2011 Ohio Preview – Defense
Ohio LB Noah Keller
Ohio LB Noah Keller
Posted Jun 13, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Ohio Bobcat Defense

Ohio Bobcats

Preview 2011 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: The defense wasn't awful, allowing just 353 yards per game, but it was inconsistent. While that might not change too much with just four starters returning, the D gets two huge pieces of the puzzle back from injury in all-star linebacker Noah Keller and safety Gerald Moore. The front four will undergo a wholesale change and needs to find a steady pass rush for the first time in several years, but the terrific linebacking corps will more than pick up the slack against the run. The secondary will get bombed on again by the better passing teams, but there are several good parts to work with including Moore and corner Travis Carrie.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jay Edwards, 48
Sacks: Carl Jones, 3.5
Interceptions: Omar Leftwich, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Noah Keller
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior NG Neal Huynh
Unsung star on the rise: Junior S Mose Denton
Best pro prospect: Keller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keller, 2) LB Eric Benjamin, 3) FS Gerald Moore
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, Defensive Back Size
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Pass Defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: Ohio's defense has had problems getting into the backfield over the last few seasons, and this year might not be too much different. The Bobcats have to replace all four starters up front, and while there's a little bit of experience returning, finding the right combination and getting the most production possible could be tough after finishing 20th in the nation and second in the MAC against the run.

Senior Curtis Meyers qualifies as one of the team's most experienced linemen making 14 tackles with a sack last season in his first year back from a torn ACL. At 6-2 and 262 pounds he has good size and excellent quickness, but he wasn't a pass rusher even before the injury and now will mostly be a run plugger. 6-3, 233-pound sophomore Nic Barber is a quicker more athletic option who'll get a long look at the backup role.

Junior Tremayne Scott played a role as a reserve with 14 tackles with two tackles for loss, and now he'll be asked to grow into one of the team's top pass rushers. At 6-3 and 247 pounds, he's tall, athletic, and has the burst to get to the quarterback on a regular basis. He'll work in a rotation with Kyle Kozak, a 6-4, 245-pound junior who was out last year after transferring over from Indiana and has the skills to push for a starting job. He has good size and nice upside.

6-3, 303-pound junior Neal Huynh is a true nose guard who got into the mix on the inside working behind the late Marcellis Williamson. Huynh came up with 17 tackles and a tackle for loss, and he'll now be used as the anchor against the run. He came to Ohio as a pass rushing defensive end, bulked up, and has been a key part of the rotation for the last few years. After adding more than 20 pounds, he's more of a space-eater. As the reserve is 6-1, 275-pound senior Jeff King, who got hurt last year and wasn't a part of the mix, and while he's not all that big and he's not going to get into the backfield, he's strong enough to hold his own.

Junior Carl Jones came up with 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss on the inside, and he also came up with a pick for 25 yards. At 6-0 and 265 pounds he's a short, stocky, athletic inside presence who is good enough to be fine right away in the starting spot and he should be the team's best interior pass rusher. 6-1, 259-pound junior Corey Hasting will be the key backup after seeing a little time and making three tackles. Like Jones, he's not big, but he's quick.

Watch Out For … Kozak. He might not be a starter in the season opener, but the former Indiana Hoosier has the athleticism and the talent to quickly become one of the team's most productive pass rushers. He might be a specialist, but he could be a great one.
Strength: Run defense. It'll be asking a lot to be as productive as last year's starting foursome, but with Huynh beefing up and with decent size on the outside, the Bobcats should be solid against most ground games.
Weakness: Starting experience. The late Marcellis Williamson, Dak Notestine, Ernie Hodge, and Stafford Gatling were good, veteran starters who knew what they were doing and formed the rock of the defense. All four are gone, and while the newcomers aren't bad, the line is undergoing a wholesale change.
Outlook: The line will be fine. It shows how strong the coaching staff is that Ohio is able to lose its starting foursome up front and will not only be fine, but will have decent depth to rely on. The Bobcats don't get into the backfield on a regular basis, but all will be fine as long as this group holds up against the run.
Unit Rating: 5.5


State of the Unit: Three longtime veterans are back for a linebacking corps that was terrific under trying circumstances. The Bobcats went with a 4-2-5 for most of the time in five games, but was more than fine in the 4-3 despite losing the star and leading tackling machine early on. Now everyone is back and the linebackers should be a major strength.

