After entering the season last year with major concerns on the defensive line, the defensive line in 2011 is expected to be the strength of Charlie Strong’s defense.
And after three weeks of practice, the depth and talent is there to be a solid unit for the Cardinals, especially with seniors Greg Scruggs and William Savoy providing the leadership upfront.
As the Sept. 1 opener creeps upon the Cardinals, the team is banged up a bit on the defensive line, but nothing that will keep players out for an extended period of time.
Scruggs has missed the most time with a foot injury, but is expected to be back in the rotation on Saturday. Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon have missed action, but none appear to be overly serious.
Eight days until the 2011 season opener, defensive line coach Clint Hurtt is praying to have all hands on deck very soon.
“There are some concerns, some issues,” Hurtt said. “But football is a physical game and there are going to be some bumps and bruises. Hopefully we should get those guys back pretty soon.”
Because of the injuries on the defensive line this camp, Hurtt has been able to give talented true freshmen B.J. Dubose, Jamon Brown and Deiontrez Mount extended playing time during the first 22 practice and all will likely burn their red-shirts.
“Jamon Brown, Deiontrez Mount are getting additional reps and we had to train Randy Salmon to do some different things in the scheme of the defense,” Hurtt said. “You’ve always got to find the positives in what seems like a negative situation.”
Defensive tackle Jamon Brown has also progressed well and looks to be ready to contribute. A massive specimen at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Brown is working on the second group and appears to be ready to participate.
“I would say he’s going to have to play and help us,” Hurtt said. “We don’t have the luxury yet to redshirt a lot of kids. It’s going to have to be baptism by fire, like it was last season for Brandon Dunn. Obviously, as the season progressed, (Dunn) got better and better and better and that’s the plan with Jamon.”
Hurtt is also preparing Dubose and Mount to see action in the season opener.
“Dubose and Mount are going to play significant minutes,” said Hurtt. “You will see a ton of those guys in the first game. Whether we play three or four down against Murray State will determine who plays and how much. That hasn’t been determined.”
Dubose, one of the top defensive linemen in Florida, has emerged and appears physically ready to compete at the BCS level.
“Dubose is an enormous talent,” Hurtt said. “He’s extremely strong and very athletic and fluid. But he’s very raw. I don’t believe he had a defensive line coach in high school. He’s getting all of his teaching out here. He’s absorbing it but it’s a lot (to learn). Sometimes he does too much thinking and I have to tell him to focus on one thing each day to get better that day.”
“His biggest strength is the point of contact,” added Hurtt. “For a freshman at the point of contact he’s unbelievable. He’s very powerful, very strong and can get off of blocks. In terms of understanding keys, pre-snap tips, those are the things he has to continue to learn.”