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Lorenzo Ward's Take on Who Will Step Up on Defense

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After a stellar 2011 season and Ellis Johnson taking a head coaching job at Southern Miss, Coach Spurrier looked inward and promoted Lorenzo Ward to full defensive coordinator just before the Capital One Bowl. After a 30-13 victory over the Huskers and a history-making 11 wins, the attention has shifted to the 2012 season. While several key defensive players from the 2011 season have graduated, including Melvin Ingram, Travian Robertson, Rodney Paulk and Antonio Allen, the coaching staff feels like the squad coming back will be able to step up to the plate. 

"I told the entire defense, 'great accomplishments last season, but look around this room, a lot of the guys that helped make those accomplishments aren't here anymore,'" Coach Ward said on "Inside the Roost" Monday. "They started a couple weeks ago with the weight lifting and that's where it's going to start- in the weight room. We've got to make our own identity."

So who does Coach Ward think some of the impact players to step up next year will be?

FB-11 Devin Taylor vs. ECU.jpegDefensive line:

"Well, you definitely want to see Clowney and Devin Taylor (left) be two bookends for you and Kelcy Quarles has to do a great job for us. Kelcy played a lot for us last year at a three-technique and his speed and agility was a plus for us but he'll have to get bigger and stronger during off season and we expect him to, and expect him to be an even better player for us inside. Then we got to find another inside player, whether it's Byron Jerideau or a couple of the young freshmen that we redshirted, Deon Green or the two Dixon brothers. We gotta find someone that can help us on the inside and make that become a presence for us that we will feel good about."


"The guys we have on linebacker, you know Shaq [Wilson] will be a leader for us, we still can get better with Reggie [Bowens] at Will and can hopefully get guys like Cedrick Cooper, who was redshirted, an opportunity to stand out and to help us there."


"We have to find us a good spur. The spur is the key position that we have to find in this 4-2-5 system because we have to actually do a lot there. We have some good candidates. We lost Antonio Allen but Damario Jeffery will be there, Sharrod Golightly. DeVonte [Holloman] can see some reps there and then we have Marcquis Roberts who we redshirted because he had shoulder surgery.  So, we have some guys in that position but they have to step up and have a good spring."

Swearinger_091711_000127_TB.jpgDefensive Backs:

"I'm happy for Stephon [Gilmore, who declared for the NFL Draft]. I would have loved to see him come back, but we've got some young guys that we feel can step in and play. Victor Hampton showed signs of being a top-notch corner and we will have Akeem Auguste back with a lot of experience. He started three years for us so having him back for his fifth year (Auguste was redshirted in 2011 due to injury) is going to be a bonus for us. D.J. [Swearinger, left] is an experienced guy at free safety, expect him to be a big leader. I think he will, he'll be a guy that probably won't get a lot of reps this spring because of the surgery he had on his foot, but he'll be a leader and step up for us and he's done that this past season."

Hear more from Coach Ward in this Q&A.

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