5 Potential Breakout Players to Watch: Defense
The beauty of college football is that every year players step out of nowhere and make a difference. Some may be transfers, some may be incoming freshmen, and others may be players who worked on their craft for a few years and everything has finally clicked. This year is no different as players have taken a leap and will now be counted on to be impact players. We are focusing today on the defensive side of the ball which has been really impressive so far in fall camp. Last year I think we nailed a couple of the names on our breakout list as we recognized both Ryan Earith and Logan Backhaus. The others all had nice seasons and will look to continue that upward trajectory in 2018. Overall this summer the defense is playing fast and physical. I'm really looking for this unit to take a big step forward this season and become a dominant, shutdown, hit-you-in-the-mouth type of defense.
#69 Krockett Krolikowski was one injury away from playing last year as a true freshmen. He dressed and traveled with the team for much of the season. However, he really burst onto the scene this past spring. The native of Winner is very powerful and is quick off the line of scrimmage. The 6'2, 285 defensive tackle anchors well and has shown a knack for defeating blocks and getting after the quarterback. It should be fun to see him dominate the next four years.
#7 Seven Wilson played as a true freshmen last season and was a key contributor on the special teams coverage units. However, the sophomore linebacker has forced his way onto the field for meaningful defensive snaps this season. Seemingly every time a big play was made during fall camp, Seven was around the ball. He is fast and very physical. He is a sound tackler and just appears to be a playmaker.
#21 Don Gardner had a very good fall camp in 2017 also but his season was cut short due to an injury in the home opener against Duquesne. The Sophomore is 100% healthy and has really flashed this fall providing tight coverage and getting his hands on a lot of passes. Don has great football instincts and brings a really physical style to the position. The Jacks have a wealth of good corners so it should be fun to see what he does with his opportunities.
#13 Malik Lofton is a redshirt freshman but plays with the confidence of an upperclassmen. Throughout camp he has provided great coverage and plays with a ton of excitement. During my pre-season interviews, Coach Jackson (CB Coach) credited Malik for being a great student of the game and asking TONS of questions. This knowledge has apparently transferred over to the practice field because Malik has been making plays all camp.
#27 Brandon Snyder is the transfer from Iowa that we have all heard about. Many were uncertain what his role would be transferring just days before fall camp started. He is coming off two knee injuries and only played limited snaps last season before the injury plus he didn't have any spring practice or summer workouts to get into the new playbook. However, he is just too fast, too strong, and too physical to keep off the field. He has shared that the scheme is very similar to what Iowa used and that his teammates in the safety room has helped ease his transition. Snyder is an absolute difference maker and I would expect to see him all over the place making plays just like he has been throughout camp.
The list could go on of players who will step up and make big contributions in 2018 but for the sake of list building, I just chose 5. Zy Mosley, Xavier Ward, and Levi Brown are also names that I would expect to make major contributions in 2018.