Spring practice begins this week so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team.
Position Coach: Ernie Sims
Key departures: Andrew Mims (39 tackles, 1 TFL);
Key returnees: Antonio Grier (92 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT); Dwayne Boyles (68 tackles, 3 TFL); Demaurez Bellamy (30 tackles, 2 TFL)
Key additions: Minnesota transfer DJ Gordon (23 career games, 5 tackles); Coffeyville CC transfer Jhalyn Shuler (88 tackles, 11 TFL in two years at CCC)
WIth new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop going back to a more traditional 4-2-5 alignment, the Bulls will have plenty of depth (finally) at the linebacker spot to provide more havoc plays, and help shore up a defense that was continuously gashed for chunk gains.
A large part of the issue was the lack of pressure and run stopping by the defensive line, and with a re-tooled DL, playmakers like Antonio Grier, and Dwayne Boyles should be freed up to make more splash plays.
In 2019, Boyles and Grier combined for 21 TFL and seven sacks. In the two season since, they combined for just 21.5 TFL, and six sacks.
The major change? Switching from a 4-2-5 to 3-3-5 defensive front.
Boyles excelled at rushing the passer and getting into the backfield while Grier clogged up the middle and cleaned up anything left behind. With those two playing in positions better suited for their style, the important number should also see an uptick.
And frankly, there’s behind competition behind them now. Minnesota transfer DJ Gordon didn’t transfer to Tampa to ride the pine, and Coffeyville CC transfer Jhalyn Shuler will also throw his hat in the ring for playing time.
Demaurez Bellamy has always be a bit of a heat-seeking missile on the field, and by all accounts, he’s taken the next step in his progression as a linebacker during winter workouts.
Much like the offensive line, this unit was blessed with the extra year due to COVID, and then went and got more capable bodies to mix in as well.