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2011 UNLV Preview - Defense
UNLV DE B.J. Bell
UNLV DE B.J. Bell
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 21, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - UNLV Rebel Defense


UNLV Rebels

Preview 2011 - Defense


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

What You Need To Know: The Rebel defense had been bad, and then it got a whole bunch worse. How bad have things been? The D had allowed 40 points or more ten times over the previous two years and allowed that many or more eight times in 2010. It allowed 39.69 points per game, had no pass rush whatsoever, and got picked clean by anyone who could throw a forward pass. It’s been the same problem for years; no pass rush, no production in the secondary, no hope. There are still major questions on the line, but the linebacking corps could be bigger and more talented if JUCO transfer Princeton Jackson is as good as advertised. The secondary is deep at corner, and young and promising at safety. The key, though, is getting more from a line that was miserable throughout the season.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: B.J. Bell, 51
Sacks: B.J. Bell, 1.5
Interceptions: Will Chandler, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB Quinton Pointer
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Nate Holloway
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DT Desmond Tautofi
Best pro prospect: Pointer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pointer, 2) LB Nate Carter, 3) CB Will Chandler
Strength of the defense: Corners, Young Prospects
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Run Defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The old coaching staff could never quite get the talent on the defensive line, and it showed last year as the new staff inherited an empty cupboard with almost no big-time players. The results were a nightmare with a mere 12 sacks, finishing 116th in the nation against the run, and 118th in tackles for loss. There’s experience returning, and plenty of players know what they’re supposed to do, but now the production has to follow.

Back to man one end spot is senior James Dunlap, a 6-1, 265-pound veteran who made 38 tackles with a tackle for loss. He’s a short, squatty defender who did absolutely nothing to get into the backfield. He started most of last year as an undersized tackle and will be far, far better as a regular on the outside. He’ll work in a rotation with JUCO transfer Trent Almang-Wilder, an interesting 6-6, 280-pound giant of a 4-3 end. He came in from the College of the Desert and is expected to be a factor right away against the run.

6-2, 260-pound senior B.J. Bell was a huge get for the program a few years ago, but the former JUCO All-American had problems with an injured shoulder two years ago and was a stunning disappointment as a pass rusher with just 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. However, he was decent against the run making 51 tackles. He’ll combine with 6-1, 255-pound senior Matt Kravetz, a walk-on who didn’t see any time last year after making 15 tackles as a special teamer in 2009.

Trying to clog up the middle will be 6-3, 350-pound sophomore Nate Holloway, a former grayshirt who stepped in as a true freshman after making 15 tackles as a key reserve last year. While he’s a bit too big and he’ll never get into the backfield, he has the raw girth the line needs. Providing a smaller, quicker option is 6-3, 265-pound sophomore Tyler Gaston, who’s built more for the end but will see time at tackle. A reserve over the second half of last year, Gaston made 13 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss in a promising debut.

A young combination of tackles will rotate at the other spot with 6-3, 300-pound true freshman Desmond Tautofi the bulkier option and 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Alex Klorman the smaller, speedier one. Tautofi, who was originally recruited by Cal and Washington before academic issues, was all set to go to Wyoming before changing his mind. He’s very athletic for his size and he’s expected to quickly become the star of the front four. Klorman was a reserve in every game making ten tackles with half a tackle for loss.

Watch Out For … Tutofi. Of all the young players on the defensive front, the Hawaii native has the biggest upside. He bulked up over the last year, but he still has the burst and agility to be a nasty interior pass rusher.
Strength: Young options for the interior. The ends are occupied by upperclassmen, but the inside is stocked with young, promising defenders with a little bit of size. The hope is for the rotation to develop quickly to come up with some semblance of production against the run.
Weakness: Production. The pass rush was abysmal and anyone who wanted to run had few problems. This will be a long work in progress trying to stop the bigger, stronger running games, and a pass rusher has to emerge early on.
Outlook: There’s hope. There’s no one up front who’ll scare an offensive coordinator, and there are too many question marks on the inside and mediocre talents on the outside, but there’s hope for the young players to start to take to the coaching a little more to start coming up with stops. There will be progress in practices and things will start to look better, and then the season opens at Wisconsin.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Linebackers

State of the Unit: The Rebels are replacing all three starters with leading tackler Ronnie Paulo and No. 3 man Starr Fuimaono the biggest losses after making 85 tackles and 81, respectively. It’s not like the corps is starting from scratch with several veteran backups now turning into starters, while several underclassmen will be thrown into primetime roles from Day One.

The statistical star in the middle will be veteran backup Nate Carter, a big, strong, 6-1, 235-pound senior who made 35 tackles with a pick. Quick enough to start at either outside spot, but needed more in the middle, he has the tools and he has been decent, but he hasn’t been the stud he was expected to become a few years ago. It’s all there, and now the tackles should come with a bigger role.

The combination of sophomore Tim Hasson and junior C.J. Cox will try to hold down the strong side. The 6-2, 195-pound Hasson is built like a safety, but he managed to do a decent job of holding up as a key backup making 19 tackles with a tackle for loss. Cox, a former running back, has the quickness and decent 5-11, 205-pound size, and now he has to show that he can be consistently physical enough to handle the job.

Sophomore Tani Maka is a nice-looking 6-1, 240-pound prospect for the weakside. With 34 tackles and two tackles for loss as a backup with a start at West Virginia, he has good experience, nice range, and the potential to be a playmaker in the backfield if he’s turned loose. He has to be better in pass coverage, but if he’s good and consistent against the run, the coaching staff will take it.

