Note: "Rank" refers to team rank
|Rank ||Player ||Yr ||Pos. ||Game ||Tackles||Assisted||Total
3. Tackles for loss
4. Unit stats
Forced Fumbles - 0
Rushing yards per attempt allowed - 5.32 (111th)
Rushing TD allowed - 6 (94th)
This is a situation, once again, where I'm dishing out a passing grade largely due to improvement. Not that you could really get any worse than last year's 5.78 yards per carry surrendered and 50 - count, em - 50 rushing TDs coughed up. Now not all that is the D line's fault obviously, but a good chunk of it has to be.
Now, it's 2009, and there's some hope that the line can put the past behind them. The 5.32 yards per attempt allowed aren't a monumental improvement, but considering we averaged close to 7 until the UW and Hawai'i games last season, I'll take it. The unit needs to force some fumbles now - only linebackers have been able to accomplish that feat this season. Still, there seems to be a modest improvement in goal line defense and keeping the other guys out of the end zone. The competition average two rushing TDs per game this year. Last year it was almost four. Of course, USC may cause some serious regression today.
I'm not sure whether it's good news or bad news, but Travis Long is emerging as the star of this unit. Good news because he's a freshman and the sky is the limit going forward. It's also bad news because with an injured Kevin Kooyman we have no upperclassman willing to step up and make the plays we need. Long leads the Cougar linemen in tackles, tackles for loss, and is tied for the lead in sacks with one. It's disheartening, though, that the highest a Cougar ranks on the team in total tackles is eighth. Also scary is that outside of Long's 14 tackles, no one else on the line has more than four (Kooyman). That means a lot of guys are getting past the first line of defense and running into the linemen and the secondary. Of course, it also simply shows that with the exception of Stanford, we've played some pass happy teams.
That's where the role of quarterback pressure comes in. And so far, there hasn't been enough. The Cougs are forced on some plays to drop back and play coverage to make up for our lack of depth in the defensive backfield (Plus, the defensive backfield is admittedly bad). And that's led to fewer hurries than I'd like to see, especially against our pass-crazed opposition. Encouraging, though, are our four team sacks - 1.33 per game - that put us in a tie with a ton of other teams for 74th nationally. Want to feel better about the Cougar D? That ties us with LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Washington. It even puts us ahead of Michigan, Virginia Tech and Arizona State. The downside? It's a per game stat (boooo) based on small sample size and the fact we've played some fairly weak opposition.
HOW TO GET THE GRADE UP: Kevin Kooyman will help accomplish that just by getting healthy and stepping on the field. The rest of the line, defensive tackles especially, need to pick up some slack and make some plays. More tackles, certainly, but also more pressure and forced fumbles. The D line has to keep up its current pace against tougher, Pac-10 competition. That's going to be really difficult with the likes of Jahvid Best and Joe McKnight running circles around us. Still, they have to try, and they have to keep 2009 from turning into 2008 Part II.