Following up on the offense report, here’s a look at what we’ve seen and heard so far regarding the progression of the UND Defense in spring practices:
– At corner, sophomore Deion Harris is positioning himself as the top guy and should be the starting left corner come fall, like we hoped. His progression and confidence are obvious so far this spring. Have we ever mentioned his freakish size and length for a corner? He will give the defense some flexibility to move him down inside if need be for matchups with bigger WRs and TEs as well, specifically in the red zone and on the goalline.
– At outside linebacker, sophomore Jake Disterhaupt is picking up where he left off at the end of his freshman campaign, being disruptive and noticeable. As a recruit out of high school, many were wondering which position he would fit best at. It appears that he has found his comfort level at OLB and will no doubt be a fixture there over the next 3 years. There’s no question he’s a top 3 guy at OLB right now and if his trend and path continues, we feel an argument could be made for him by the end of spring as the #1 overall OLB. With up and comer Dylan Harmston, Dayo Idowu, Brian Labat and Javen Butler, the depth is there for a steady rotation of fresh legs.
– Tajhe Hartley and Connor O’Brien are getting noticed at inside linebacker. O’Brien’s improvement will be valuable for depth and Hartley’s athleticism has been exciting to see at the least. You can tell he still needs more time mentally to gain confidence and play fast, but when he triggers you can notice it. Dylan Bakker is showing promise as a rotational guy as well.
– Jawon Johnson certainly looks the part as the starting safety opposite of Cole Reyes, who we believe will start playing the Flyer spot like we had hoped before spring ball. Johnson needs to work on his mental game and knowing where to be in the defense, which will lead to playing faster with more reps and confidence. We really like how he looks physically right now. Domo Blackmon is also making solid progress thus far and is jockeying himself into position as the 3rd man in the rotation at safety.
– Liking what we see at defensive end with sophomores Brandon Dranka and Drew Greely so far, which was to be expected given their experience as true freshman last season. Both will be counted on heavily and need to stay healthy. Alec Carrothers is also still showing progress and will no doubt be in the rotation. Depth is still a concern here however.
– At noseguard, Tank Harris is coming along nicely and showing promise but still needs time this spring and next fall. We think Austin Cieslak is making the transition inside where he probably best fits in the defense.