The defensive line's success largely depends on the talent of the offensive line, so this is always a little difficult to gauge. The starters appeared to be Keith Heitzman at strongside end, Quinton Washington at nose tackle, Jibreel Black at 3-tech defensive tackle, and Frank Clark at weakside end. Heitzman didn't do much of note. Washington seemed to get good push up the middle, and he should be in for a solid season. Black looked quick, and Mattison sent him on several loops and stunts to use that quickness. Clark looks deserving of the spring hype he's received; he's going to cause trouble for opponents. Of the backups, redshirt freshman Matt Godin looked solid at strongside end and Willie Henry looked like a very adept replacement. Henry could potentially play SDE, NT, or DT. Ondre Pipkins looked okay at NT, but he didn't do anything outstanding. Mario Ojemudia gave some people fits because of his quickness, and Taco Charlton made some plays at weakside end against the backup offensive line. I was impressed with how well Charlton used his hands, which was one of the weakness of his game in high school. Richard Ash looked slow off the line and doesn't know how to use his hands; he still looks like a guy who won't get many reps. I didn't keep stats on this, but it looked to me that Mattison ran a lot of 4-3 Under with the first team, but then ran a lot of 4-3 Over with the second unit.
The starters were Brennen Beyer at SAM, Desmond Morgan at MIKE, and James Ross at WILL. I don't think Beyer is a starter-quality linebacker, and he didn't really make any plays. Morgan dropped an interception and failed to get depth on Jake Butt's touchdown catch, but he did look solid against the run. Ross looked fantastic at weakside linebacker, chasing down plays near the sideline and hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage. Cam Gordon looked like the superior player at SAM, made a nice tackle for loss on Dennis Norfleet, and blew up Butt on a Power. Joe Bolden looked solid at MIKE, but I'm concerned about the backup WILL position. Royce Jenkins-Stone seemed to be the #2 weakside linebacker, but he struggled. Mike Jones didn't look like a viable option, and I didn't see Antonio Poole on the field. Kaleb Ringer was recruited to play WILL, but he's too thick and slow to play there, in my opinion.
The corners weren't tested much - maybe because of the weather, maybe because of the play calls. Blake Countess didn't play, and the first three corners appeared to be Raymon Taylor, Courtney Avery, and Delonte Hollowell. The quarterbacks seemed to pick on Hollowell more than anyone else, and he seemed to come up well and tackle. Avery appeared to be playing on the outside rather than the nickel position he's held for the past couple seasons. Ross Douglas looked like he could hold his own, but Terry Richardson looked tiny and afraid to come up and support the run.
The frontrunners for the starting positions seem to be Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson, with Marvin Robinson being the primary backup. Robinson got out-leveraged on Thomas Rawls' touchdown run, which was a play that Jordan Kovacs totally would have made. The young up-and-comer looked like redshirt freshman Jeremy Clark; he moves pretty well and laid a couple nice hits. Allen Gant made a nice tackle, and early enrollee Dymonte Thomas was just a step slow from his nickel corner position. Josh Furman still didn't do anything significant, but none of the safeties were really tested in the passing game, so it's tough to get a good read on their coverage abilities.