2011 Central Michigan Preview – Defense
Central Michigan SS Jahleel Addae
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Central Michigan Chippewa Defense
Preview 2011 - Defense
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What You Need To Know:
Defensive coordinator Joe Tumpkin has an interesting bunch to work with. The stars should be in a lightning fast secondary with all four starters able to fly, but the picks have to start coming after just three interceptions coming from the defensive backs in each of the last two seasons. It would help if there was more from a pass rush that hasn't been there in years, but there's enough athleticism up front to hope for a bit of an improvement. The big question mark is at linebacker where tackling machines Matt Berning and Nick Bellore have to be replaced. There are several decent prospects ready to go more with bigger roles, but there aren't any sure-thing stars to count on right away. Overall, this will be a decent defense, but it'll only improve if it's more disruptive.
Star of the defense: Junior SS Jahleel Addae
Tackles: Jahleel Addae, 80
Sacks: Joe Kinville, John Williams, 2.5
Interceptions: Avery Cunningham, 1
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Steve Winston
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Avery Cunningham
Best pro prospect: Addae
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Addae, 2) Cunningham, 3) LB Mike Petrucci
Strength of the defense: Defensive Back Speed, Overall Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Size Up Front, Takeaways
State of the Unit: The defensive front was and is too small, there haven't been enough plays made in the backfield over the last few years, and there were consistency issues last season, and now there could be just as many problems without star tackle Sean Murnane manning the interior. There's enough overall experience returning to be decent, but it's going to take a lot to be night and day better.
The big question mark will be at tackle with Murnane gone, and now it'll be up to junior Steve Winston , an undersized 6-3, 266-pounder who saw limited action making five tackles, but has been around long enough to be ready to take on a bigger role. He's strong and tough, and he has just enough quickness to be an active interior pass rusher. He'll be backed up by 6-6, 297-pound redshirt freshman Leterrius Walton , who brings desperately needed size to the rotation.
Back again to anchor the line on the nose is the senior John Williams, a Miami native who's a fireplug of defender at 6-0 and 279 pounds, and he's active making 40 tackles with2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. A good run stopper, he has good lateral quickness and would work better as a one-gap tackle to fly through the hole, but he'll have to put it all together to be the key to a line that needs more playmakers. Backing him up will be 6-1, 260-pound junior Chris Reeves, a small, feisty player who hasn't been done much over his first two years.
Starting again at one end is junior Joe Kinville, a linebacker-sized 6-2, 248-pound former walk on who left the team in 2009, came back last year, and ended up starting every game but one making 35 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. He's not a special pass rusher by any stretch, but he's always working with a motor that's always running. 6-2, 235-pound junior Caesar Rodriguez got the call in the opener against Hampton and came up with two sacks, but that was about all he could do finishing the year with just six tackles. While it hasn't happened yet, the Miami native can move and could be a dangerous pass rusher.
6-6, 260-pound sophomore Darryll Stinson was expected to be a major factor from the start of the year after missing all of 2009 with a pinched nerve, but he only started one game and finished with just 13 tackles with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Very big and very quick, he has the frame to go along with excellent athleticism, and now he'll get his chance to be the main man. 6-2, 242-pound sophomore Kenny McClendon got a start against Navy and saw time in the rotation, but he only made five tackles with a tackle for loss. Very smart and very promising, he could become a major factor from out of the blue.
Watch Out For … The starting ends. Stinson has all the tools to be devastating; he looks the part. Kinville is promising, while Rodriguez and McClendon are going to see plenty of action and will get their chances to get into the backfield.
Strength: Quickness. What the line is missing in size it makes up for in athleticism at all four spots. The line hasn't hit the quarterback on a regular basis for years, but this group could buck the trend.
Weakness: Proven production. The line struggled as the team came up with just 64 tackles for loss and with many of the 21 sacks coming from the back seven. There isn't enough experience to count on anything to be a sure-thing from the start.
