In the run up to the 2010 season, as everyone is setting expectations for the two-time Conference-USA Champion Pirates, I think it is important to maintain some perspective here.
One area for sure that we would all do well to temper our expectations would be on the defensive line. Consider that in any given year, for a collegiate squad to send four or five guys to the NFL from a team is a pretty darn good showing. So, when three of your four starting defensive lineman are in the NFL, it should be understood that they were not just good, but were stellar in comparison to all the lines in the nation.
So, while Linval Joseph, a second-rounder with the New York Giants, and C.J. Wilson, a 7th rounder with the Green Bay Packers, and Jay Ross, a free agent signee with the New Orleans Saints, are collecting NFL paychecks, a pack of talented, determined, and hopefully well-mentored Pirates are looking to find that same success.
But…I wouldn’t expect it.
Now, there of course is a case to be made by examining the three studs that gave offenses fits for the past three seasons. The case, in my head, is that from the moment Ross, Wilson, and Joseph stepped on the fields, they were studs. Maybe not NFL ready as sophomores and freshmen, but without a doubt studs. So, the logic could follow, that there could be similar players in the Pirates stock that could be the same.
HOWEVER, what might be overlooked a bit in that analysis is that when the big three came into the fold, the Pirates were sporting some pretty veteran linebackers behind them.
Still, there are certainly some studs in the making at ECU, particularly at the defensive tackle position. In my opinion, Michael Brooks is an NFL caliber DT in the making. He was simply amazing as a true freshman last season and it was not obvious when he was in the lineup. Looking back a year earlier, Robert Jones had a similar freshman season before an injury tagged him with a second-year redshirt. Throw Antonio Allison, Maurice Mercer, and the veteran Josh Smith into the mix and you have the makings of a unit that could be very, very good and not in three years.
It’s on the outside that I am most nervous for our Pirates. Wilson and Marcus Hands and Scottie Robinson, and Zack Slate over the years have been talented ends who have allowed the bruisers inside to flourish. But, I don’s see even the makings of a game-ready defensive end in the Pirates inventory – at least not one that you would say is a potential impact guy for 2010.
I am hoping I am wrong, but aside from maybe Marke Powell – who will be nice in the edge rush capacity – the Pirates really appear to have a group of converted linebackers trying to man the outside.