Now, I love Aqib Talib as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. And, without question, he was the most talented player on last year's defense. But he wasn't the most important.
No, that would go to defensive tackle James McClinton, who made the defense tick. And amidst all of the holes that we must fill, and all of the questions surrounding our team, replacing McClinton stands at #1 in my book. McClinton was a beast, a man-among-men, the single driving force behind our entire pass rush. Honestly. Nearly every sack could be attributed, in some way, to McClinton.
However, while replacing McClinton is of the utmost importance, we could have just as much top-end, high-quality depth at DT as we do at any other position on this roster. Honestly. Jamal Greene, Richard Johnson Jr. and Darius Parish are all potential NFLers, particularly the man-beast that Parish is. Now, as a true freshman Parish figures to be only a situational player, appearing only in reserve situations and to give the starters a rest, but by the end of his Kansas career, he will be scary-good. Honestly.
Here is the next three-years Depth Chart:
|DT1||Caleb Blakesley (rsJR)||Richard Johnson Jr. (rsSO)||Richard Johnson Jr. (rsJR)|
|DT2||Richard Johnson Jr. (rsFR)||Darius Parish (SO)||Darius Parish (JR)|
|DT3||Jamal Greene (rsSO)||Jamal Greene (rsJR)||Jamal Green (rsSR)|
|DT4||Darius Parish (FR)||Caleb Blakesley (rsSR)||Patrick Dorsey (rsJR)|
|DT5||Patrick Dorsey (rsFR)||Patrick Dorsey (rsSO)||EMPTY|
--- Italics denote projected redshirt year
--- Bold denotes EMPTY space on the Depth Chart
First off, how the logjam works itself out between Johnson Jr., Greene and Parish is completely undetermined. This is a rough estimate of how I figure it will work out; Johnson Jr. is basically guaranteed to win a starting spot each year, as Greene and Parish are both the large, run-stuffing types. Johnson isn't, and no one else on the team really fits the bill as far as his type of defensive tackle. However it works itself out, we figure to be more-than-set at defensive tackle over the next couple of years.
Position-by-position previews after the jump...
Caleb Blakesley :: #94 :: rsJR :: DT1
Hi, my name's Caleb Blakesley. I am, at best, the fourth most talented defensive tackle on my team, yet I sit comfortably at #1 on the depth chart. Why? Simple. The other, more talented players are incredibly young, and relatively, if not entirely, inexperienced.
And thus, he has earned at least a couple of games in the starting rotation. Now, the earlier Jamal Greene can sneak his way into the starting lineup the better, but for now we have Mr. Blakesley to take up blockers and not allow the RBs to squeak through a hole.
However, hopefully his stay in the starting lineup is painfully short; like, Jamal Greene is starting by the beginning of conference play. Greene is more athletic, has more natural ability, has more future potential and is simply a better player. Maybe not right now, necessarily, but he definitely should be by the end of the year.
Richard Johnson Jr. :: #97 :: rsFR :: DT2
If you are literally looking for McClinton's replacement, as in the person who will physically replace McClinton in the starting lineup, here is your man. Standing at a relatively small 6'2" and weighing "only" 280 pounds, he is the speed-rusher up the middle. And, with us still starting run-first DEs, we just might need that pass-rush up the middle to knock the QB on his ass. For serious.
I am expecting, and hoping for, some seriously large things from Jr., even though he is already starting as a freshman. While McClinton's shoes are about as big as shoes get to fill, Johnson could conceivably fill them out. Like, completely. His thumb might even rub up against the front edge of the shoe (is there a name for that?), forcing us to buy an even bigger shoe. He is that good.
Jamal Greene :: #99 :: SO :: DT3
Here is what we know about Jamal Greene. We know that he played good enough last year in fall practice for the staff not to redshirt him. We know that, at least to a point, he kept that performance up, as he came in for McClinton against Oklahoma State when J-Mac went down with an injury. We know that he is absolutely ginormous (6'4" 301) and has a chance to be even larger. For realz.
Here is what we don't know about Jamal Greene. We don't know how he will develop. We don't know if he will ever actually fulfill his seemingly unlimited potential. We don't know about how well he has played this fall, as he seemed to have the inside track on the big-boy DT spot, before getting passed over by Blakesley.
Somehow, someway, the two worlds of the known and unknown of Jamal Greene will converge, likely roughly in the middle of the two. Just where they converge, however, and its proximity into how well he actually ends up playing, will go a long way in how often he actually sees action on the football field.
Darius Parish :: #93 :: FR :: DT4
Were you to get me started on Darius Parish, I just might never move on. He makes Jamal Greene look small (as Parish stands 6'4" 341), and has even more potential-and-all-that-jazz than Greene and Johnson Jr. Combined. For serious.
The problem is he is absolutely, incredibly raw, as his high school coaching was less-than-stellar. He has more-than-enough physical tools, it's just that he will need time to develop and learn. However, despite this incredible rawness, he is still going to see some action this season. That speaks to just how talented of a player he is, and how much faith the coaching staff in him, raw or not. More on him later, in a freshman-specific post, but this kid is special.
Patrick Dorsey :: #92 :: rsFR :: DT5
Dorsey is way more Johnson Jr. than Greene and Parish, as he stands at 6'0" 275. He is a speed-rusher type, although he isn't as physically gifted as the trio of studs listed above him on the depth chart, and Dorsey figures to be a depth guy throughout his entire career. Simply a body to throw in there for rests and things.
Next Up: Linebackers
On Deck: Cornerbacks