Best of the West - Defense - Week 4

Week 4 was like a music festival. Ahead of time, everyone’s talking about the big acts like Will Sutton, Kyle Van Noy and Derron Smith, but afterwards it was the lesser known bands like Leonard Williams, Nick Tenhaeff and Nevin Lawson that had the hipsters talking. I mean, Will Sutton was clearly better when nobody knew who he was.

Defensive Line:

BEST: Leonard Williams (DE USC) was unblockable. Since he’s not darft eligible until 2015 I wasn’t watching him as closely as some of his teammates, but he kept on just showing up on the screen. He’s big and fast, has a good spin move, and generally made life for Chukie Keeton and Utah State’s offense pretty damn rough with 3 TFLs. In a defense full of guys who will play on Sunday he was the best.

Honorable Mention: Williams’ teammate Morgan Breslin (USC) was no slouch himself. I categorize Breslin as a DE because even though he stands up, he really only plays along the line of scrimmage. He takes on OTs in the run game, and then blows by them on the edge or on the inside. 2 sacks, 3 TFLs, and 2 QB hurries in a single game is ridiculous. Ben Gardner (DE STAN) also had a hell of a game. 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, and 1 QB hurry is nothing to laugh at. He also, does a good job of making sure that the OT isn’t going to get to the LBs. He’s a big reason Stanford’s LBs are able to just run around and light people up. Gardner’s backup Josh Mauro came in and had some big plays too. 1 sack, 1 TFL, and an INT in limited time is impressive. It makes you wonder what he would do on another team. If you are looking for a backup that gets drafted this is your man. Will Sutton (DT ASU) is still pretty good. He just got beat by a great Stanford OL and gameplan that wasn’t going to let him get loose. He’s able to penetrate, but he’s got to learn to feel when something feels wrong. He can take himself out of plays, and doesn’t react to the play.

Linebackers:

BEST: Nick Tenhaeff (OLB SDSU) looked like a changed man against the Beavers. He’d make a tackle near the LOS on one play, and then run down the field with a TE on the nexts. He showed the veratility of a leatherman, and that’s something that teams will love. Definitely not an immeadiate starter, but the kinda guy who could make a team on special teams.

Honorable Mention: Speaking of versatility, it was evident that Bronco Mendenhall wanted to use Kyle Van Noy (OLB BYU) differently against Utah. He was split out guarding the slot about 50% of the snaps and was seen running downfield a lot more than I had seen him previously. His Shakira like hips were as good as ever, but just in a different role. He played much more of a Dion Jordan role which is never a bad thing. Hayes Pullard (USC) looks like he belongs in the NFL. I love the amount of ground he covers. He’s a force in the middle of the field. The only bad play I saw, was when Keeton rolled right to freeze Pullard, and it opened up a lane to throw to a WR for a TD. Stanford’s Trent Murphy and Shane Skov made is hard for ASU to get anything going in the 1st half as they were coming on a variety of blitzes or dropping back. It’s tough for a QB to account for both of them.

Defensive Backs:

BEST: Nevin Lawson (CB USU) showed he can cover the elite WRs by doing a good job on Lee and Agholor. He was physical with them, and was able to keep up downfield. Not great speed, but good enough to get the job done- 2 PBUs! I’ll look for him to have a great year against lesser competition. Next week against SJSU will be a good test to see if he can be dominant.

Honorable Mention: I love how Osahon Irabor (ASU) hits! He’s like Antoine Winfield out there. I’m not sure he has great cover skills, but if they are good enough NFL will want a guy who plays like he does. Derron Smith (FS FSNO) has great speed and instincts for the ball. He had a huge INT, and made a bunch of tackles. He can be a little too aggressive and overrun receivers, but overall I like his abilities.