor (SO) will be your 3rd down specialists who can get to the QB. Tony Popovich (JR) was starting just a few years ago before injury and Sean Bacon (SR) looked to be coming into his own. I like the DE's a lot and the 4-3 this year fits this DL; this group has the potential to be special - Big Edge 2014
Lineup in 2013 was predominately,Taylor/Tago/Smith/Irving. When you lose a four year stud in Keith Smith the LBers are going to take a hit.... A lineup of Christian Tago (SO)/Jared Leaf (SO)/Vince Buhagiar (SR) had good size and experience (even though Leaf hasn't played much-he looked physically ready to break out). Leaf remains out due to his off season injuries due to a fire so his position is up for grabs. Tago and Buhagiar should be ready to go. I think Buhagiar would be better inside, so I think he'll slide back to his natural position, and Tago will man one side. That leaves competition for the other outside spot: Moses Saucedo (SO) and maybe Eugene Taylor (SO) can stand up some. Hector Roach (JR) should be in a battle for the final spot. Losing Keith Smith, and now Leaf, gives the edge to 2013, but we have two very good ones and there's a little less reliance on LBers in the 4-3..... Edge 2013
Bene Benwikere will be hard to replace - a play-maker a la Dwight Lowery. A hawk like that will be missed. But Jimmy Pruitt (JR) seemed out of position at S and getting back to cover corner may be what he needs to get back to his rookie form. Dasheon Frierson (SR) was picked on a lot but was often right there in coverage. He's a little on the smallish side and that seemed to be exploited at times. But a year of experience and these two have some potential. If Cleveland Wallace (SO transfer) were eligible that would add a lot to this group, but no word as of yet. Converted WR Sean Linton (SR) has size and potential and could really surprise his senior year after a year at this new position. Maurice McKnight (FR) has a year of spring under his belt and knows he can play and better understands what to expect (speed of the game). Remember also, (defensive backs coach) Donte Williams has some young studs he recruited who may show they're actually ready to step in. WR and DB are two positions that a youngster can step into as it doesn't require the same type of physical building many of the other positions do.
Last year Pruitt was at SS most of the year; seemed out of position. Simon Connette (JR) made some plays at SS early, but playing time waned late. Ogburn played some SS also when healthy but he's gone. This year we're looking at converted receiver Akeem King (SR) as the front runner, and Connette will make a run at his old starting position. Forrest Hightower (SR) is back at S. I could see a corner like Linton move back to S. Brandon Monroe (FR) may be your wildcard and one of your starting safeties come August 28th. An intimidator back there would be nice - Monroe's that guy. Edge-Push
The biggest wildcard - Coaching. Absolutely Greg Robinson over last year's DC, and a scheme to match the personnel. The 3-4 experiment is over and it's back to the 4-3. The defense will be exponentially better. Had last year's DC returned, we'd be in serious trouble. There are DB questions and concerns but I look for some new recruits to make an impact, and I think Robinson has the expertise, experience, and personnel up front to get to the QB and help out the defensive backfield. I believe the reason this team goes bowling will be the coaching and vastly improved D, a side of the ball that just last year was the reason the Spartans stayed home. Thank you Vandy and Coach Mason.
Final Comparison Tally
2013 - 2
2014 - 2
1 - push