2011 Louisiana Preview – Defense
Louisiana LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan
Louisiana LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan
Posted Jul 15, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Louisiana Ragin' Cajun Defense

Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

Preview 2011 - Defense

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

What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Greg Stewart's main goal is start getting pressure into the backfield. This has been a big, big problem over the last several years, but there's enough depth and athleticism in the front seven to start hitting quarterbacks on a regular basis and to start making more plays behind the line. There's good depth and several decent options at linebacker and on the front four, but the secondary, a particular strength this offseason, still needs work developing the backups. Dwight Bentley and Melvin White could be the Sun Belt's best corner tandem, but they need more help from the pass rush and the safeties have to be more consistent. After allowing 400 yards and 37 points per game, it shouldn't take much to improve the production.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Devon Lewis- Buchanan, 63
Sacks: Emeka Onyenekwu, 3.5
Interceptions: Lionel Stokes, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Cordian Hagans
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Emeka Onyenekwu
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Melvin White
Top three all-star candidates: 1) CB Dwight Bentley, 2) Lewis-Buchanan, 3) White
Strength of the defense: Starting Corner, Front Seven Depth
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Backup Corner

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive front wasn't awful against the run, but it wasn't great and it struggled to get into the backfield on a regular basis. With plenty of experience and good depth to count on, there's realistic hope for an immediate improvement, but it's going to take a few surprising performances to make a huge improvement.

Manning the inside with the most experience is senior Derreck Dean,an undersized 5-11, 287-pound veteran who has been a regular over the last three years making 21 tackles with two tackles for loss last season. He's not an interior pass rusher, but he's a fireplug who sits on the inside of the line and doesn't move much. He's the one the line works around, while the combination of 6-4, 292-pound sophomore Brandon McCray and 5-11, 280-pound junior Ben Duhon will rotate to add more live bodies and more size to the mix. Duhon made one tackle in his little bit of time while McCray was more of a regular with ten stops.

Working the other tackle spot will be 6-5, 305-pound JUCO transfer Cordian Hagans, who'll be the big body the line desperately needs. For former LSU Tiger still has to work to get the No. 1 job, but his size and quickness are enough to make him a major part of the rotation at the very least. Fighting for the starting job will be 6-2, 285-pound redshirt freshman Darrell Green, a promising run stopper, and veteran Tyrell Gaddies,a 6-3, 272-pound senior who has seen time on the end and has worked where needed making 11 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. With tremendous quickness, Gaddies, a former star high school hurdler, needs to do more on the inside.

6-3, 235-pound senior Bernard Smith established himself this offseason as the No. 1 end in the rotation showing a good burst, but now he has to get into the backfield more. He made 31 tackles with two sacks and six tackles for loss, but the former JUCO transfer, who came to the school as a strongside linebacker, as the athleticism to get to the quarterback. He'll combine with Emeka Onyenekwu, the team's leading pass rusher last season with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. At 6-5 and 237 pounds he's a tall, athletic end who'll be a dominant situational pass rusher.

6-2, 260-pound senior Chris Tucker,a former JUCO transfer, got better and better as last season went on making 24 tackles with two sacks on the outside. He's built like a tweener, but he has a good burst off the ball and is fine against the run. Justin Anderson made 21 tackles after returning from a broken leg in 201- spring ball. At 6-3 and 240 pounds he has good size and he has the potential to become more of a factor, while scrappy 6-2, 248-pound senior Nate Douglas is always working and always hustling making 31 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss.

Watch Out For … lots and lots of players. The Ragin' Cajuns might not have a killer up front, but they have a nice mix of good veterans and young athletes to form a strong rotation.
Strength: Ends. If there isn't more of a pass rush it won't be because the ends aren't fresh. Louisiana goes three deep on the outside and will have several options top play around with.
Weakness: Steady production. Getting to the quarterback hasn't been a priority for the past UL defenses, registering 17 last year after coming up with 16 in 2009. The bodies are there, and now the production has to come.
Outlook: For the second straight year there's a nice mix of athletes, JUCO transfers, and veterans, and with a little bit of size for all four spots there's no excuse for this to not be one of the Sun Belt's more productive lines. However, it would be nice if one could step up and shine as the star.
Unit Rating: 4.5


State of the Unit: The linebacking corps hasn't helped the struggling line come up with big plays, and it hasn't done a good enough job of cleaning up messes against the run. Like the line there should be an excellent rotation to keep everyone fresh, but it's all about finding playmakers.

Starting somewhere in the mix is 6-2, 210-pound senior Devon Lewis-Buchanan, the team's leading returning tackler making 63 last year with 2.5 sacks, a pick, six broken up passes and six tackles for loss. He's built like a big safety and he moves extremely well, and now the coaching staff will find spots to use his athleticism. He'll start out on the strongside, but he might not stay there. 5-11, 208-pound sophomore Brandon Nash will see time on the outside after coming up with a good first season making 22 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss.

Manning the middle will be either 6-2, 240-pound senior Richard Brooks or 6-1, 225-pound true freshman Brandon "Trae" Johnson. Brooks came back from a knee injury two years ago but was banged up throughout last year making 27 tackles. Johnson was one of the team's top recruits, and while he's not all that big, he's feisty, smart, and tough for the inside. He can move around where needed.

