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There's always next year: Which Dawgs are going to be disappointing us in 2014 (DL and LB)

Scott Cunningham

We'll revisit these looks over the spring and summer when position battles warm up and that date with the Clemson Tigers gets a little closer, but let's continue the series by focusing in on the defensive front seven. You've seen the entire offensive side of the ball. I'm using the current roster from, and including the 2014 signing class commitments as of the time of writing (since that can change). It's hard to say exactly what sort of defensive front new DC Jeremy Pruitt will want to be running, so I'll try to touch on both 3 and 4 man front possibilities.

Pure DT: Chris Mayes (Jr) Toby Johnson (Sr) John Taylor (So) John Atkins (rsFr) Mike Thornton (Sr) Moose Johnson (rsFr) Lamont Galliard (Fr)

DT/DE: Ray Drew (Sr) Sterling Bailey (Jr) Josh Dawson (Jr)

DE/OLB: Jordan Jenkins (Jr) Leonard Floyd (So) James Deloach (Jr) Davin Bellamy (rsFr) Brandon Burrows (Sr) Keyon Brown (Fr)

Pure LB: Amarlo Herrera (Sr) Ramik Wilson (Sr) Reggie Carter (So) Johnny O'Neal (So) Tim Kimbrough (So) Ryne Rankin (So) Shaun McGee (rsFr) Paris Bostick (rsFr) Detric Dukes (Fr) Kosta Valvas* (Sr) AJ McDonald* (Sr) Tommy Long* (So) Dillard Pinkston* (So)

* = walked on

OK, that may be a bit confusing, so I'll try to break it down for a 4-3 depth chart and a 3-4 one. If it's a 4-3...

DE: Jenkins Floyd

DT: Mayes Thornton

DT: Johnson Taylor

DE: Drew Bailey

Sam: Carter Rankin

Mike: Herrera Kimbrough

Will: Wilson O'Neal

Or if a 3-4....

DT: Drew Bailey

Nose: Mayes Thornton

DT: Johnson Taylor

OLB: Jenkins Bellamy

OLB: Floyd Deloach

ILB: Herrera Carter

ILB: Wilson O'Neal

Looking at things, we could probably use another DT in this class whether we're using a 3-4 or a 4-3. Kendall Baker could be that DT if he's not an OT.  Of course, John Atkins could switch to an OT himself, as he has the size and feet for it and has played there before.  If we stick with a 3-4, another pass rushing OLB would be a good idea, and if we go 4-3 then another sideline-to-sideline type Will LB would probably be more beneficial.  If we can get a potential superstar (Lorenzo Carter, among others), you get it regardless.

As things stand though, we've got a pretty strong returning front 7. Mayes gives a great space eater inside, with Taylor providing another very mobile, very big body. Toby Johnson gives a pretty good pass rushing interior DL, able to work at any DT spot in a 3-4 or 4-3. We've got some good DT depth, but depending on Galliard there doesn't seem to be the type of impact penetrators you usually strive for in Atkins, Moose Johnson, and Thornton. Those 3 fit the control the inside and occupy blockers mold.

Drew stepped up in a big way as a pass rusher, and should be a focal point regardless of scheme. He's got the size and physicality to help against the run, and registered 6 sacks rushing the QB last year. Bailey looked more than capable of backing Drew up, while Dawson seems much better suited as a 4-3 DE than as a 3-4 DL.

Floyd and Jenkins are both potential first round NFL picks and excellent talents on the edge. Both are great pass rushers, while Jenkins is pretty good setting the edge against the run. Floyd could be the same sort of two way guy, but he'll need to add a good 20+ pounds this offseason to get there. Deloach had a lot of promise coming into last season but injuries killed his chances. If he's healthy, he and either Bellamy or Brown should be solid backups. If we play a 3-4, or a 4-3, they all can make good fits getting after QBs and working against opposing tackles. I don't expect much from Burrows after injuries have kept him off the field since he arrived.

Herrera and Wilson are rising seniors and both excellent inside players. Carter, Kimbrough, O'Neal, and Rankin all got work as freshman, and looked good during it. If either senior goes down, we shouldn't have much concern on who replaces them. 4-3 or 3-4, all 6 can work just fine at Mike, Sam (usually over the TE or slot WR), or Will (often tucked inside next to the Mike). LB should be a strength of the team regardless of what formation Pruitt decides to run.

Bostick shifted from S to LB last year while redshirting, and fits on special teams or as a Will LB in a 4-3. McGee looks like depth at OLB if we run a 3-4, and either DE or Sam LB if we go with a 4-3, after redshirting. Dukes is the only newcomer we've got at LB, and he could work inside in a 3-4, or at any of the 4-3 LB spots. And Kosta Valvas has stepped up well when needed on defense and been a key special teams man throughout his career.

So whether Pruitt wants to have 4 down lineman, or 3 in his scheme, we've got the personnel to do just fine provided good health. We're targeting a handful of big time playmakers for the front 7 still in recruiting (Elisha Shaw, Lorenzo Carter, among others), so expect one or two more names to join this crew between now and fall. But regardless of how things play out, we should be confident of the staff putting together a strong 2 deep in the front 7.