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2011 Miami Univ. Preview – Defense
Miami University LB Jerrell Wedge
Miami University LB Jerrell Wedge
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 10, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Miami University RedHawk Defense


Miami Univ. RedHawks

Preview 2011 - Defense


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- 2011 Miami Univ. Defense | 2011 Miami Univ. Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: The defense was the reason MU won the 2010 MAC Championship. Out of the blue, the defensive front was phenomenal at getting into the backfield and was strong against the run, and the production should continue with everyone returning on the line and Jerrell Wedge leading a terrific linebacking corps. The secondary is ridiculously small at corner, but very fast, while the safeties are experienced and productive. This might not be the most physical D in the MAC, but Pete Rekstis will have this group flying around. With all the experience returning, if there’s a slide, it’ll be on the coaches.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jerrell Wedge, 101
Sacks: Jason Semmes, 6
Interceptions: Evan Harris, Dayonne Nunley, 6

Star of the defense: Senior LB Jerrell Wedge
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Chris Wade
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Dayonne Nunley
Best pro prospect: Senior S Anthony Kokal
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wedge, 2) Kokal, 3) LB Ryan Kennedy
Strength of the defense: Experience, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Steady Run Defense, Corner Size

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The line was terrific at getting into the backfield last year finishing second in the MAC in both sacks and tackles for loss. The front four was aggressive and strong, allowing just 123 rushing yards per game and helping the cause for a D that came up with 35 sacks. There’s experience, depth, and lots and lots of aggressiveness. After relying on a slew of underclassmen last year, now this is an experienced, tough group that should be one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Combining forces at one end spot will be senior Will Diaz and junior Jason Semmes, and both can get into the backfield. The 6-3, 244-pound Semmes was dominant in the MAC title game and was the team’s top pass rusher finishing with 48 tackles with six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Quick off the ball, he has a great burst into the backfield and will likely be used even more this year as a disruptive pass rushing specialist. The 6-5, 251-pound Diaz made 12 tackles with three sacks and four tackles for loss. He’s a tall, rangy defender with good size and enough of a burst to do even more. He was listed as the starter coming out of spring ball, but Semmes will be tough to hold off.

Working on the other side, or the Buck position, will be 6-3, 240-pound junior Wes Williams after making eight tackles with a sack in a limited role. He got a few starts, but he was mostly a quick backup who can play a bit of a hybrid role and work as an outside linebacker if needed. He’ll combine with 6-1, 247-pound junior C.J. Marck , a strongside linebacker who made 49 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and eight tackles for loss, and now will work as an end. He’s a disruptive playmaker who came up with a key forced fumble in the MAC title game, and now he’ll work in a variety of ways.

Trying to clog up the middle on the nose is junior Mike Johns , a 6-4, 282-pound veteran who started the first two games of the year and finished with six tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. The starter in three of the first five games, he ended up working mostly as a big backup with good strength. 6-0, 296-pound senior Jordain Brown started the final eight games of last year at right tackle and has the bulk and the frame to be perfect on the nose. He’s a rock who came up with a key forced fumble to seal the win over Akron and finished the year with 30 tackles with two sacks and six tackles for loss. He’s quick enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis and is strong against the run.

Junior Austin Brown is a big, strong presence in the interior starting every game last year and earning Second Team All-MAC honors. The 6-2, 285-pounder made 53 tackles with three sacks and ten tackles for loss as a do-it-all force on the inside. Not only did he come up with the game-sealing stop to close out the MAC title game, but he also came up with two key blocked kicks earlier in the year. After doing a little of everything for the line, he’s a star, a leader, and the main man the line will work around. Backing him up will be 6-4, 259-pound sophomore Anthony Shoemaker who made a tackle for loss in his lone stop, and now will work as a quick interior pass rusher.

