In the second installment (read through the Offense here) of our PGA All-Pigskin scouting report, we head across the line of scrimmage to check out the preseason defensive depth chart highlighting the baddest dudes on tour. The 4-3 scheme features speed and power all over the field, and with the proper tutelage and nutritional oversight this squad could rival a powerhouse outfit like the Oakland Raiders of the last ten years, or at least my 2011 Columbia Lions squad that ran a train on their Ivy League opponents (Go Lions!!!). As we
demand expect our offense to score at will, there’s legitimate concern about the endurance and depth on the defensive side of the ball, so we’ve stockpiled backups at certain positions.
DEFENSIVE END (we want a stable of ‘dogs’ because you can never have too many ‘dogs’)
- Robert Karlsson (Left End) – This burly Scandinavian is an absolute bomb threat on the left side. Flashes the ability to dip, rip, replace and run. Can throw guys out of the bar. The dark places he’s journeyed to with his golf game will only help fuel the monster inside. Measurables are through the roof (he’s a Jay Bilas approved 6’5″) and this Big Swede flashes serious upside. Possesses active hands, but you’d like to see more burst and consistency. Boom/bust potential.
- Matt Kuchar (Right End) – Kuch may look soft and kind, but he’s the grown up version of that quiet, coachable, hard-working high school teammate. All he needs to do is keep contain and hold gaps. The former junior tennis star’s size, steady demeanor, and sneaky athleticism make him perfect opposite the explosive Big Swede. He’s a fiery coach’s project; at practice and in film sessions expect tirades such as, ‘Hey Kuch, you went to Georgia Tech right? Don’t understand the laws of physics? Get your f***ing ass down, SON! You have to gain depth to get leverage.‘ Or, ‘Hey Kuch, wipe that f**king smile off your face and quit saying ‘my bad, coach’. And if you can’t do that, I got something else you can help with…you can eat my ass cuz I’m not screaming for my health, SON!‘ We’d throw Kuchar into the crucible early in two-a-days and watch him sink or swim. We have the feeling he’ll menace gridiron foes just like he’s menaced foes in country club sports.
- Henrik Stenson (Depth) – The other large Swede has exactly the volatile demeanor and competitive drive (i.e. ‘motor’) to bring it on every play. At 6’1″, he’s longer than many of the NFL’s best and baddest dudes on the d-line (James Harrison and Von Miller both 6 foot), but will still have the pad level to dip and rip on slower tackles (looking at you, De Jonge). One look at the post-round carnage to the locker below, and we see the intensity Big Stense is capable of in the heat of battle.
- Harris English (Developmental Keister-Stash) – As evidenced by the role he’ll be filling, English will be working hard on scout-squad honing his craft, in the weight room with our S&C staff (only world-class physios for Team NLU), and with our nutritionist (two words: MASHED POTATOES!!!). May also consider hooking him up with our pharmacist (we’ll announce our pharmacological staff, and other coaching/front-office spots, in Part 3) to provide the choicest “supps” to aid in the growth process. The frame is there – he’s a legit 6’3″ with a jumbo jet wingspan and the bone structure to load on 45-50 lbs. of lean muscle. The combo of his South Georgia upbringing, SEC roots (UGA product) and his insanely solid mental approach instill confidence that he’ll stay focused on his development. This guy’s work to gain #CertifiedStud status on Tour in such a short time screams value-play and high-upside potential. Like JP Morgan, he’s too damn big to fail.
- Andres Gonzales (Right DT) – While this bit player/NLU fringe-favorite hasn’t quite established himself on Tour (yet…we hope), that isn’t an issue on the gridiron. The lettuce, the facial landscaping, the pragmatic mindset…he’s the quintessential BIG NASTY. Built like a sequoia, he’ll be tasked with playing assignment football – no freelancing allowed – and taking pride in stopping the run. Great locker room presence.
- KJ Choi (Left DT) – ‘The Tank’ is the A gap plug (sexual innuendo unintentional). He’s a veteran anchor to build around as the former professional weightlifter (squatted over 350 lbs. as a 13 year-old, seriously) plays stout in the trenches with textbook posture, tremendous pad level, and a hilariously low center of gravity. Marginal height and weight hurt his stock a bit, but his lateral quickness and “brick”-like physique should be perfect on early downs and short-yardage situations. May struggle with penetration but will absolutely hold his ground and be active in both gaps. As you’ll see with our LB’s, we can afford to skimp a little bit on size in this spot. Our marketing department is really riding us about growing the game over in Asia – Choi will do wonders for that. Dude’s a rockstar.
- Adam Scott (Strongside LB) – The SAM Backer spot begs for a broad, lanky specimen who can set the edge on sweeps, bring the noise on the blitz, and match up with TE’s down field. Scott’s frame, work ethic, and the loose screw every Australian has make him a match made in heaven for this spot. Digging deeper in the film room, expect his lateral quickness and change of direction to be as effortless as his golf swing, and we know he’ll be a gym rat and film disciple under the watchful tutelage of a guy he’s pretty familiar with on our S&C staff. His gait is a bit rigid but we’ll get that straightened out in no time, as our plyometrics program is wayyy too strong.
