It's been a busy time for much of the staff over the last couple of weeks, and truthfully we haven't been the best about keeping you all up-to-date on how things were going during #GTCAMP15. That said, Saturday's scrimmage closed out the two week period, so let's take a look at how things stand for the defense.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this unit is that, despite all of the fanfare surrounding his return, Jabari Hunt-Days is still not a starter on the most recent depth chart. Instead, he's backing up Patrick Gamble as the coaches aim to have Hunt-Days earn his starting spot. Of course, the expectation is that he will, and that Gamble will primarily play as a strongside defensive end, but that's where things are at for now.
Hunt-Days and Adam Gotsis have been just as much of a terror as you'd expect, but even more encouraging is the improvement of Francis Kallon, who's finally gotten himself into a position where he can contribute with significant playing time. He and Gamble project to back up Gotsis and Hunt-Days in a very suitable fashion. Additionally, chances are good that either Brentavious Glanton or Kyle Cerge-Henderson will play as true freshmen, although you won't see both of them, barring injuries within the unit. Trent Sellers and Scott Morgan figure to redshirt this season.
At defensive end, there are a lot of moving pieces. Gamble has the ability to contribute at strong side defensive end and potentially could start there, while Roderick Rook-Chungong, Tyler Stargel, Tyler Merriweather, Kenderius Whitehead, and Anree Saint-Amour all could see some time there too. Speaking of, the decision hasn't yet been made on whether either Merriweather or Saint-Amour will play or redshirt this season.
At weakside defensive end, KeShun Freeman is the incumbent starter, and the primary competition has been for the backup spot between Whitehead, Saint-Amour, and Antonio Simmons. As mentioned above, Saint-Amour is a redshirt candidate, as is Simmons after he played as a true freshman last year. The defensive end group is lacking in clarity as far as who will be playing, but there are a lot of options there that could result in some cool packages in obvious pass or run situations.
The obvious returning starter here is P.J. Davis, who should be a top-5 linebacker in the conference and potentially the single best in the ACC. He'll start in a 3- or 2-linebacker set. Backing him up should be Victor Alexander, who's done well in scrimmages and practices. Beau Hankins might also play some with this group as well.
The other starter in a 2-linebacker set will be Tyler Marcordes, who will play the strong side spot in a 3-linebacker grouping. Backing him up will be Domonique Noble, and there's some potential that Terrell Lewis plays here some too. Marcordes' hold on the starter spot is not as firm as the one Davis has on his, for what that's worth, so you might see a little more rotation here.
In the middle, the departure of Anthony Harrell leaves an opening at the starter spot. In a 3-linebacker set, I'm not totally sure who starts at MLB, but Lewis, Hankins, Tre Jackson, and Brant Mitchell are all in the mix.
Alexander and Mitchell will most likely play this season, while Tyler Cooksey will likely redshirt. There's also a chance that Cooksey will move to a defensive end spot in the long run.
The starting cornerbacks will remain D.J. White and Chris Milton, with Step Durham as the first guy off the bench. Lynn Griffin should start at the nickel spot, as well as the occasional contribution at a more traditional safety or cornerback role. Lamont Simmons is ineligible this year, but a pretty high-quality guy for the future, with both White and Milton graduating after this fall. Any of the three freshmen could also play here this fall -- Dorian Walker, Dante Wigley, and Meiko Dotson -- and you'll see more of the Austin twins here as well. You should primarily keep an eye out for White, Milton, and Durham though.
The nickel spot is currently held by Lynn Griffin, and it should stay that way. Backing him up is likely Lawrence Austin, while true freshman David Curry probably redshirts in 2015.
At safety, Jamal Golden will probably start at the free safety spot again this year, with Shaun Kagawa as the primary backup and the starter for 2016. The strong safety spot likely remains Demond Smith's job, which it was coming out of the spring game. His primary backup should be Corey Griffin, who's got a knack for really laying the wood on ballcarriers. True freshman A.J. Gray should also get some playing time here.
Projected Depth Chart
This is how I'd imagine the depth chart to look if the season started today. There's a lot more stability on this side of the ball than there is on offense, just with a lot more players in the mix. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that this is the personnel you're going to be seeing, even if starter/backup roles are adjusted.
|Position||First String||Second String|
|SDE||Roderick Rook-Chungong (R-Jr)
Patrick Gamble (R-Jr)
|Tyler Stargel (R-Jr)|
|DT||Adam Gotsis (Sr)||Francis Kallon (R-Jr)|
|DT||Jabari Hunt-Days (R-Sr)||Patrick Gamble (R-Jr)
Brentavious Glanton (Fr)
|WDE||KeShun Freeman (So)||Kenderius Whitehead (R-Jr)
Antonio Simmons (So)
|SLB||Tyler Marcordes (R-Sr)||Domonique Noble (R-Sr)|
|MLB||Terrell Lewis (So)||Tre Jackson (R-So)
Brant Mitchell (Fr)
|WLB||P.J. Davis (Jr)||Beau Hankins (R-Jr)
Victor Alexander (Fr)
|CB||D.J. White (Sr)||Step Durham (So)|
|FS||Jamal Golden (R-Sr)||Shaun Kagawa (So)|
|SS||Demond Smith (R-Sr)||
Corey Griffin (R-So)
A.J. Gray (Fr)
|NB||Lynn Griffin (R-Jr)||Lawrence Austin (So)|
|CB||Chris Milton (R-Sr)||
Lance Austin (So)
Dorian Walker (Fr)