JHoo’s Summer Reading ’08: Defensive Line

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Having just finished the offensive line column, it is nice to turn to the opposite side of the ball and get to discuss a defensive line unit that is all about experience and returning starters and certainty and … oh wait, never mind. Funny how quickly things can change, as well as how one change can have a ripple effect. That is the case for UVa’s 2008 defensive line, a line that was expected to be a predictable strength going into 2008 but is now a major question mark.

The Starters

Nate Collins

When it comes the Virginia’s 2008 defensive line, the strength of the line stands in sharp contrast to that of the offensive line. While the offensive line is strong outside and untested inside, after all, the defensive line is untested but anchored on the inside by a solid – perhaps better than solid – defensive tackle in Nate Collins .

The only returning starter on the line – and a player primed and willing to take more of a vocal leadership role on the defense – Collins is a physical freak who still seems to be learning just what his body can do and how good he can be. A high school linebacker (in addition to playing a host of other positions), Collins is an exceptional athlete for a tackle with very good straight-line speed combined with agility that is surprising for a player his size. As a result, Collins is that rare defensive tackle that really can excel as a “sprint” man on a line stunt (a gift I discussed last year in a 10 Things column), showing both the speed to get to the quarterback quickly and the agility to stay with the quarterback when he tries to dodge the rush.

While Collins already is a good pass rusher – and with the right guys around him, could be great – his run stopping game can be taken up a notch. Collins has the raw strength to hold his ground one-on-one, but his technique and reading ability still can mature. Collins also is not the kind of defensive