- Lee Westwood (Middle LB) – An important distinction here is that we’re highlighting a hybrid version of Lee – he’ll need to keep his newly acquired fitness while layering on the excess pounds he carried in the early aughts to pack enough punch as our Mike. This is one where we’re really proud of our scouting department for their willingness to think outside the box, seeing not only the past and present but having the confidence in our staff to mold him into a combination of those. Westwood Version 1.5 is your classic run stopper (a la Brandon Spikes). He’ll probably be a casualty of our need to sub in the nickel package on 3rd down (we’ve got that covered below), but this bowling ball is an absolute necessity on running downs. Lee’s a tough cookie and we respect his grind. His relatively recent move to Florida is a welcome sight (as we’ll send him over to nearby Muck City to work on his footwork), as is his split with Sean Foley (shows a distaste for godawful hair and haberdashery – we expect our guys to look good on AND off the field). We expect to see a little of this from 1.5 when preseason camp ends:
- Bo Van Pelt (Weakside LB) – A 6’4″ 200 lb corn-fed Willy backer prototype from America’s heartland? Say no more. A bit stiff (lose the plaid collars, bud), but displays the versatility to work in space or in a phone-booth, a load on the blitz. His recent form is shaky but the week-in, week-out consistency he showed from 2009-2012 signifies solid practice habits. Another positive: he’s a man! A negative: he’s forty (actually the Oklahoma State product is 38, but close enough). On an extremely veteran LB corps, he’ll serve as the quiet killer.
- Jason Day (Free Safety) – Another young Aussie with something to prove. Anyone who’s seen Jay Day in person knows he’s all girth – an efficient, dense package. There’s a controlled power and swagger to his game on the course that translates well into the mentality required of the lonely, last line of defense. This Steve DiMeglio article from 2011 highlights that physicality was ingrained in Day at a young age. He admits to ‘being an alcoholic when [he] was 12 and was a constant combatant in fistfights at school,’ until being shipped off to boarding school at 14. Sounds like a free safety to me! We picture his game as similar to that of Ed Reed during his days at The U – lean power, precision, intensity. Back-end sniper.
- Strong Safety – Big Cat – Plays with a #KILLHOUSE mentality (a la LaRon Landry). Tiger will prowl the flats and be active in the run game (has always displayed a real penchant for relentlessly plugging holes, both on and off the field). Displays phenomenal back-pedal, of course, as Tiger’s a physical specimen. A cool customer under pressure, Big Cat hunts for the Ronnie Lott ‘woo lick.’ Medical red-flags surrounding surgically repaired knee, Achilles, and face (we’re looking at you, Elin!). Concerns abound regarding issues with situational discipline in man coverage, on play-action, and after the whistle (possibly after hours as well). He’s our enforcer and tone-setter- frosty with opponents, fans, and media alike!
- Billy Horschel (Blanket Corner) – We look to the SEC (Florida, specifically) for our tandem of starting corners. Billy-Ho’s technique is rock solid; fluid hips, swivels extraordinarily well. Just the latest in a long lineage of Gator CB’s – similar to Jannoris Jenkins (minus the 17 kids with 12 different women). Only knock is well-documented vertical struggle, which we think is overblown (as evidenced below). Mental makeup is even stronger than his physical build, a student of the game – this guy establishes permanent residence in opponents’ heads. Consistent. Focused. Maniacal. Talks all game. Think Richard Sherman. Possesses above average size for a corner. No doubt he’ll look crispy in his uniform. Has proven he can hang with up-tempo offenses, as he’s the Tour’s answer to Chip Kelly on the pace-of-play spectrum.
- Camilo Villegas (Cover Corner) – As promised, another Gator (SEC speed kills) holds down the fort opposite Horschel Island. Our staff will have ZERO apprehension when they decide to play man coverage on the outside. Camilo’s flexibility and footwork are both on-point. Fiery competitor who will help establish a Latin American pipeline. Reads defenses well, decisive, but concerns about ability in run support; may find himself the nail more often than the hammer.
- Rory Sabbatini (Nickel Corner) – We tabbed Saabo here as much for his mental skills as his physical traits – opponents typically want to murder him after spending an afternoon squaring off against this grimy competitor. Fits the bill from a physical perspective, though getting on in years now and not a great cover man. Would have to hide him a bit. Not an every-down player but a luxury off the bench. Think De’Angelo Hall.
SPECIAL TEAMS (Defense)
- Fred Funk (Long snapper) – Wily vet obviously is throwing tight, happy spirals out of his ass on punts too.
- Rory McIlroy (Punter) – Not to be confused with Roddrick Muckelroy, shows off the excellent footwork you’d expect from a soccer fan. Increased work with his physio should translate into improved hang time on the field. Still want to see more consistency but has shown that his accuracy is solid. Buttery wedge game suggests sneaky-good directional/situational skills. Has a long career ahead of him.
The third and final installment drops next week and will feature a deep-dive into the Coaches, Front Office/Support Staff, Broadcast Crew and some Honorable Mentions who didn’t make the big squad but will be given the chance to get reps on our Scout Team. As always we’re open to suggestions, so share your thoughts in the comments section below or on twitter (@NoLayingUp). Is our LB Corps TOO meaty? Did Jason Kokrak’s measurables deserve a slot somewhere? Are there glaring omissions? Is anyone on the squad a total pretender who our scouts totally whiffed on? Let us know!