Outlook: It'll be an interesting line. There isn't a star to work around, but there are several promising athletes who need to use their quickness and skills to start being more disruptive. The line has to find one thing it can do well, and the hope has to be for more pass rushing and more plays in the backfield.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: There were Shaq-sized shoes to fill all across the board last season, but linebacker was already set. Nick Bellore and Matt Berning were special players who combined for 192 tackles and 20 tackles for loss, and now there's work to be done. There's talent returning and there's enough experience to get by, but B&B were the team's strength as they did everything to clean up the messes left by the mediocre line.
Berning was the statistical superstar on the weakside, but while he was a peerless tackler, he wasn't the greatest of athletes. Sophomore Shamari Benton could upgrade the disruption factor with tremendous quickness and excellent cutting ability. While he's only 6-0 and 213 pounds, he can move, and he showed he could produce when given a chance stepping in and making 12 tackles in a limited role. Ready to do more in the rotation is 6-1, 222-pound sophomore Kyle Zelinsky, a backup who made 12 tackles. A pure hitter, he's not all that big, but he's smart and he doesn't miss a stop.
All Bellore did was make 472 career tackles with 32.5 tackles for loss. He was a heart-and-soul type who'll be missed in the middle, but senior Mike Petrucci is a veteran who's ready to fill in. While he's only 6-2 and 229 pounds, he's a great hitter with the speed and athleticism to see time on the outside last year. He got the start against Navy on the weakside, and he finished the season with 48 tackles, and now he should be one of the team's leading tacklers. Backing him up is redshirt freshman Mike Kinville, a 6-3, 240-pounder who dominated on the scout team and should eventually be an All-MAC star. A superstar high school wrestler, he has the toughness to go along with the much-needed size for the interior.
The lone returning regular to the mix is senior Armond Staten , a 6-1, 214-pounder who took over the starting strongside job in the third game of the year and ended up finishing fourth on the team with 78 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. He's not big, but he's ultra-athletic with the potential to do far more as a pass rusher. Also looking for time is true junior Alex Smith , a starter for the first three games of the year before getting hurt. He finished the year with 12 tackles, and now he's back and ready to push for time with his excellent athleticism and hitting ability.
Watch Out For … Petrucci to blow up in the middle. He's not going to be Bellore, but he's a veteran who knows what he's doing and will end up pushing for the 100-tackle mark.
Strength: The rotation. Benton, Petrucci, and Staten are going to be a decent starting threesome, but the young backups have the ability, the potential, and most importantly, the size, to hold up better against the run. Kinville will potentially be a major factor.
Weakness: Bellore and Berning. 783 career tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 59 tackles for loss. The Chippewas will have a hard enough time replacing the stats, much less the leadership and playmaking ability.
Outlook: Losing two stars in Bellore and Berning might not hurt as much as it seems. The starting threesome is really, really small, but it'll be active and it'll make a ton of plays, while the backups should be sneaky-good in the rotation. It's not going to be a top corps, but it'll be solid with a little bit of time.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The secondary had to replace all four starters and didn't get any help from a pass rush, but it still came up with a decent year finishing third in the MAC, allowing 206 yards per game, while finishing 66th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. There's work to be done at corner, and losing veteran free safety Bobby Seay Jr. will be a problem, but there's enough talent back to hope for another solid season.
The star of the show will once again be junior Jahleel Addae, a 5-9, 193-pound playmaker who finished third on the team with 80 tackles with a sack, four broken up passes, and 3.5 tackles for loss. The veteran strong safety isn't all that big, but he hits like a much bigger player and he has tremendous wheels. One of the team's fastest players, he should be all over the field making things happen on his way to an All-MAC season. He'll be backed up by redshirt freshman Kyle Smith, a 6-3, 213-pound track star who throws the javelin for the CMU track team. The 2009 Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year, is very smart, very athletic, and will soon be a part of the mix.