Senior Noah Keller came into last season as one of the front-runners for the MAC Defensive Player of the Year honor, coming off a 155-tackle 2009, and he was phenomenal over the first three games making 26 tackles with a sack, suffered a foot injury against Ohio State, and was knocked out for the year. The Ohio linebacking corps had to scramble, but it turned out to be fine with a little bit of time. Even so, Keller was a huge loss. He was able to spend the downtime bulking up, getting to 246 pounds on his 6-1 frame, and now the man in the middle should be even stronger and tougher against the run. Does he have the same range? Against the MAC spread attacks he needs to show the same sort of sideline-to-sideline ability he had before getting hurt.

Back on the weakside if senior Eric Benjamin, a 5-11, 216-pound athlete who stepped in for former All-MAC star Lee Renfro and came up with 56 tackles with three sacks and three broken up passes, and now the safety-sized linebacker should do more to get into the backfield and be more dangerous in pass coverage. Helping Benjamin out on the weakside will be junior Jelani Woseley, a nice reserve who made 11 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss in nine games. At 6-1 and 209 pounds he's a tall, rangy former quarterback who should be better in pass coverage.

6-1, 208-pound junior Alphonso Lewis was the starter on the strongside when the defense went with a 4-3 alignment finishing with 38 tackles with a sack, an interception and 4.5 tackles for loss. He's tough for his size and is a sure-thing tough tackler who can be a statistical star if he's a full-time starter. 6-1, 204-pound redshirt freshman A.J. Grady could see time as a defensive back and as a strongside linebacker. Very fast and very athletic, the high school safety has great range.

Watch Out For … the return of Keller. The Ohio linebacking corps turned out to be fine when Keller went down, but having a MAC all-star back in the middle is a big deal. His healthy return makes an already good corps terrific.
Strength: Experience and tacklers. With Keller's injury, several different players got to see time in situations they wouldn't normally have seen. Lewis, Benjamin, Edwards and Woseley are good, and Keller makes things better. This group won't miss many stops.
Weakness: Size. Keller and Edwards are over 240 pounds and have the size and bulk for the middle, but the outside linebackers are glorified defensive backs. They can move and they can all tackle, but they're not big and will have problems with the bigger, stronger running games.
Outlook: The defensive line will be fine, but it has to deal with the loss of all four starters. Will the linebackers have to pick up the slack early on? It's possible, and it should be able to do it with Keller's return a huge plus and with so much experience returning across the board. There's depth athleticism, and talent for what should be the MAC's best linebacking unit.
Unit Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: The secondary has to replace three starters, not to mention the nickel back, but Ohio always seems to be able to reload in the defensive backfield in a hurry. The secondary struggled a bit allowing 230 yards per game and getting dinked and dunked on way too much, but the 17 interceptions as a team were solid.

Junior Travis Carrie is the lone returning starter, making 39 tackles with two sacks and five broken up passes at corner. The 5-11, 203-pounder is tough, physical, extremely smart, and is quick enough to be a tremendous punt returner averaging over ten yards per try. He's built like a safety, and would probably be better at free safety, but he's a decent veteran who can handle himself at one side. The combination of 6-0, 208-pound sophomore Jamil Shaw and 6-1, 192-pound junior Octavius Leftwich will be the main backups bringing great size and good ability. Leftwich made six tackles while Shaw has the ability and potential play anywhere in the secondary.

