Coach Mitchell has me Fired up about the 2012 Pirates Defense

Man…first…sorry so long since I last posted…kind of went into a summer black hole. Mostly, I was pretty much heads down on the 2012 edition of Bonesville Magazine which will hit the presses in early August and be out to you guys by the opener.

Anyway, more importantly, I had a long talk with Brian Mitchell and man, he has me jacked up about this defense.Bonesvillewas kind enough to run my Q&A with Brian, today, – which can be found here if you are interested – and if the emails I am getting from that piece is an indication, I am not alone in my excitement not only for football season, but for the potential this defensive unit has.

One thing about Coach Mitchell I have noticed over the last two years is that he is typically very guarded in term of speculating on potential…that is to say, he typically downplays expectations. But, this time around, you could hear it in his voice. This group of kids are his group…his type. He loves the guys who love this game. Call them old school types, whatever, he really loves the old less flash and dash and more lunchpail type of players. And he has a stable of them this time around.

So, how do I read between the lines…here are some of my thoughts – my personal thoughts not to be construed with anything Brian told me – based on what I as hearing and have seen.

Nose Guards:

We really may have one of the best Nose Guard tandems in the league if not beyond. Brooks is phenomenal and truly the anchor in the middle. If you rewatch games from 2011 – which I admit I do sometimes – it is hard to find bad tape on him. I think he could have  legit NFL shot ahead and Terry Williams is a freak of nature. It is like he was simply built to play nose guard. He is a beast and to hear that he is pushing Michael, then I am MORE THAN excited to see how opponents adjust to try to push these two animals out of the way. There is a reason that Jeremy Grove had 120+ tackles and that we got another 120+ plus out of the other ILB position (Kyle Tudor and Daniel Drake combined).

Defensive Ends:

Brian Mitchell is excited about John Lattimore…real excited. He was the first name out of Coach’s mouth when I interviewed him. Now, we have not seen Lattimore on the field yet, but he certainly looks the part and was a beast in Camp Connors this year. I think Lattimore is a starter after Game 1 no deference to Matt Milner, who I think along with Justin Dixon on the other side are more suited to be your pressure ends – for pass rush situations. Milner is a playmaker and has a knack – ala Zack Slate – to make things happen around the quarterback. And, Mitchell went on and on about Lee Pegues and if nothing else, that man will be a huge load to content with if you are a tackle. That gives us a serious two-deep at DE that allows a ton of flexibility with Lattimore being a do-it-all DE, Pegues a run buster, and Dixon and Milner being edge contain specialists.

Linebackers:

As much as I love Jeremy Grove and as much as it was his unit a year ago, I believe that this is Derrell Johnson’s unit now. Not from the standpoint of leadership and not even from a tackles perspective – Grove will serve there – but from a game-changer perspective. This move is one I have waited for since he stepped on the field. Johnson just has the “it” factor. You watch games from last year and he just is always there in the final frame of a tackle. At the Will position, Mitchell said it himself, Johnson will be the feature schematically. Can’t wait to see this in action. I agree with Mitchell, too, that it will make Chris Baker much better and then there is Jake Geary…one of my favorite players – dat kid has heart and plays like it. We are simply loaded at Will.

Now, I am not so bullish on the Sam position, but we have talent there. Maurice Falls has the goods athletically and Mitchell is very excited about him, but I am not sold that we are two-deep there with starters. I know that Mitchell considers Montese Overton a phenom who he really had a hard time redshirting last year but I feel like maybe Geary could move over there rather than be in a 3-way battle, but we’ll see.

Inside…well…I love Grove…man what a perfect Mike backer. Smart, heady, and does his job. By design, he should have had the most tackles and he did. Love the workmanlike performance and Ty Holmes isn’t just an adequate back-up…he is good and kudos to him for keeping his wits about him while playing behind an All-America. We are set there. At the other ILB spot, I am torn between two wonderful players. I have the mojo for Daniel Drake. What a great kid…awesome plugger in there, too, but Tudor is also a great kid. I imagine we will see more Tudor when the other team is a more pass-oriented team and more Drake when the other guys are running at us. Again, we look good. And then, also, there is Zeek Bigger…were any of you as impressed with him as I was in spring camp and the PG game?? I think that kid is going to be a very good MLB.

