Speculation #5 -- Our football team this fall will have a senior who is an NFL prospect, but would not be first on the depth chart if he didn't have such high draft prospects.
Before we start this article, let me help you out with reading it. You're going to have some problems considering who's on the depth chart without a visual reference, so let me direct you to the top of your page, where you'll see the "library" section. Under that, you'll want to open the "FTRS Football Resources" grouping, where you'll see a projected depth chart as we approach the opening of spring practice. All good? OK, now you're a go for reading.
If you ask around, asking folks who the best 10 players on our football team this fall will be, they'll give you a somewhat consistent list. The offense will be dominated by guys like Vad Lee, Justin Thomas, Robert Godhigh, David Sims, Anthony Autry, potentially adding B.J. Bostic, Shaq Mason, or Jay Finch.
(From process of elimination, the only seniors I mentioned there were David Sims and Jay Finch, neither of whom really has significant NFL hopes at this point. So clearly, we're not talking about offense here. "Oh great, another football article about the defense.")
Now, the interesting thing about picking the best players on defense is that folks aren't really sure. It's like, we've got a lot of talent, but with a switch to a new scheme how well will the individual pieces fit together? How will Fred Holton look in his return? Will Jabari Hunt-Days be better than last year? How will Brandon Watts fit in as an outside linebacker? Clearly there are a lot of moving parts. All that said, I'd say we expect a big year out of Louis Young, Jemea Thomas, the 3 linebackers (Jabari Hunt-Days, Quayshawn Nealy, Brandon Watts), and sophomore Adam Gotsis.
One guy in particular likely sticks out to you as a snub from that list, and there's a reason for that. One of our studs for the past couple of years is pretty blatantly MIA from that list -- Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu is widely regarded as the most talented player on our defense, and is a guy who may have had a shot in the 2013 NFL Draft had he elected to leave school back in January. However, he didn't, and the "Jack" outside pass rush specialist linebacker in Al Groh's 3-4 system now is slotted at the weakside defensive end spot in Ted Roof's 4-3 attack. (For an NFL comparison, he's gone from doing James Harrison's job to John Abraham's job -- which are actually a good bit different.)
Attaochu playing the WDE spot will be a bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole -- his size and skills are much better fit as that 3-4 outside linebacker. He could stand to put on about 20 pounds (moving from 240 to 260) to fit the role, not the best order for a guy who's a senior and probably has the best NFL prospects at another position. Similarly, his techniques will have to change as his responsibilities change -- also not things you really want a guy to have to work on in the months before he looks to join the highly-competitive NFL.
However, Attaochu's depth chart standing won't just be affected by his ability to adapt to a new position. Take a look at the name behind him on the depth chart -- Anthony Williams was a highly-touted 4-star prospect at WDE coming out of high school who struggled to fit into Al Groh's system as a Jack linebacker, but will fit like a glove into Ted Roof's system. There's some speculation as to whether Williams will be a weak side or strong side DE come the fall, but for this article's purposes he'll play WDE (and don't you tell me any different).
My take home speculation here is this: Jeremiah Attaochu will start this season over Williams, but it will largely be due to his seniority and NFL prospects as opposed to his actual prowess of the position relative to his competition. It would really be a shame if this season messed up Attaochu's future in the NFL. However, we can also consider it this way -- if he changes his body size and succeeds at this new position, he will be looked at by NFL teams as a guy with versatility who can effectively play in multiple defensive schemes (something I can't imagine would work against him in war rooms at the draft).
We've seen 3 years of Jeremiah Attaochu's on-field abilities, and have been generally pleased with his pass-rushing and passer-punching abilities (ZING). What are your thoughts on him potentially being the odd man out in this change up of defensive schemes?