Ready to step in and shine on the other side is Omar Leftwich, a versatile 6-1, 188-pound junior who got a start against Louisiana and finished the year with 31 tackles with two picks and nine defended passes. Very physical and with good speed, he'll be just fine with more of the workload to deal with. He'll work with 5-9, 167-pound junior Ryan Clark, a quick option who made two tackles in a limited role, and junior Mose Denton, a 6-1, 195-pound newcomer who'll get the call at nickelback after making 38 tackles last year as a corner for El Camino College.

Junior Gerald Moore is more than ready to be back in a full-time job taking over the free safety gig from Steven Jackson, who made 71 stops last year. The 6-1, 201-pound Moore started the first game of the season at strong safety who missed almost all of last year with a foot injury. Two years ago he was one of the few returning starters to the secondary after earning Third Team-All MAC honors with 68 stops and a team-leading six picks. He's big, has great range, and can hit. If his foot is a problem again, 6-0, 192-pound redshirt freshman Josh Kristoff will step in.

Taking over for second-leading tackler Donovan Fletcher at strong safety is Xavier Hughes, a 6-1, 160-pound sophomore who made three tackles with a broken up pass in his little bit of time. The former high school wide receiver and safety is tall, thin, and tackles well for his slim size. He'll combine with 5-9, 184-pound redshirt freshman Nathan Carpenter, a high school running back with smarts and the toughness to be fine in the defensive backfield.

Watch Out For … the return of Moore. He was going to be one of the key leaders and stars of the secondary last season before getting hurt, and now he'll be one of the top playmakers with is combination of experience and skills.
Strength: Size. This is a big group that won't get pushed around. Almost everyone is north of six-feet tall with most around 200 pounds. Talking isn't an issue.
Weakness: Decent passing teams. It's not like Ohio faced a who's who of quarterbacks, and Wofford went 0-for-4 in the season opener, but Temple and Louisiana were able to throw for over 300 yards and Miami University bombed away for 332 yards. Ohio won all three games, but Troy chucked it for 382 yards and four scores in the bowl loss.
Outlook: The secondary will be serviceable for the most part, but it hasn't been all that strong against the better offenses over the last few years. Moore and Omar Leftwich will be solid, while Carrie has all-star potential if he can come up with a few picks. As a whole, this group will be better against the run than against the better passing teams.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Junior Matt Weller earned All-MAC honors as a freshman hitting 21-of-29 field goals, and he didn't disappoint last season connecting on 11-of-14 kicks with all three of his misses on blocks. He has a good deep leg with 50-yard range, and he's consistent enough and reliable enough to be used at any time.

The punting game was a problem two years ago, finishing 111th in the nation, but last year it was the best in the MAC and finished eighth in the nation netting 39.55 yard per kick. Senior Paul Hershey was terrific averaging 41 yards per shot with 18 fair catches, 14 kicks put inside the 20, and with just one touchback.

Cornerback Travis Carrie was among the league leaders in punt returns averaging 10.4 yards per try, while running back Donte Harden averaged a solid 20.6 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For … the special honors to start being in the mix for the kickers. Weller has Lou Groza potential and Hershey should be in the mix for the Ray Guy.
Strength: The kicking game. Hershey came to Ohio as a wide receiver and he's going to leave as a star punter. Weller has the leg, the experience, and the talent to win plenty of games.
Weakness: Blocked kicks. Weller had three field goals blocked last year, but none of them ended up making a difference. Ohio only played one truly tight game, but there are sure to be more this season.
Outlook: The special teams should be fantastic with one of the best all-around kicking games in America, strong coverage teams that allowed just 6.6 yards per punt return and 18.6 yards per kickoff try, and dangerous returners who'll be among the best in the MAC. Ohio should have a huge advantage here on a weekly basis.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2011 Ohio Preview | 2011 Ohio Offense
- 2011 Ohio Defense | 2011 Ohio Depth Chart
- Ohio Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006