Watch Out For … Williams. He got a few starts and was decent, and now he’ll get more time and should be far more disruptive. He’s a quick pass rusher who should shine with all the attention needing to be paid to the other three spots.
Strength: Experience and pass rush. Everyone of note is back for a line that turned into a major positive on the way to MAC championship. The pass rush will come from all four spots and the reserves are good enough to form a deadly rotation.
Weakness: Most teams that could run the ball. The win over NIU was stunning for a variety of reasons, and mostly because the line stuffed the high-powered Huskie ground attack allowing just 92 yards. Missouri ran at will, Cincinnati blew up for 384 yards, and Ohio powered for 222 yards and five touchdowns. This is a good line that needs to get into the backfield to produce, but it’ll have problems against physical teams.
Outlook: If this isn’t the best line in the MAC, it’ll be No. 2. No one will have a better rotation and it’ll take a special effort to beat the RedHawks in sacks and tackles for loss. There’s good bulk for the inside, good speed on the outside, and enough experience across the board to be fired up about the possibilities.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Linebackers

State of the Unit: The linebackers should be terrific. MU has a fantastic recent tradition of linebackers, and while this might not be as good a corps as ones from a few years ago, the players and veterans are in place to be very, very good. The line is strong enough to allow the linebackers to motor free, and the stats should come.

The star of the linebackers and the entire defense is senior Jerrell Wedge , who led the team with 101 tackles with 3.5 sacks, a pick, five quarterback hurries, and 15 tackles for loss in the middle. Now the 5-9, 223-pound guided missile will work on the weakside to use his quickness and hitting ability to make plays all over the field. He’ll be an all-star who’ll do even more on the outside getting more chances to get into the backfield.

6-0, 222-pound junior Evan Harris is a terrific veteran who started the final 11 games of last year and finished second on the team with 94 tackles with two sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and six interceptions. A great tackler who was fantastic in pass coverage, the team’s Defensive Player of the Year will either take back the weakside job if Wedge moves back to the middle, or he could be moved around to find a spot for him somewhere in the equation. He’s way too good to be a reserve.

If Wedge stays on the outside, then 6-1, 235-pound senior Ryan Kennedy will be the main man in the middle after working mostly on the strongside. He only played six games thanks to knee problems, but he still made 35 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. After bulking up a bit over the last year, he’s now built for the spot on the inside, but he can’t stay healthy. He can’t be counted on for the entire year. If he’s right, though, he’ll be one of the team’s top tacklers. He’ll be backed up by sophomore Collin Boucher , a 6-2, 232-pound sophomore who didn’t do anything last year, but has the size and the range to be a factor against the run.

6-1, 226-pound sophomore Chris Wade is a smallish, dangerous option who spent last year as a special teamer and a reserve. The strongside defender has the toughness and the ability to be a big-time run stopper, and as one of the team’s strongest players he should be able to hold up to be one of the team’s top tacklers. 6-1, 196-pound sophomore Erik Finklea is built like a safety but has the toughness to hold his own on the strongside. He made eight tackles and a sack as a reserve, and now he’ll be a key part of the rotation.

Watch Out For … Wade. He has defensive lineman strength and the quickness to get all over the field in a hurry. Smart, tough, and talented, he could be a major factor right away on the outside.
Strength: Tacklers. Is Harris really going to be the No. 2 weakside defender? He’ll start somewhere combining with Wedge for around 200 tackles. Kennedy, if healthy, will be a lock to make 100 stops. Tackling won’t be a problem.
Weakness: Kennedy’s health. If he’s right, he’s a special statistical producer who should be an all-star. He won’t stay healthy. His knees are shaky enough that it’ll be asking way too much to count on him in the middle for the entire year. If and when he’s hurt, the configuration will have to be worked around.
Outlook: Wedge and Harris are all-star talents who’ll put up big numbers, and Kennedy is a playmaker who can produce as well as anyone in the MAC. There are options, there’s depth, and there’s plenty of upside for what should be one of the league’s best linebacking corps.
Unit Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: The secondary and the pass defense have been good for the last few years, but 2010 was different. The production was there in 2009 because everyone ran the ball on the front seven, and while a great pass rush helped out the cause last year, the defensive backs were solid. Loaded with veterans, the potential is there for an even better season after allowing just 211 yards per game.

The one big loss is Jordan Gafford, a good strong safety who was the leader and steadying force. Now it’ll be up to junior Pat Hinkel to take over and shine after finishing third on the team with 72 tackles with three picks at free safety. At 6-1 and 200 pounds he has excellent size and great range, and now he’ll get a chance to do even more against the run. Backing him up will be junior Justin Bowers , a 5-10, 206-pound hitter who’s like a smallish linebacker in the defensive backfield. More of a nickel defender than a strong safety, he made nine tackles in a limited role.

