2011 Arkansas State Preview – Defense

Posted Jun 29, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves Defense

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2011 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: The There's falling off the map, and there's the 2010 ASU defense. The Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in total defense and scoring defense in 2009, and even though there was some rebuilding to be done, the production was supposed to keep on coming. Instead, the D was the worst in the league giving up 437 yards per game while giving up 31 points per outing. Seven starters are back and there's hope for a big improvement with a decent-looking line looking to quickly improve the awful run defense. Linebacker Demario Davis has the potential to be a special, Sun Belt Player of the Year type of playmaker, and safety Kelcie McCray is the leader of a promising five man secondary.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kelcie McCray, 79
Sacks: Brandon Joiner, 4
Interceptions: Demario Davis, Adrian Hills, Kelcie McCray, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Demario Davis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore NT Ryan Carrethers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Amos Draper
Best pro prospect: Senior SS Kelcie McCray
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) McCray, 3) LB Nathan Herrold
Strength of the defense: Safety, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Good Passing Teams

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The line was supposed to be fine after some big losses, and the pass rush and plays in the backfield were there. The run defense, though, wasn't even on the map. The Red Wolves get back both ends and have to replace the tackles, and now the production has to be better.

Back on the line is senior Dorvus Woods after earning Second Team All-Sun Belt honors. The 6-3, 265-pounder came up with 45 tackles with three sacks and nine tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries as one of the team's strongest and most consistent pass rushers. While he could work at tackle if needed, he's quick enough to work on the outside and be a steady starter at end. He'll combine with 6-5, 250-pound senior Jeremy Gibson, a 6-5, 250-pound senior who made 20 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. A good veteran with a little bit of starting time, he knows what he's doing in the rotation.

6-3, 255-pound senior Brandon Joiner came in from the JUCO ranks to make 34 tackles with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. A star at getting into the backfield for Navarro College, he originally signed with Texas A&M and now is a good starter who knows what he's doing. 6-5, 255-pound junior Timothy Starson was a top prospect who didn't do anything to get behind the line and made just 14 tackles. Also looking to be more in the mix is senior Justin Robertson, a 6-2, 250-pound veteran who started six games last year and made 37 tackles with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. More of a linebacker than a defensive end, he's great on the move.

Trying to gum things up on the inside is 6-2, 310-pound sophomore Ryan Carrethers, who saw time in ten games and made six tackles. He's a big mauler who has to use his big body to be a major factor against the run on the nose, while 5-11, 305-pound senior Greg McCall is a short, squatty defender who made seven tackles in his limited time.

6-3, 270-pound sophomore Amos Draper will get the call at tackle after coming up with a terrific year making 34 tackles with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. Quick, active, and athletic, he has all the tools and ability to be the team's best lineman. Now he just needs a little more time, while 6-3, 285-pound junior Ronnell Wright is a 6-3, 285-pound JUCO transfer who should make an instant impact. One of the Sun Belt's best recruits, he has the size and the ability to be an all-star if he plays up to his potential as an interior pass rusher.

Watch Out For … the tackles. Gone is Bryan Hall and his 8.5 sacks and 46 tackles, but it's not like he was a huge help for a run defense that did next to nothing. Draper, Wright, Carrethers and McCall all have the potential to improve the situation.
Strength: Pass rush. The Red Wolves manufacture pressure from several spots, but the line should do its part to get into the backfield. Woods and Joiner have to do even more to hit the quarterback, and the tackles should be quick enough to be disruptive.
Weakness: Stopping the run. The line wasn't even close to coming up with big stops against anyone who tried to run. There's no real excuse with good size and the quickness across the board.
Outlook: Can the line rebound? After a decent year at getting into the backfield, and doing absolutely nothing against the run, the front four has to keep from getting shoved around. There's size, but can anyone be a rock to work around? After finishing 110th in the nation against the run, this group needs work.
Unit Rating: 4


State of the Unit: The linebackers had plenty of things to do thanks to a line that did nothing to hold up against the run, and while the overall production didn't match up to the stats, this group did what it could. ASU uses a 4-2-5 more often than not, but the Red Wolves have several players ready to work in a 4-3.

The star of the bunch should be 6-3, 230-pound senior Demario Davis, who made 63 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss after leading the team with 80 tackles two years ago. A great open field tackler with excellent athleticism, the former wide receiver needs to use his speed and quickness to do more to get into the backfield. Steady, he should be the star of the defensive front six or seven. He'll be backed up by 6-0, 225-pound senior Najel Byrd, a small, quick defender who made 22 tackles and a tackle for loss in his eight games of work.

5-11, 225-pound junior Nick Nelms can play anywhere in the linebacking corps and should start to put up decent numbers after being used mostly as a key reserve. While he wasn't disruptive enough and he didn't do enough to get behind the line, he came up with 28 tackles with a fumble recovery in a steady season. While he'll get the first look at a starting job, 6-3, 235-pound junior Nathan Herrold will be back in the mix somewhere after finishing fourth on the team with 78 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. He has had knee issues over the course of his career, but he's a terrific tackler with great range and hitting ability.

5-11, 225-pound redshirt freshman Qushaun Lee was an Alabama all-state performer and has the ability to be the pass rusher on the outside the linebacking corps could use. He's a good hitter who'll someday lead the team in tackles.

