Brent Key held over some of the staff members after the school removed his interim tag. One of those coaches was defensive coordinator, Andrew Thacker. Thacker has been the DC for five years and his results have been a mixed bag. One thing that can’t be disputed is the fact that he has done well with a handful of individual players. Unfortunately for him, that success has left him with some key roles to fill this season.
Keion White is off to the NFL and GT has to find someone to replace his 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. That won’t be an easy task but the group as a whole could be more likely to produce this season. Sylvain Yondjouen is a veteran option at the defensive end spot who should take a step forward as the top pass rusher on the outside. He and Kyle Kennard are my best bet to start at the end spots.
D’Quan Douse is the most productive returner up front. Bryan Hudson will have his hands full as Douse is a solid pass rusher from the interior. Zeek Biggers literally lives up to his name. At 6-6/336, he is one of the biggest linemen UofL will see this year. Markius Scott is the likely starter next to Douse and comes in at 6-4/291. The line doesn’t have a lot of size up front but they have some guys with solid athleticism.
Tech is replacing starters at linebacker but I think they have a couple of good options to choose from. Trenilyas Tatum finished last season with 31 tackles as a backup. He should step into one of the middle linebacker spots with an easy transition. The other spot seems to be more up in the air and the player that stood out to me in the spring game was Braelyn Oliver who is a transfer from Minnesota. Andrew White and Paul Moalo also transferred in and will be a part of the rotation at the very least. While I don’t expect any of these guys to be key playmakers, they do have experience and skill.
Defensive back is probably the best position group for this defense. Plenty of experience returns and Kenyatta Watson played extremely well in the spring game as a new potential starter. Myles Sims is a very big corner who returns for his fifth year at corner. These guys are both physical and they run well for their size. K.J. Wallace transferred in from Notre Dame last year and had a rough year in the slot. Another year in the system will likely help him, but I think he will be the player to watch as he matches up with UofL’s slot receivers.
Safety is the deepest and most experienced group on the roster with three players returning with starting experience. LaMiles Brooks is the top returner in interceptions, tackles, and PBUs. He made a good amount of plays last season in the games that I watched. Clayton Powell-Lee also had a strong season last year and returns at the other safety spot. Jaylon King rounds out the group and provides legit depth and versatility for Thacker.
Tech runs a base nickel package with five defensive backs on the field, so it will be important for UofL to run the ball well against a light front. Thacker may mix things up and play King in the nickel spot to add more size and a better tackler but then he has to cover. At this moment, I wouldn’t say that UofL has an advantage here but it’s fair to say that they should.