Taking over at free safety for Seay is senior John Carr, a 6-2, 194-pounder who stepped up as a reserve making 32 tackles. Lightning fast, he's a runner on the CMU track team and has the wheels to be everywhere. He didn't do anything when the ball was in the air, but he has the speed and the toughness to go along with the backup experience to shine right away. He started four games and made seven stops at Northern Illinois, and now he's ready to do far more as the regular starter. 5-10, 193-pound sophomore Leron Eaddy got in a little bit of backup work and finished with three tackles. He's not the athlete that Carr is, but he's a good tackler.
Taking over the fulltime job at one corner spot is veteran Lorenzo White, a big-time speedster who was a Florida high school track star and started to show off a little of his speed last year making 25 tackles with two broken up passes. The son of the former Michigan State running back and NFL star of the same name only started four games, and now he has to be a lockdown playmaker. Junior Derek Carter will also push for time after making nine tackles with a forced fumble. At 6-0 and 204 pounds he's built like a safety, but he can run like a corner.
6-0, 209-pound true sophomore Avery Cunningham started to come into his own finishing with 51 tackles last season with a 63-yard interception return for a score against Bowling Green. Extremely fast, he was an Ohio high school track star, and he has the smarts and size to go along with his wheels. It's all there for him to grow into a big-time producer after taking over a starting spot midway through the 2010 season, and he could move to free safety if needed.
Watch Out For … White and Cunningham. They need to start picking off passes and there are still question marks about their coverage skills, but no one in the MAC will run by them.
Strength: Speed. The Chippewas are loaded with former high school track stars. White and Cunningham are blazers, but Carr and Addae might be even faster. This group will fly around the ball.
Weakness: Interceptions. Linebacker Nick Bellore came up with a pick. The rest of the CMU defense came up with three interceptions. There weren't nearly enough big plays to change games around. This isn't new, though. The CMU secondary picked off a mere three passes in 2009, soon.
Outlook: Even without much of a pass rush to help the cause, the secondary came up with a decent season. It should be even better. This might be the MAC's fastest group of defensive backs and everyone can hit. Now the interceptions and broken up passes have to start coming with the athleticism and experience needing to combine for a big year.
Unit Rating: 5.5
State of the Unit: The kicking game was a question mark going into the season, but sophomore David Harmon pulled off a shocking year. The walk-on made 9-of-12 field goals hissing everything from inside the 40, and while he doesn't have great range and topped out at 41 yards, he was reliable.
The punting game was among the worst in the country, averaging just 32.89 yards per try, but Brett Hartmann wasn't miserable, averaging 40.1 yards per try. The hope fill be for JUCO transfer Curtis Huge to step in from Bakersfield College and produce right away. He has a big leg and decent accuracy, forcing 14 fair catches and putting 16 inside the 20 last year at the lower level.
The punt return game wasn't great, but WR Cody Wilson wasn't awful averaging 7.5 yards per try. He'll get the first look at the job again, while RB Zurlon Tipton will try to do more on kickoff returns after averaging just 19.7 yards per try. Star safety Jahleel Addae will get a few chances even though he only averaged 15.9 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Hartmann. If he's not the punter, it's uh-oh time. The Chippewas will have to scramble to find an answer, and they might have to count on a walk-on.
Strength: Harmon from short range. Six CMU games were decided by seven points or fewer. There will be plenty of tight battles, and the team knows it can count on Harmon from inside 40.
Weakness: Coverage teams. There were worse punt coverage teams than CMU's, but not many. The Chippewas allowed 11.75 yards per try and one score, and they weren't much better on kickoff coverage allowing 22.71 yards per attempt and two scores.
Outlook: A huge advantage during the championship runs, the special teams were a problem last year. The kicking game was mediocre, the return game didn't do enough, and the coverage teams were abysmal. There's nowhere to go but up.
Unit Rating: 4
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