Secondary:

OK…here is where I diverge a little bit from Coach Mitchell. I like some of the talent back there, but am not convinced on a few of the details. Let me get over the easy part first…Damon Magazu…love him, he is the Nick Johnson of the secondary…doesn’t look the part, but is a master of it without fail. Reliable is spelled M-A-G-Z….and I like Venable, too. Good there.

And, surprisingly, I feel good about Leonard Paulk. I never thought I would be able to transition so readily to the corner who followed Emanuel Davis, but Paulk has such an infectious attitude and style of play, I have to say, I think we will be fine on the boundary. He proved a lot by having the aggressive approach he had getting the emergency start against USC last year. Rocco Scarfone appears to be another kid built in the mold of Danny Webster and Damon Magazu…still a wait in see though, so depth here is a question mark, too.

Here is where I do not share Coach’s certainty. I am not sold on Jacobi Jenkins at Field Corner. He is a great, hard-working kid, but he has had nothing but opportunity after opportunity for almost 2 years and did not lock it down. I really like Blacknal – at safety – but didn’t think he was stellar at corner. Good, yes. But if Jenkins was the future, then he should have won that job a year ago. He has 12 starts in his career…and yet is still fighting for the job. Hope I am wrong cause he is a great kid. I am hopeful that Adonis Armstrong is the stud they are saying he is because I think we are going to need that. Perhaps it will be a committee approach there.

I am a little surprised how spring finished at the CAT position (strong safety). I fully expected Godfrey Thompson to win it so when it was Lamar Ivey I wasn’t sure how to read that. I thought it would be Godfrey over Desi Brown because I always saw Ivey as not as aggressive as we would expect. HOWEVER, Mitchell loves Ivey and pointed out that Ivey was fantastically aggressive in the spring. I think that the battle will reconvene in Fall and Thompson will win out eventually, but it is a good we have three guys battling there.

In summary, I think we are on the verge of seeing something very special from the defense this year. If our offense can minimize the turnovers, it might find itself rewarded quite a bit with short fields provided by this team. The defenses collective goal is to become a top-30 defense this year and if they make it half way there, we should be right in the mix for the CUSA title again.

Those are my thoughts my friends. Please chime in and share your’s. I love hearing others opinions and honestly…i sort of need it if I am going to survive these next two months without Pirate football.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Coach Mitchell has me Fired up about the 2012 Pirates Defense

  1. NYCPirate

    Was there any discussion regarding Lucas Thompson and how he might fit in the new defense when he arrives in the fall?

    • Hi NYCPirate…

      Thanks for dropping in. You know…I didn’t press him. I asked him about Lucas and potentially starting and he went back to the point that he thought it would be very hard for a freshman to start on this defense. He said he wouldn’t rule it out if the kid is a Clowney type, but that they would have to be very, very special to not redshirt. That said, it would seem like if there was going to be a season where a true frosh could do it in the secondary, it would be this one. I am eager to see Thompson in action for sure.

  2. Ralph Wright

    Great stuff as usual. I believe we really need this kind of positive news coming out of Greenville right now. Seems like to much of the news this summer is doom and gloom ( conference realignment etc.) Winning cures all ills and everything I’m hearing about this years team points to the possibility of a special season.
    I really think it is important that we or southern miss win the conference this year before it gets watered down and let the sporting world see that the best teams are staying in the conference.

    • HI Ralph…thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree on the USM or us theme…of course, my preference is US.

      On the conference, as expected, the power brokers have already shown the Big East that they are being thrown back into the pool of have nots with the ACC not far behind. So, CUSA has as good a chance as any to become the best of the rest conference out there and as long as we keep working twice as hard as the other guy, we will return to significance, IMO. I am jacked about this season.

