Gridiron on the Plains: What Happens at Defensive End in 2016?

I was just minding my own business writing my 5 things for the defensive line and I started to worry. No, not about 2015. Everything is going to be just fine. I’m worried about 2016. Well, we’ve all known that 2016 is going to have an influx of JUCO players and/or very young players that are going to contribute on the defensive line. And I’ll be honest, I dislike thinking a year ahead because a lot can happen in a year, but I can’t help myself.

As mentioned above, we’ve talked about the line, but I feel like I’ve mainly been concerned about the defensive tackles and not so much about the lone defensive end spot (yeah, I said it, there’s just one real defensive end in this scheme normally). At the very least, the defensive tackle spot has Breiden Fehoko and Broderick Washington and Anthony Smith. So there’s at least some scholarship players there.

But has anyone else given any consideration as to who will be taking over for Branden Jackson at defensive end next year?

Door #1: Andre Ross (6-2/245)

Ross is listed as a linebacker and I think he was out all spring with an injury. Ross entered the program with a bit of fanfare, being a guy that was from a small town, Calvert, and was going to take time to develop. If Ross plays this year, then this door #1 disappears because Ross is a senior, but he does have a redshirt available.

Door #2: Talor Nunez (6-4/263)

Nunez is just a sophomore, so at the very least he’s going to be around for a while, but I think that weight is a bit iffy and he’s still a walk-on that appears to be this team’s best option at defensive end — right now. Again, lots can change, but look up and down the roster and there just aren’t any defensive ends around. I think Nunez is well-liked by the coaching staff and I get the feeling he’s a hard worker, but he does get a bit overwhelmed playing defensive end and has a hard time making plays against 300+ offensive tackles.

Door #3: Gary Moore (6-5/224)

In order for this option to really be viable, Moore’s will need to add about 25 or 30 pounds to be an effective strongside defensive end. Moore has mainly worked at that linebacker spot and he’s somewhat of a tweener in the sense that he may be too small for strongside defensive end or there may be more competition at the outside linebacker spot (i.e. Robertson’s spot). The ideal situation is for Moore to pack on the weight, but I know that’s not the most healthy situation. You’d like for this to happen naturally. I still have my doubts because Moore’s been on campus for a couple of years and the weight game hasn’t really happened.

Door #4: JUCO?

If I had to guess, this is the most likely scenario. We’ve detailed a handful of defensive tackles and defensive ends from the JUCO ranks and we’re working on Part II of that series, but if Nunez isn’t ready for prime-time and Moore doesn’t add weight, then this is it, unless you ask one of your defensive tackles to play defensive end. If that happens, then you’re probably not going to be getting to the passer as much as you did this year or you shouldn’t have that sort of expectation.

If you would have asked me before the spring I would have said that it most likely would have been Gary Moore, but he’s really undersized, or maybe it would have to be a JUCO player. You also have Andre Ross, who seems to be injured quite a bit and I have questions about his baby deer skin as he was out with an injury all year. After the spring, is it totally out of the question that Talor Nunez is the guy that’s in line to be the guy? Prior to the spring, Nunez was in the 240 range and played off the edge, but by the time that the spring weight increases were released, we find out that Nunez is in the 6-4/263 range and plays on the edge and he’s the only player on the roster that has the requisite height and weight to play defensive end as well as can stay healthy and be on the field.

Photo via Charles Henry via Flickr


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