Base Nickel Defense

Bumped from the diaries.

We heard (or saw) in the spring game that the Defense will be using a lot of nickel defense this year to the point where you could describe it as our "base" defense. Now, I expect our schemes to be different from the last few years in that we will deviate from our base defense and won't try to out-execute everyone no matter how badly  mismatched our players are (see Derry/Killebrew in the slot against Tech).

That raises a few questions for me. Namely, who will be the personnel in the nickel package? Defensive depth charts with 3 starting linebackers simply may not apply to the majority of personnel groupings we see on the field this season. I'm hopeful that this will mean more Muckleroy/Kindle and less Bobino. The main question is what that 5 defensive back will look like in the 4-2-5. Will we use a 3rd cornerback or be more like Aggy's defense and use a SS/Rover type who can come up against the run?

In Spring Earl Thomas played the 5th man/Rover and is said to be more than adequate at laying out runners and keeping up in coverage. However, our own PB's depth ( features Earl Thomas as a starting Free Safety with Christian Scott as SS and 3 linebackers. With that in mind, I present a depth chart with the 4-2-5 as the base defense:

Power End: Henry Melton seems to be choice here with all the action he's seen in spring, the pre-season hype and the experience. Back-up: Aaron Lewis, Sam Acho

Nose Tackle: Roy Miller has apparently dropped down to 285 lbs. but he'll still be a nose in this scheme. Back-up: Ben Alexander.

Tackle: Lamarr Houston. I'm pretty excited about Houston here. Back-up: Alexander, Lewis, Humphrey?

Quick End: Brian Orakpo. Back-up: Eddie Jones. I'm sure will see Eddie at the other end spot some as well since the coaches will certainly want to get him some snaps.

Linebacker: Roddrick Muckleroy, the best run-stopper on the team and a playmaker. Back-up: Jared Norton, Keenan Robinson

Linebacker: Sergio Kindle, Muschamp's mentioned plans for Kindle including using him as an edge-rusher with his hands in the dirt and we all know his potential is the highest of the linebacker-corp. Throw in his physical strength as one of 2 linebackers to get attention from blockers and I think he starts over Bobino in the nickel. Back-up Rashad Bobino

Rover: Earl Thomas; In instances where we play a 4-3 defense I expect to see Thomas play one of the 2 safety spots since he's one of the better players back there right now but in nickel sets he can have the biggest impact here.

Cornerback: Deion Beasley: I'm hopeful Beasley will quickly become the shutdown corner of the team and do his best Nathan Vasher impression. Back-up Chykie Brown

Cornerback: Ryan Palmer: if he holds off the Browns that may be more of an indicator of their lack of readiness than Palmer's growth. I think he's more or less at his ceiling, which isn't terrible. Back-up Curtis Brown

Free Safety: Ben Wells; everything I've read says he's the real deal in coverage. I expect him to start opposite Thomas in the 4-3 and otherwise be in one of the 2 safety spots. back-up Aaron Williams

Strong Safety: This is really tricky. Plenty, including PB, are projecting Christian Scott as a starter. It's hard to imagine routinely running out 3 players back there who haven't played a college game yet, but Muschamp seems up to it. On the other hand Ishie Oduegwu is the only guy with experience here. I'll say Christian Scott with Ishie as back-up but it's less than clear. You could switch Wells or Scott/Oduegwu at either safety spot. Muschamp calls them "left and right" safety instead of Strong and Free so I'm not sure what each will call for more of. I anticipate Wells handling more coverage than the other.

So, such are my expectations for the defense Texas puts on the field in most circumstances next season. Thoughts? Counters?

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