A spot somewhere in the linebacking corps will be filled by JUCO transfer Princeton Jackson, the team’s top recruit with 6-0, 230-pound size and a guided missile-like ability to get to the ball. He’s short and stocky, but he’s extremely fast and he hits like a ton of bricks against the run.

Watch Out For … Jackson. He should step into the camp and be the team’s best linebacker from Day One. Built for the middle, his early emergence could move Carter to the outside. If that happens, all of a sudden the Rebels have a big, tough unit with Maka, Carter and Jackson all over 230 pounds.
Strength: Potentially, size. The Rebels should have a good, solid corps if all the big bodies are in place. Considering the concerns on the line, the linebackers should make plenty of plays.
Weakness: Experience. This might be addition by subtraction with more talented players coming in, but there might be a learning curve. Carter knows what he’s doing, but everyone else has to get their feet wet.
Outlook: It might take a little bit, but the UNLV linebackers have the talent and the potential to make a night-and-day difference from last year’s production and be a strength. If might take a while to find the right combination, but by the end of the year everything should be humming.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: With no pass rush to help the cause, the secondary didn’t have any hope and got picked clean giving up 228 yards per game and 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions – and five coming from one player. The corners should be excellent and deep, and there’s hope for safety even with a few key losses like Alex De Giacomo, who finished second on the team with 84 tackles with four broken up passes.

There are plenty of corners to go around led by senior Quinton Pointer, a legitimate NFL prospect with great wheels and good tackling skills. Back after missing almost all of last year with a knee injury, he’s the shut-down man the defense needs back in the secondary. For good and bad, considering he’s only 5-10 and 185 pounds, he hits like a safety while doing a good job of hanging with the faster targets. He has the wheels to stay with anyone, and he’s a tremendous tackler for his size, but he needs to be healthy.

Until Pointer is 100%, sophomore Sidney Hodge is back after starting for half the year and making 44 tackles with 1.5 sacks, but he didn’t pick up any passes and only broke up two passes. He’s only 5-8 and 175 pounds, but he can move. Also in the rotation will be Will Chandler, the only one who did much of anything when the ball was in the air making five of the team’s seven interceptions to go along with 37 tackles and three broken up passes. A 5-11, 185-pound senior, he has been around long enough to know what he’s doing, and he has the quickness to stay with any of the athletic receivers. He’ll combine with 5-9, 150-pound sophomore Cedric Coleman, a wispy reserve who made four tackles in his little bit of time. He won’t be much help against the run, but he can fly.

Needing to step in and take over for De Giacomo at strong safety will be sophomore Eric Tiuloma-Vaa a 5-11, 180-pound tackler who started over the final month of the season and finished with 48 tackles. A theme, though, like with most of the rest of the defensive backs, he didn’t do much against the pass with no picks and three broken up passes. JUCO transfer Corbin Brownis a 6-0, 175-pound ready-made big hitter who started his career at Air Force and should know what he’s doing from Day One.

Redshirt freshman Tajh Hasson was terrific this offseason and appears ready to take over the starting free safety job. With 6-1, 185-pound size and blazing speed, a star high school sprinter, he has the size and athleticism to be a mainstay for the next four years.

Watch Out For … The safeties. They might need more time and they might each make a lot of mistakes, but Hasson and Tuiloma-Vaa have the upside to make plays all over the field. If they’re adequate, there could be a huge difference on the defense.
Strength: Corner options. If Pointer is close to 100%, he and Chandler form a good pair, while Coleman and Hodge are young, quick prospects who could be great in a rotation.
Weakness: Plays. There was absolutely no pass rush whatsoever to help the cause, but it’s not like the defensive backs turned things around. The safeties came up with just one interception and there weren’t nearly enough third down stops.
Outlook: There will be some concerns at safety early on, and the corners have to be better, but the potential is there for a far better, far more productive season if the right starting foursome is healthy and ready to go right away.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: One of the biggest positives for the Rebels was freshman Nolan Kohorst, who came right out of high school with a big leg and a big reputation and he showed why with 8-of-11 field goals and looking solid on kickoffs. JUCO transfer Chase Lansford will come in to provide a push, but Kohorst, one of the nation’s top kicking prospects last year, isn’t going to get pushed out of the job.

Lansford will be asked to take over the punting job from Brendon Lamers, who only averaged 37.8 yards per try but forced a whopping 33 fair catches with 13 kicks put inside the 20.

The kickoff return game was solid with Marcus Sullivan averaging 27.9 yards per try, but the punt return game was mediocre with Michael Johnson averaging just 2.4 yards per attempt. Sullivan should be among the nation’s better returners, while Deante Purvis will be a dangerous, speedy punt return option.

Watch Out For … Lansford. With a great leg and good potential, he should boost one of the nation’s worst punting games and can be used on kickoffs and long field goals if needed. Kohorst is the main man, but Lansford should be a weapon.
Strength: Kickoff returns. Sullivan has a way of being slippery and was able to come up with several big plays. He’ll have to be avoided at all costs. Kohorst should be a major strength as the season goes on.
Weakness: Punting. The punting game finished 109th in the nation, but that’s partly because the coverage team didn’t get the job done. The pressure is on Lansford to net more than 33 yards per boot.
Outlook: The special teams were terrific under the former coaching staff for a while, slipped, and then had more problems in Bobby Hauck’s first year. Kohorst has to be dynamic, Lansford has to be good out of the box, and Sullivan has to be Sullivan again.
Unit Rating: 6

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