  3. Awesome post and “par excellance” on Bonesville. Unlike last year to be honest, I’m confident we will get pressure on the QB n 2012; which turn will help the secondary immensely. We got burned more often than we should out there b/c the opposing QBs had enough time top go through reads and/or let the play develop – IMHO. That won’t happen this year and CUSA teams are going to be in a world of hurt, and the USC/Smurfs of our schedule are going to have to adjust. Will the offense be able to produce? That is the question. Otherwise, Ruff’s fantasy camp is in 25 days and I am s-t-o-k-e-d for that Pirate football fix. Hope you and the fellow posters on this blog are doing well this summer.

    • Hi Pirate R…thanks for checking in…I think you are right…particularly in CUSA where it seems like everyone is breaking in a new QB. Love to see that front seven break out.

      Have a great time at Ruff’s camp!

  4. RowdyDowdy

    Nice write up and follow-up, It would be great to come out of nowhere have have one of those 1983 or 1991 type seasons. I am wondering who will be the unexpected player to really shine this year. I am going out on a limb and predict our Kicker will excel. GO PIRATES!

    • Thanks for stopping bay Rowdy Dowdy! I think we are going to be very pleased with our kickers this season, both place kicker and punter.

      Would love to have a defining season this year too…and get back to winning ways again.

  5. Blackbeard'sGhost

    Hey RC and great to get some more “vittles” from you on Pirate football!
    I can tell you are a bit fired up about the possibilities with this defense this year, as am I. I thought after the spring game that the defense looked outstanding. The speed of ball pursuit was most impressive to me and dare I say reminds me of the way Florida State’s defense looked years ago. Fast,athletic, and almost always had 4 or 5 guys around the ball on every play. I also agree with Pirate R that if the offense can “click” as the season goes along, that CUSA trophy will be back in Greenville where it belongs.

    The past 2 years we have looked at our offense to outscore folks.
    Question for you; Do you think this year’s defense can seal a win for us at the end of a game and can we feel more confident that we can win games without having to have the ball in our hands at the end?

    • Hi BB…thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts on the D.

      To your question, I think that this will be the first in the Ruff era to be able to dictate games to some degree…providing a consistent short field, game-changing turnovers, red zone D…granted much of it is on paper still, but the bulk of this unit has gotten plenty of playing time and the additions are all highly skilled. Depth should allow the defense to confidently take the field in crucial…last stop situations. In short, i think yes, this D will be reliable.

      One thing I think was overlooked last season was that our defense played well enough to win some of the early games, but the Offense turned the ball over so much the D couldn’t hold on. That D last season, after the first 4 games could have packed it in given the 2010 season, but they didn’t…that showed that they had some pride and gumption. I see that as the biggest asset this D has and this time around, they have depth and talent, IMO.

    • Hi BB…thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts on the D.

      To your question, I think that this will be the first in the Ruff era to be able to dictate games to some degree…providing a consistent short field, game-changing turnovers, red zone D…granted much of it is on paper still, but the bulk of this unit has gotten plenty of playing time and the additions are all highly skilled. Depth should allow the defense to confidently take the field in crucial…last stop situations. In short, i think yes, this D will be reliable.

      One thing I think was overlooked last season was that our defense played well enough to win some of the early games, but the Offense turned the ball over so much the D couldn’t hold on. That D last season, after the first 4 games could have packed it in given the 2010 season, but they didn’t…that showed that they had some pride and gumption. I see that as the biggest asset this D has and this time around, they have depth and talent, IMO.

    • Hi BB…thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts on the D.

      To your question, I think that this will be the first in the Ruff era to be able to dictate games to some degree…providing a consistent short field, game-changing turnovers, red zone D…granted much of it is on paper still, but the bulk of this unit has gotten plenty of playing time and the additions are all highly skilled. Depth should allow the defense to confidently take the field in crucial…last stop situations. In short, i think yes, this D will be reliable.

      One thing I think was overlooked last season was that our defense played well enough to win some of the early games, but the Offense turned the ball over so much the D couldn’t hold on. That D last season, after the first 4 games could have packed it in given the 2010 season, but they didn’t…that showed that they had some pride and gumption. I see that as the biggest asset this D has and this time around, they have depth and talent, IMO.

  6. Pingback: Coach Mitchell has me Fired up about the 2012 Pirates Defense

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