6-2, 199-pound senior Lance Kelley has spent his career as a safety after coming to the program as a wide receiver. Tall, lanky, and fast, with sub-4.5 speed, he has an interesting set of tools for a weakside linebacker. Banged up throughout last year, he only played in seven games but still made 34 tackles with an interception. Former Arkansas Razorback Jelani Smith is a 6-0, 215-pound speedster who'll be a perfect fit for the weakside.

Watch Out For … Lewis-Buchanan moving around. In an attempt to get more pass rushing production, the hope will be for the senior to find spots on the outside to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
Strength: Options. The Ragin' Cajuns will go eight deep on bodies for the linebacker rotation with the hope being for strength in numbers. There might not be a true statistical superstar, but several players will get their hands in the pot.
Weakness: A true run stopper. There might be several players to work with, but the loss of leading tackler Daylon McCoy and top playmaker Grant Fleming will hurt.
Outlook: Linebacker coach Greg Stewart's job is to find the right threesome to get the job done. Lewis-Buchanan is a lock for one spot, and Kelley will find a place on the field somewhere, and everyone else will fill in the gaps. There are plenty of good prospects to go around.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: Here's the problem. The UL secondary struggled last year against anyone who could throw a forward pass on a regular basis, and now the defense will spend more time and effort loading up the front seven to stop the run. However, the defensive backs were strong this offseason and appear ready to make a big step up in production.

The secondary is set at corner with senior Melvin White the main man on one side, and senior Dwight "Bill" Bentley a good veteran on the other. At 6-3 and 190 pounds, White is a big, athletic defender who came up with 24 tackles. Now he has to make plays when the ball is in the air with just one broken up pass. However, he recovered two fumbles. The 5-11, 173-pound Bentley isn't all that big, but he has been around for forever and is tough in the open field. He might not look the part but he's a good tackler finishing fourth on the team with 58 stops with an interception, six broken up passes, and three tackles for loss.

Senior Lionel Stokes is more of a free safety by nature, but with Lance Kelley moving to the linebacking corps he'll get a shot at strong safety. The 5-10, 180-pound Stokes is a thin speedster who was a great get for the program coming out of the JUCO ranks finishing third on the team with 59 tackles with a team-leading three picks and two tackles for loss. He'll be backed up by 6-1, 192-pound redshirt freshman Earnest Gardner, a promising big body who was good this offseason, but not lights out. Consistency will be his key.

The combination of senior Le'Marcus Gibson and sophomore Cooper Gerami will man the free safety spot. Gibson, at a thick 6-0 and 210 pounds, is more of a strong safety making 23 tackles in just six games of work before suffering a knee injury. He's a great hitter who was originally going to Hawaii before suffering getting hit by another knee problem, while the 6-0, 205-pound Gerami took over a starting job in the second half of last year finishing with 31 tackles with a pick.
The plan is for the corner depth to come from JUCO transfer Jemarious Moten, a talented prospect who could get on the field right away as a nickel or dime defender along with his job as a No. 2 corner. 6-0, 175-pound redshirt freshman Trevence Pratt will likely be a nickel defender right away, but he'll also have to play a key role at corner from the start.

Watch Out For … the free safety situation. Stokes could move over and stick in the spot, but the combination of Gibson and Gerami should be decent enough to free everyone else up.
Strength: Starting corner. While they didn't make enough plays last year, White and Bentley are as good as any pair in the Sun Belt. With White's size and Bentley's experience, the Cajuns should be set.
Weakness: Backup corner. It's never a plus when there's nothing to count on right away from the depth. UL has to hope for totally untested players to fill the roles if White and Bentley struggle or get dinged up.
Outlook: It's all about the pass rush and health. If the starting foursome stays healthy, especially on the outside, all should be fine if, and it's a big if, there's more of a pass rush than the defensive front has brought in several years.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Tyler Albrecht was supposed to be the main placekicker last year after a strong 2009, but he came up with a disastrous 1-for-6 start. Junior Brett Baer took over and nailed all seven of his attempts including a 42-yarder. While he had a lousy offseason and he doesn't have a huge leg, he's the starter now until freshman Carlos Alvaraz gets to school and gets a shot.

Gone is punter Spencer Ortego and his 40.1-yard average with 18 put inside the 20. Not only did he pin teams deep, but he got the hang time with 15 fair catches. Now it'll be up to Baer and Alvarez to battle it out for the job, but walk-ons will be welcome this fall.

The kickoff return game was the worst in college football averaging a pathetic 17.64 yards per try. It'll be an open casting call in an attempt to find more pop with Robert Walker and Darryl Surgent getting the first two chances. Harry Peoples will get a shot at returning punts even though he has never done it before.

Watch Out For … Alvarez. Baer will likely be the staring placekicker and he'll be solid in time, but Alvarez will get every shot to win both the punting and placekicking gigs.
Strength: Uhhhhh, hmmmmmmm. Potential? Baer did have a perfect second half of last season on field goals, but he didn't show a ton of range. Everything else needs work.
Weakness: Punting, with Ortego gone, kick returns, punt returns, and kick and punt coverage. Everything else is just fine.
Outlook: The special teams have a slew of issues. None of the main punt return options have ever given it a shot in college, the kickoff return game was miserable, and the coverage teams were awful. More range on field goals would be nice, but going into the year, anything that works on a consistent basis would be welcomed.
Unit Rating: 3.5

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