Watch Out For … Nelms. He was supposed to become a really big deal last season, but he didn't break out after spending his season working mostly as a reserve. He's just quick enough and just good enough to be one of the team's leading tacklers.
Strength: Quickness. Davis and Nelms can both move, and Byrd and Lee have the range to be all over the field, but now they have to all …
Weakness: Do something against the run. The Red Wolves have athletic, active linebackers who need to make more big plays. They didn't do enough to pressure the quarterback and they didn't do enough to change games.
Outlook: Davis has the potential to be special and Nelms should be a good one in a bigger role. They have to be more physical and the overall production needs to be better both against the run and in pass coverage. The athleticism is there to do far more.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: The secondary was full of good safeties and had the talent to be excellent, and now the production needs to be stronger after allowing 230 yards per game and after finishing 101st in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Gone is M.D. Jennings, who finished with 84 tackles and three picks in an all-star season, but three starters are back in what will usually be a five man defensive backfield.

The star of the secondary should be senior Kelcie McCray, a 79-tackle safety with great ball-hawking skills and the range to be all over the field to help out against the run. At 6-2 and 195 pounds he's a tall, tough tackler who's built to be a top free safety but will start out at strong safety. A former high school quarterback, he has a way of sniffing out plays and should do even more against the pass after picking off two passes last season. He'll be backed up by senior Graham Bates, a 6-0, 190-pound veteran who saw time in every game making 11 tackles. 6-2, 182-pound redshirt freshman Sterling Young has the quickness and athleticism to play anywhere in the secondary, but he's a strong safety who can hit.

It'll take a combination to take over at free safety with 6-2, 200-pound senior Jaquan Kilcrease and 6-2, 185-pound senior Adrian Hills working in a rotation. Kilcrease made just seven tackles in a reserve role after making 29 two years ago. He has the hitting ability and experience to become a gamechanger at one of the safety spots, while Hills made 17 tackles with two interceptions after coming in from Butte College. A sure tackler, he has the quickness and potential to get into the backfield from time to time.

Starting again at right corner is 5-11, 175-pound senior Darron Edwards, who came up with 42 tackles with ten broken up passes. He started every game after coming in from Butler Community College in Kansas, and he quickly became the team's best pure cover-corner. With terrific quickness and a knack for always being around the ball, he'll be an all-star, while 5-10, 185-pound redshirt freshman Andrew Tryon is a speedster who was a top pickoff artist in high school. He picked off ten tackles with 14 broken up passes in his senior year at Russellville High.

5-11, 185-pound senior Darryl Feemster came over from Los Angeles Harbor College and made 12 tackles with a pick and two broken up passes. Now he'll start at left corner where he should be a steady producer with the talent and athleticism that got Oregon, Iowa State, and others interested in recruiting him. The combination of junior Chaz Scales and senior Jonathan Victorian. The 5-9, 170-pound Scales made 17 tackles in a reserve role at corner while also working on special teams. One of the fastest players on the team, he can work as a nickel and dime defender, too, while the 6-0, 185-pound Victorian is a great athlete who's still learning on the fly. He didn't start playing football until his senior year of high school, and he's still trying to make an impact on the field.

ASU employed a nickel back more often than not, giving junior Tausean Holmes a place on the field. The 5-10, 190-pounder made 51 tackles and a pick after taking over a key role, and now the former high school running back is ready to do more. He started six times last year and turned into a big hitter who could be used like a third linebacker. 6-1, 208-pound junior Don Jones steps in from Northeast Mississippi Community College where he made 39 tackles as a safety. Along with his great size he has track star speed and should be a statistical star whenever he gets the chance.

Watch Out For … the free safety situation. M.D. Jennings was a special playmaker for the Red Wolves as the tone-setter for the secondary. Kilcrease and Hills have yet to take the job by the horns, but they're each big enough to become major factors.
Strength: The other safeties. The free safety job will be fine in time, and having McCray and Holmes back will make a huge difference. Those two will eat up everything against the run, and McCray should turn into more of a ball hawker against the better passing teams.
Weakness: Teams that can throw. The Red Wolves were 0-4 last season when they gave up three touchdown passes or more, and they were 2-6 when allowing two scores or more. Even Navy got in on the act completing 8-of-9 passes for 164 yards and a score.
Outlook: The pass rush should be a help and getting back three starters will be a plus. The other two starters at left corner and free safety should be decent. There's speed and decent depth, but more third down stops will be a must and more help from the linebacking corps would be nice.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Sophomore Brian Davis took over the kicking duties as a true freshman and nailed 6-of-8 field goal attempts including a 41-yarder against Auburn. He doesn't have a huge leg, but he showed more range than sophomore Bobby Zalud, who handled the kickoff duties but only connected on 6-of-13 field goal attempts.

ASU finished 42nd in the nation in punting with senior Nelly Sullivent averaging 40.7 yards per try. He put 15 inside the 20, but he didn't blast away too often and didn't show too much range. Even so, the former quarterback did a great job working with the coverage team.

The return game gets back Roderick Hall, who averaged 8.2 yards per punt return and 23.1 yards per kickoff return. Receiver Dwayne Frampton will get a look at both jobs, even though he only average 14.1 yards per kickoff return and 2.5 yards per punt return.

Watch Out For … Davis. He was terrific when he got his chances, but Zalud is still in the hunt for the placekicking job. If Davis can build on his true freshman season and be a bit more consistent, the job will be his.
Strength: Sullivent. He wasn't special, but he did more than enough to be a positive part of the special teams. He could stand to boom it a bit more and come up with some sixty yarders, but he's more than fine.
Weakness: The return game. The team needs to more pop if Frampton really is the punt returner. He was indecisive and didn't do nearly enough last year to show that he's ready to be the main man.
Outlook: After a terrific 2009, the special teams were merely average. They weren't a problem in any way, but they weren't a major strength. The kicking game is experienced and will be more than fine, while the coverage teams should be a plus. The return game should be solid, and Hall and Frampton have too much speed and skill to not be spectacular.
Unit Rating: 7

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