2019 Training Camp XIV: Mailbag Day Part Five

Aug 10, 2019

OK this will be the last one. Sorry if I didn't get to your mailbag day question. I tried to cover most every topic that showed up in my Twitter notifications, but I probably missed a few. Maybe I'll do another mailbag thing after the open portion of training camp is over. On to the last set of questions:

How much of a drop off from first to second team defense?

-- Tom Big Toe Maton (@TMDroid1) August 9, 2019

This is something I tweeted on Thursday - there's a big drop-off when the second string defense comes on - and I really should have expanded on that. So to answer Tom's question, I'll go position by position:

Defensive Line

There's no real set "first string" here, I don't think. If you asked me to list the order at each position (who starts, who will be first off the bench) I don't think I could get 50% of the names right. But I guess I could try. Three names at each spot:

WDE: Gay | Shogbonyo | Mondesir
DT: Oliver | Woods | Jackson
DT: Milan | Oladipo | Avery
SDE: Carney | Betiku | Randolph

But there I've gone and left off Kenyon Jackson (a senior who has played a ton) and Ezekiel Holmes (now healthy in his redshirt freshman season) plus freshmen like Moses Okpala.

And that's not mentioning that I might have the defensive ends wrong. The starting pair might be Carney and Betiku, not Carney and Gay with Betiku third. And at DT the guy I left of (Deon Pate) was with the first string yesterday. So maybe my statement should have been "big dropoff when the second string comes in in the back seven", because I'm not even sure of the rotations in the front four.


I think there are four main guys but I'm not really sure of the fifth and sixth. Maybe I should rate the dropoffs from first string to second string. On a scale of 1 to ten, 1 meaning "very little difference" and 10 meaning "massive cliff".

WLB (Jake Hansen starter, Khalan Tolson backup) - 5
MLB (Dele Harding starter, Tarique Barnes backup) - 7
SLB (Delano Ware starter, Milo Eifler backup) - 2

In fact, I'm not really sure if Ware is the starter or if Eifler is the starter. I think that battle will go on until the end of camp. And even when it's "decided", it will just mean which guy is out there for the first series. Both will play a lot, I think.

The other two spots, given the experience of the starters, is a big drop-off.


Let's use the same methodology as above.

CB (Nate Hobbs starter, Nick Walker backup) - 8
FS (Tony Adams starter, Kerby Joseph backup) - 6
SS (Sydney Brown starter, Stanley Green backup) - 3
CB (Quan Martin starter, Marquez Beason backup) - 5

I'm scoring the Beason dropoff based on the fact that we're one week into his college career. Hopefully by the end of the season he's pushing for a starting spot. For now, though, you can tell when Martin goes off and Beason comes on.

And with Stanley Green being the only "he knows what he's doing - I'm fine when Brown comes off and Green comes on" (which is all the time right now since Brown has been rehabbing a hamstring), there's a significant dropoff across the board. Starters are good, depth isn't there yet.

When you hear me say "man, there's so much depth in the defense right now" at some training camp in the future, that's when you should expect a solid season.

Defensive Ends. How would you rank them 1-10 if 10 was Roundtree. Likely production from them this year?

-- Mark Garofalo (@MarkIllini24) August 9, 2019

See how I'm rolling these together? I rank the back seven with a 1-10 thing and then we roll into this question. It's pretty much art.

I went over and watched the defensive ends on the blocking sleds. If Roundtree is a 10, here are the "production" scores for the rest of the defensive ends. Keep in mind these are "right now" scores and with no seniors here, all of the scores should go up next year (and the year after that).

Owen Carney - 8
Wole Betiku - 6.5
Isaiah Gay - 6.5
Ayo Shogbonyo - 4
Marc Mondesir - 3.5
Keith Randolph - 3.5
Ezekiel Holmes - 3
Seth Coleman - 2.5
Moses Okpala - 2

Yes, that's a big frightening. We really need the freshmen on the bottom of that list to double their scores by this time next year. Need everyone's score to increase, really. As of right now, I think I only "trust" Carney, Gay, and Betiku.

How much faster are we as a team now?

-- Ben Diggle (@bdiggle) August 9, 2019

A lot faster. I don't think there's going to be a speed issue this season. There might be a size issue, but I don't think it will be "that receiver just blew past our cornerback".

That's the good news. The bad news is that we don't really have much speed at receiver. I don't think we have a true deep threat. The fastest guy appears to be Kyron Cumby, but he's a 5'-7" freshman learning how to play receiver, so he's not there yet. Dom Stampley is "quick", but he's not some blazing-fast deep threat. There's no Justin Hardee who will hit the jets and fly.

Fastest guy on offense with the ball in his hands? Isaiah Williams by a factor of 10. Fastest guy on defense? Hmmmm... might be Beason? Wow, it's almost like recruiting top-100 recruits will increase your team speed.

Is Reggie still tearing apart the defense, does he look like The Guy?

-- Stu Almeleh (@SAlmeleh) August 9, 2019

Yes, he still looks like The Guy. He's not really "tearing apart the defense" because they're taking it easy with him. He's been through four camps and knows this offense inside-out. There's nothing he's going to gain by getting a ton of camp carries. Keep those legs fresh.

So I'd say for every one Corbin and Epstein carry there's five carries for Jakari Norwood and Kenyon Sims. That's just how camp works. Gotta find a QB, and they can't be touched, so give the top three guys 95% of the reps. Tailback rotation you know, so start with the #3 guy (Dre Brown) and work your way down from there.

When Reggie does get the ball, yes, he's The Guy. But I'd like to point out that so is Epstein? Remember this time last year how it was going to be the Mike & Mike show? Dudek and Epstein? If there's one player on this entire roster who should be waving furiously and saying "hey guys, don't forget about me", it's Mike Epstein. I think we have a legitimate 1-2 punch at tailback, and if we can get Richie Petitbon integrated with the rest of the returning starters on the line, that's the whole key to this season. Reggie goes off for a massive senior season while Epstein allows Reggie's legs to stay fresh while HE has a breakout season. Do that and it covers up so much of the bad stuff I've mentioned in these Mailbag posts.

Reggie is The Guy. Epstein is The Guy 1a. And one quarterback does just enough to keep that honest. That's the key to the whole thing.

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Bear8287 on August 11 @ 01:17 AM CDT

How much of a drop off from first to second team defense?

-- Tom Big Toe Maton (@TMDroid1) August 9, 2019

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