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One Less Day Til Football Season, Post 7: Defensive End

Yeah, I posted some stuff on the weekend. What are you going to do? Expect me not to post stuff today also? Cry about it? Look, the point is, I have more of these posts to write with only a limited amount of time until fùtbol actually happens, hell, I think the team starts practicing this week. Gotta keep truckin.

Days Left Til Football Season: 32

Who dun it?: 2010 was NU's first year sans Corey Wootton, and with Woot on the Bears, Vince Browne continued to be a beast, with more beastliness than ever before: seven sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss. Browne looked to be the best defensive end in the Big Ten after putting up five sacks and two forced fumbles in the season's first five weeks, but his production slowed a bit after that as opposing lines realized he was NU's only threat. The defensive end position was not a major threat at attacking the quarterback, and between the two guys who split time on the other side, senior Kevin Watt and junior Quentin Williams, and Browne's backup, sophomore Tyler Scott, the rest of his unit didn't record any sacks. 

Who's gone?: Everybody who played defensive end is back.

Respeck for Vince Browne?: 

I remember as a freshman feeling somewhat awestruck by Corey Wootton. He was enormous, probably the most physically imposing person I'd ever seen, and terrorized opposing defenses off the line. I also saw Vince Browne a few times. Less enormous, more frighteningly jacked, just about as physically imposing, and despite three sacks in the first game I ever saw in person, he seemed complimentary at a defensive end spot featuring Wootton and Mims.

Three years later, I don't feel any sort of campus-wide aura around Browne, now entering his senior season, despite alarmingly similar numbers: through three seasons, Wootton had 15.5 sacks and 32 TFL's, Browne has put up 16.0 sacks and 31 TFL's. He's scarily big and has explosion off the line, and just like Wootton, should be headed for the NFL, and without an injury like Wootton's, will probably have a more productive senior outing. I see two contributing factors why we haven't hyped up Browne as much: first off, Wootton's junior season - before a brutal knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl - was absolutely insane, the most dominant single season by an NU defender probably since the Fitzgerald era. (Disagree?) Secondly, the defense as a whole was so much better. In 2008, NU allowed 20.2 points per game, this year, 29.0 points per game. Where Wootton had a bonafide defense behind him and to his sides - his fellow ends put up 7.5 sacks and drew a lot of attention - Browne has no help - you know, zero sacks from his fellow defensive ends and only 1.5 from the defensive tackles. 

Opposing o-lines have thrown everything they have at Browne, yet he's still been difficult to stop. Let's give him some props. 

Who's got next?: With nobody graduating, NU's defensive end spot should have the same crew as last year, as Browne pushes to be an All-American, if not, first team all-Big Ten. But there's a tweak: Quentin Williams has apparently been shifted over to be Browne's backup while Tyler Scott is pushing for the starting spot against Watt. Scott purportedly has made major improvements in his physical capabilities and strength so he's more of a legit athlete than he was last year. 

Rodger's three wishes: 

1. For the love of all that is holy, give Vince Browne some help: He's fighting through a double team and a running back and getting sacks. The other side should be comparatively unblocked. I know it's very hard, but, you're Big Ten defensive ends. Play like it. 

2. Scott over Watt: Not to disparage Kevin Watt, who has been serviceable in two years of playing time, but hasn't shown anything unbelievable. He'll obviously have a pivotal role on the line, but fresh blood can't hurt. If Scott is as improved as Adam Rittenberg and co. over at the ESPN Big Ten blog seem to think, he should be able to match Watt's production at the least - it's worth a shot. Worst case scenario, pressure from Scott pushes Watt to perform the best he has in his senior campaign.

3. A better/real nickname for Vince Browne: His name isn't fun to say like Corey Wootton's. I nominate "The Browne Town Express".