If our beloved Boilermakers are going to make a run to the 2012 Big Ten Championship game there are several factors that have already helped us out. First, we play in a division where Penn State and Illinois are in transition, Ohio State is ineligible, and Indiana is Indiana. Second, we have a boatload of returning players on both sides of the ball that bring experience. Third, we have our two toughest divisional games in Penn State and Wisconsin at home.
Much of that talent returns on the defense, where Kawann Short has announced a return, Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson give us some talented corners, and Ryan Russell can make The Leap. Sure we have some gaps to fill, but I am excited to see what E.J. Johnson, Joe Gilliam, Armstead Williams, and Mike Lee can do when we plug them in.
We'll also have a new voice behind them, as Tim Tibesar will be the new defensive coordinator and third in four years after Brock Spack gave us more than a decade of stability at the position. Tibesar replaces Gary Emmanuel, who left the program, and Donn Landholm, who will stay as linebackers coach.
Tibesar comes from the Montreal Alouettes, so if we continue our maddening refusal to cover the middle of the field on third down we'll know why because they normally punt on third down in the CFL. I do like what the blog Game Points said about him, however:
As for Tibesar leaving the Alouettes, it does not come as surprise considering that a College job has more stability than working at the professional level. Moreover, his coaching style was in sync with the NCAA game given his excellent work he did at Kansas State University.
That site went on to say that Tibesar's unit battled injuries all season long in a quest for a third straight Grey Cup:
In the last four losses of the season, the team defense gave up an astounding 38.2 points per game, 293 passing yards and had three total sacks. For those keeping precise score at home in the last three losses during this abyss, they had zero sacks. Thus it put a lot of pressure on the offense to carry the load.
Yikes! On the one hand, he took over a championship-caliber defense and it went into the toilet. On the other, we know more than others what injuries can do.
Tibesar's specialty on defense is linebackers, and that is an area where we can use some work. Dwayne Beckford is enrolled and was coming on late last year, but honestly Gerald Gooden did a better job in one game of dropping back in pass coverage than Beckford. Beckford also has continuing legal issues to work through. Will Lucas is a tackling machine on the edge, while Joe Holland must be replaced.
He does seem to know what to do with talent when he has it, as his Montreal bio states from his time at North Dakota and Kansas State:
Under his direction in 2007, the Wildcat defence ranked among the Big 12's best in sacks (2nd) and turnover margin (5th), while tutoring six players who went on to earn All-Big 12 honors.
Regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in all of Division II prior to his arrival at Kansas State, he originally joined the program as its special teams coordinator in 2005. Under his tutelage, K-State scored more special teams touchdowns - seven - than any team in the NCAA. The Wildcats led the country with a school-record three touchdowns on kickoff returns and ranked second nationally with three times on punt returns.
Overall, I think it is a pretty good hire. I don't question if we have talent defensively. The run defense was borderline dominant at times last year and we even figured out that it was, indeed, legal to cover the middle of the field on occasion on third down by the end of the year. I'm also encouraged that we forced seven turnovers in a bowl game. Yes, it was against a MAC team, but that is a metric ton of turnovers for any game.
I'm willing to give this guy a shot. Now if we can just pick a quarterback.