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Defense rebuilds without Biermann
Colt Anderson has an interesting way of measuring the impact of his hits.
Certainly the roar of a packed crowd is evidence Montana’s preseason All-American strong safety has made his presence felt. Fumbles, drops and hesitant behavior on the part of alligator-armed receivers also serve as indicators.
But Colt’s way of calculating is, shall we say, more cerebral.
“I measure my hits by the way I feel after the hit,” he said Saturday after the first full-contact scrimmage for the 2008 Griz at the River Bowl. “If I’m a little dingy and the other guy is a little dingy, I know it’s a good hit. But if the guy pops up, I know I didn’t get ‘em as good as I could have.”
Ahh, the art of intimidation. It can be a beautiful thing on the football field.
It serves as 12th man for college football’s best defensive units. It can disrupt, distract and derail even the most well-tuned offensive engine.
The Griz defense had an intimidation thing going last season. When you’ve got a sackmaster like Kroy Biermann who is also capable of tracking down a receiver 46 yards upfield and ripping him to the ground like a rag doll, it’s a safe bet the opposition is going to remember - along with future foes that see him on tape.
Biermann wasn’t there for Saturday’s scrimmage because he’s busy racking up sacks for the Atlanta Falcons. It seemed sort of strange, like watching the Packers minus Brett Favre.
Without Biermann, opposing quarterbacks will feel more comfortable setting up to throw against Montana. That’s not a knock on the current defensive front. It’s just that offenses were so concerned with Biermann that it made everyone else’s job easier.
This year the onus falls on the secondary to come through if the sacks and hurry-ups don’t come as often. It’s comforting to know Anderson and Shann Schillinger are impressive talents at the safety positions. The scary part is the corners are green, which was made clear Saturday in the success of quarterbacks Cole Bergquist and Andrew Selle.
“We’ve made great strides, but we also have a long ways to go before Sept. 6,” Schillinger said of Montana’s defense, which will be tested by a Cal Poly offense that lost just one starter from 2007 when it led the nation in total yards. “The thing I like is our effort. When you’re young, you’re going to have a few mistakes, but we need to try to not make the same mistake twice.
“We have some leaders on defense and you have to show some of the younger ones. Help them out. But it’s the game of football, and you have to get yourself ready at a certain point, know when to flip the switch on.”
Two freshmen and two junior college transfers are vying for the starting jobs at cornerback. Trumaine Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound freshman from Stockton, Calif., has been impressive in practice.
Montana does have some experience at corner in senior Ciarre Campbell and junior Joe Smith. Unfortunately, both have been slowed by injuries.
But not to worry. The Griz defense has performed well with young corners in the past (ex: freshman Jamaine Olson in 2007). There’s reason to believe 2008 will bring more of the same.
After all, defense is as much about desire as experience. The two most impressive hits in Saturday’s scrimmage were delivered by guys trying to make a name for themselves - true freshman linebacker Alex Shaw and junior free safety Tim Anderson, a former Loyola Sacred Heart standout.
As long as the Griz can come up with 11 defenders willing to get “dingy” with it like Anderson, they’ll be fine.
By Bill Speltz