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2011 Tulane Preview – Defense
Tulane LB Trent Mackey
Tulane LB Trent Mackey
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 13, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Tulane Green Wave Defense


Tulane Green Wave

Preview 2011 - Defense



- 2011 Tulane Preview | 2011 Tulane Offense
- 2011 Tulane Defense | 2011 Tulane Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Even with improvement, the Green Wave labored badly on the defensive side of the ball in 2010. While it gave up fewer yards and big plays than in the past, it still gave out when it mattered most, yielding 37 points a game and imploding down the stretch. Tulane has good athletes at every level, yet is especially vulnerable against the run, getting gashed by more physical opponents. In fact, the team’s numbers against the pass don’t appear so bad largely because other teams were often content to keep it on the ground. The situation could have been far worse if not for the play of first-year transfers Trent Mackey and Dezman Moses, who shined at linebacker and defensive end, respectively. Both return, looking to once again be the cornerstones of a fragile unit.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Trent Mackey, 124
Sacks: Dezman Moses, 6
Interceptions: Shakiel Smith, 3

Star of the defense: Junior LB Trent Mackey
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Chris Asumnu
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Ryan Travis
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Dezman Moses
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moses, 2) Mackey, 3) Junior FS Shakiel Smith
Strength of the defense: The ends, athleticism and team speed
Weakness of the defense: The tackles, run defense, red zone defense, third down defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: Outside? Fine. Inside? It’s a concern for a team that perennially struggles to bolster the inside of the line and stuff the run. Nine letterwinners return along with three starters to a unit that does a nice job of getting an upfield push, but too often gets blown off the ball.

The Green Wave got exactly what it hoped for out of Dezman Moses in his first season removed from the University of Iowa. The 6-3, 242-pound senior was an instant success on the Bayou, making 51 tackles, a team-high 11.5 stops for loss, six sacks, and three forced fumbles. An explosive defender, he gets out of his stance in a flash and has the upper body strength to fight through blocks. After doing his damage in just 10 games in his debut, he’s capable of being Conference USA’s scariest pass rusher of 2011.

If the opposition pays too much attention to Moses, 6-3, 245-pound junior Austen Jacks is capable of making them pay with his work ethic and quickness. He’s back for a second season as a starter after making 59 tackles, six tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Adding depth on the defensive line is 6-2, 254-pound senior Josh Smith, who started the Southern Miss game and had 15 tackles and two stops for loss.

With Justin Adams gone, senior Chris Asumnubecomes the veteran of the tackles. A returning starter, he has a strong base at 6-2 and 300 pounds, making 20 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 2010. A logical linemate inside would be 6-2, 288-pound senior Cedric Wilson, a three-time letterwinner and spot starter during his career. An agile former tight end and basketball player, he had eight stops in eight games.

When Moses was suspended in September, 6-2, 270-pound sophomore Julius Warmsley filled in with a couple of starts on the outside. After switching to tackle, he’ll be better prepared this year to be a bigger factor off the bench.

Watch Out For .... Moses to be among the nation’s leaders in sacks. He’s already proven that he has the talent, and now he has a full season to put it on display in front of NFL scouts. With opponents wanting to throw on the Green Wave, he’ll have plenty of chances to rack up double-digits in sacks.
Strength: The ends. It’s not just Moses. Jacks can get penetration and Warmsley and Smith earned starts in 2010. Tulane was fifth in the league in sacks a year ago, a ranking it has a chance to surpass this fall.
Weakness: The interior. Too often in recent years, Tulane has been dominated and stood up at the point of attack. It’s the main reason why it has been no higher than 100th in run defense in each of the last three years.
Outlook: In a repeat of 2010, the Green Wave will be able to get pressure on the quarterback, but struggle to keep backs from getting to the second level. While Moses will attract scouts to the Superdome and develop a national profile, he’ll need a lot more help for the unit to stiffen as a whole.
Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

State of the Unit: By the program’s standards, Tulane is loaded at linebacker. Not a single letterman from a year ago graduated, and the team’s leading tackler is back in the fold. On a team that has to clean up a lot of the mess that the defensive line can’t manage, there’s comfort from a corps that boasts talent and experience.

The Green Wave needed a linebacker to emerge in the worst way a year ago, and, boy, did junior Trent Mackey deliver. In his first season of eligibility since transferring from Duke, he led the team with 124 tackles, adding 7.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. While not ideally sized at 5-11 and 220 pounds, the man in the middle has the instincts, leadership, and tenacity to keep evolving as the stopper of this D.

At weakside, 5-11, 228-pound junior Darryl Farley is set to reprise his role as the starter. As healthy as he’s been throughout his career, he had 51 stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, and five pass breakups, displaying good range. Dominique Robertson got a taste of action in his first season on campus, starting four games and making 27 tackles. While only 6-0 and 190 pounds, he has the range of a safety.

Depth and competition will be provided by 6-0, 214-pound sophomore Zack Davis and 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Logan Hamilton. Davis started the UCF game and Hamilton had a dozen tackles, getting acclimated to life on campus.