With Hinkel moving over, 6-0, 206-pound senior Anthony Kokal will get the first look at free safety after making 39 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four broken up passes as a spot starting strong safety. He made 105 stops two years ago as a free safety, and while he’s not an elite playmaker against the pass, he’s a sound veteran who knows what he’s doing. 6-3, 180-pound sophomore Dante Taylor got his feet wet in his first season making four tackles, and he has the size and the range to eventually be a good one somewhere in the safety rotation.

5-8, 165-pound sophomore Demetrius Quarles hit the weights hard and bulked up after starting out his career at 145 pounds. He stepped in and made 28 tackles and proved to be a strong open field tackler, and now he has to use his speed and quickness to do more when the ball is in the air. Talented enough to be wanted by Virginia Tech and a slew of other ACC teams, he has shutdown ability against the smaller receivers.

Somewhere in the mix will be 6-1, 176-pound junior D.J. Brown , who started every game last year making 53 tackles with two picks and 13 broken up passes. Very smart and very fast, he has the size and ability to play either corner spot or be a whale of a nickel and dime defender.

5-8, 161-pound sophomore Dayonne Nunley had a nice freshman year starting for most of the first half of the year and finishing with 51 tackles with six picks, four broken up passes, and seven tackles for loss. While he’s not all that big, he’s physical and he’s terrific when the ball is in the air. He has all-star potential, while backup Trey Payne is a flier who should play a big role over the next few years. He’s not all that big at 5-8 and 165 pounds, but he’s one of the team’s fastest players and he’ll be a good corner with a little bit of time.

Watch Out For … Nunley and Quarles. Brown will be in the mix for a corner job after starting every game last season, but Nunley and Quarles are very small, very good young corners who can hit for their size and can stay with any receiver in the MAC. They’ll grow into the corner roles.
Strength: Veterans. This was an experienced group last year, and now it’s really, really experienced. Losing Jordan Gafford isn’t all that big a deal with so many good options at safety and so many decent playmakers for all four spots. The starters aren’t just solid; the backups are good, too.
Weakness: Corner size. Yeah. Quarles has gotten bigger, but on the right day he can get back down to the 150-pound range. He and Nunley are generously listed at 5-8, and Payne is also a smallish outside defender.
Outlook: While there was help from the linebackers, with Evan Harris picking off six passes, the RedHawks came up with 21 interceptions and always seemed able to come up with the big play. The great pass rush was a huge help, and the defensive backs held their own. Now there’s experience, speed, and hitting ability in what should be a rock-solid secondary against most MAC passing games.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Gone is Trevor Cook, a First Team All-MAC performer who hit 16-of-23 field goals. Taking over is sophomore Mason Krysinski , a big kicker with a big leg and good accuracy. He’s an athlete who can be used as a punter if needed.

The punting game struggled last year finishing 92nd in the nation, but Zac Murphy is a decent young prospect who put 13 kicks inside the 20 and forced 25 fair catches. He only averaged 39.1 yards per kick, but he hangs it high and doesn’t allow big returns.

The return game is still up in the air after DeMarco Paine averaged 19.8 yards per kickoff return and 7.3 yards per punt return. Nick Harwell got a few punt returns, averaging 4.5 yards per try on his two attempts, and Danny Green averaged 20.4 yards per return on ten tries.

Watch Out For … Krysinski. Cook was accurate, but he didn’t have a huge leg hitting 2-of-6 attempts from 40-to-49 yards. Krysinski has great range and should add more punch to the position.
Strength: Murphy’s hang time. The MU punt coverage team allowed just 5.9 yards per punt return, helped mostly because Murphy kept forcing fair catch after fair catch.
Weakness: The return game. It was awful last year and now it needs to find a few new options. Finishing better than 87th in the nation in kickoff returns and more than 7.39 yards per punt return would be nice.
Outlook: There’s a lot of turnover and plenty of issues for a special teams unit that surprised and turned out to be average. Krysinski has to be steady, and the line has to help after four field goals got blocked. The return game needs work and there could stand to be more blast on the punts, but this might not be a disaster considering all the unknowns. There are decent parts to work with.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2011 Miami Univ. Preview | 2011 Miami Univ. Offense
- 2011 Miami Univ. Defense | 2011 Miami Univ. Depth Chart
- Miami Univ. Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006