One of the big story lines heading into Saturday's game was senior Linebacker Christian Jones being suspended for the game against Bethune-Cookman. Redshirt sophomore Terrance Smith was given his first career start to take over Jones and he had a fantastic game. In his debut, Smith racked up 12 total tackles (5 solo, 7 assisted), 1 TFL, and 1 sack. Pretty phenomenal for a player's first career start. One of the questions that we have had since the off-season was how good the back-up linebackers would be if Telvin Smith or Christian Jones were unable to play. While it was against an FCS opponent and just one game, Terrance Smith proved that he can be a capable linebacker in this system.
Jimbo Fisher had a glowing review of the linebacker in his debut:
"I'm very proud of him. He's developing very much and getting a lot better in practice. I'm very proud of him, he stepped in for Christian (Jones) tonight and it looked like he played a very solid game. We'll look at the film and see, but he made plays"
Telvin Smith on Terrance and his production in his debut:
"It lets you know that any time his number his called, he can produce"
Jacobbi McDaniel on Smith's performance:
"It was real big. Me and Terrance Smith are some of the guys that are with the 2's. He knows his stuff, Terrance knows everything in and out. Tonight his name was called, and he stepped up."
Terrance Smith on his first start:
"I was very excited, just to get out there on the field and get those quality looks. Pretty much knew this my first opportunity so I just wanted to make the most out of it and show the people what I could do."
"They were running a lot of zone plays and I just read it right. I was able to come up and make some big tackles"
While Terrance Smith had a phenomenal game, another young player stood out to me in redshirt freshman defensive end Chris Casher. He was not credited with the start, but had a great game racking up 10 tackles and 2 TFLs. One of the main questions we had regarding the defense this year was the presence of a good pass rusher at the DE position. When Casher was recruited, he was expected to eventually be that guy. While many think he might still have a year until he is there, he showed that he progressing quite well. He did not get any sacks but was consistently getting in the back field and disrupting what BCU was trying to run.
I got to talk to Chris Casher a for a bit after the game and asked him about his performance.
On his progression at the defensive end position:
"It's coming along, I'm getting better every day. I was able to get after the quarterback a little bit, my footwork was off a few times. My biggest thing is getting better each day."
On his pash rush moves that he is developing, I specifically asked him about the spin move.
"That's one of my favorites, but I really just take what they give me"
On the slow starts for the defense:
"It's just a matter of us waking up, playing hard from the jump. We can't do that, when play other teams that slow start will hurt us. We're going to work harder this week in practice and hopefully that won't happen again."
While the defense is still learning this complicated new system under Pruitt, it's refreshing to see some of these young guys step up and make some big plays. It should also be noted that Matthew Thomas had a pretty big game. He had two sacks coming off the edge for the Noles.
The defense has definitely been a bit shaky with a quarter of the season in the books, but they will continue to learn the new system as the season goes on. Maryland will be a very good test for this team as well. Hopefully, by the Clemson game, the defense will have improved enough to limit Tajh Boyd and the Tiger's offense.