Watch Out For .... Mackey to be even better. Despite the productivity, he actually was a little slow out of the gates, needing time to adapt to Tulane’s complex defensive system. With a full year of action now behind him, he’ll have a tighter grasp of where he needs to be and how he can get closer to the play.
Strength: Athleticism. When your linebackers are built more like safeties, it could mean a couple things, but mainly that they can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. By design, this group is undersized, athletic, and able to perform multiple functions, such as covering backs running routes and unleashing on blitzes.
Weakness: Holding up versus the run. Sure, Tulane likes its linebackers to be small and active, but it wouldn’t hurt to have someone thick enough to stand down the occasional pulling guard slipping to the second level. This group does few favors for the run D, too often getting swallowed up by bigger players and allowing yards after contact.
Outlook: On the bright side, the situation is better is markedly better than a year ago, when Tulane was riddled with question marks here. Mackey is a playmaker, and using so many rookies will pay dividends in 2011 and beyond. Still, it’s a vulnerable group prone to getting overpowered by more physical opponents.
Rating: 5

Secondary

State of the Unit: The Green Wave has about as many returning players in the defensive backfield as concerns heading into the 2011 season. Don’t be misled by the fact that the team led Conference USA in pass defense a year ago, a deceiving stat. That had a lot to do with the fact that opponents preferred to attack its feeble run D, throwing on it just 26 times a game. Of greater importance, Tulane had more than twice as many touchdowns yielded as picks.

The leader of the secondary is junior FS Shakiel Smith, an active defender never too far from the ball. In his second season as a starter, the 6-1, 197-pounder raised his totals to 90 tackles, three interceptions, and five pass breakups. Far more aggressive than his size might indicate, he’s an outstanding open field tackler and effective cover guy in pass defense. After just missing out on honors in 2010, he ought to be an all-conference favorite this season.

Now that top cover corner Phillip Davis has graduated, Tulane might be more vulnerable than ever against the pass. An option will be one of last year’s big surprises, 5-11, 167-pound junior Ryan Travis, who excelled as a cornerback and nickel back. Extremely active and versatile, he racked up 67 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, and forced three fumbles. When the Green Wave looks for big plays, it’s going to dial up No. 10. The battle for the other spot will be intense. Junior Jordan Sullen grabbed the lead in the spring. The 5-11, 193-pounder played sparingly in 2010, but has come out ready to contribute this season.

Junior CB Alex Lauricella was limited to eight games by an elbow injury, making 19 tackles and five pass breakups. An instinctive 5-10, 183-pounder, he hopes to remain in the rotation if he can stay healthy. Twins Kendrell Washington and Kendrick Washington return for their sophomore year after lettering in 2010. Kendrick started four games and made 16 tackles. Kendrell started one, adding 15 stops and pitching in on special teams.

The battle for the other safety spot could come down to 6-3, 197-pound senior Taylor Echols versus 6-1, 174-pound junior Devon Walker . Echols has played a lot of football for the program, lettering all three years and making 11 stops in 2010. Walker is a former walk-on, who was active a year ago, making 23 tackles in limited time.

Watch Out For .... the competition to be heated and continuous right through the summer. Smith and Travis are in pretty good shape, but the other safety and cornerback opening could bring out the best in everyone. Cornerback, in particular, is flush with candidates looking for a starting gig.
Strength: Experience. With 10 different players returning with at least one letter, the staff has no shortage of options when it looks down the bench. No one will be unnerved by playing time, especially now that the Washington brothers have popped the cork on their careers.
Weakness: Coverage in the red zone. Tulane actually did a pretty good job between the twenties last fall, but struggled near the end zone, allowing 21 touchdown passes. A little short on elite pass defenders and takeaways, it remains vulnerable through the air.
Outlook: There’s a big difference between good athletes and good cover defenders, something the Green Wave knows all too well. The program isn’t short on speed or measurables, but those won’t keep it from getting exposed by quality quarterbacks and receivers.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Unlike a year ago, when all-star Ross Thevenot had to be replaced, Tulane will begin 2011 with far more stability on special teams. Cairo Santos took over as the placekicker a year ago, making 13-of-16 field goals and all but one extra point attempt. Accurate up to 40 yards, his leg strength and range is a question mark. The returning punter is Jonathan Ginsburgh, who also played as a true freshman in 2010. He averaged 40 yards a punt and placed 19-of-70 boots inside the 20.

Watch Out For… the competition for a punt returner. Jordan Sullen should handle kickoffs again, but a replacement is needed for Casey Robottom. He averaged only six yards a touch, so an upgrade is a distinct possibility.
Strength: Chip shots. When Santos was inside the 40 last season, he was automatic, connecting on 13-of-14 tries. Yeah, he won’t be splitting the uprights from 50 yards out, but he’s a reliable weapon when drives stall in the red zone.
Weakness: The coverage units. Tulane was a sieve in both areas, but was especially dreadful covering kickoffs. Ranked 118th in the country, it yielded a touchdown and almost 27 yards a return.
Outlook: While Santos and Ginsburgh filled two important holes in their first year, the balance of the special teams is sloppy. The Green Wave was last in Conference USA net punting last season, and returns of any kind were cause for trepidation. It’s a unit that needs plenty of work.
Rating: 4

- 2011 Tulane Preview | 2011 Tulane Offense
- 2011 Tulane Defense | 2011 Tulane Depth Chart