2011 Bowling Green Preview – Defense
Bowling Green LB Dwayne Woods
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Bowling Green Falcon Defense
Preview 2011 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The defense that was so good a few years ago and had to undergo a major rebuilding job in 2009 didn't improve enough last year. The pass rush was bad, the run D was worse, and the results were disastrous. Experience has to translate into production with a decent tackle rotation needing to make the line stronger and with four starters back for the 4-2-5 alignment in the secondary. Dwayne Woods is one of the MAC's best linebackers and should once again be a statistical superstar, but size is a problem for the corps and too much time will be spent overcompensating for the issues on the line. The defense has to find one thing it can do consistently well and has to stop someone from running the ball for the first time in a few years.
Star of the defense: Junior LB Dwayne Woods
Tackles: Dwayne Woods, 134
Sacks: Chris Jones, 6
Interceptions: Keith Morgan, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DE Ronnie Goble
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Boo Boo Gates
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Chris Jones
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Woods, 2) Jones, 3) S Jovan Leacock
Strength of the defense: Dwayne Woods, Experience
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Size
State of the Unit: A disaster for the second straight season, the defensive front not only didn't hold up against the run, it didn't get into the backfield finishing 94th in the nation in sacks and 100 tackles for loss. There's experience and depth returning in the middle, but the ends have to be replaced. Considering the lack of production, massive turnover isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The most productive player up front should once again by Chris Jones, a 6-2, 289-pound senior who made 39 tackles with six sacks and 11 tackles for loss. A quick interior pass rusher, he came up with more than a third of the team's sacks while doing what he could to plug up holes. However, he was pushed around way too often and isn't an anchor. His job isn't to be a brick wall; it's to make plays behind the line. With a quick burst, he should be able to do that again.
Working into the lineup on a regular basis will be 6-5, 284-pound sophomore Jarius Campbell and 6-3, 259-pound sophomore Ted Ouellet after getting their feet wet last year. Ouellet is undersized, but he's a great athlete and could become a whale of an interior pass rusher. Campbell was nice as a reserve making 25 sacks with two tackles for loss. They're both big ends playing on the inside, and they're both natural pass rushers.
Finding steady ends will be the biggest problem with Darius Smith and Angelo Magnone gone. 6-3, 246-pound sophomore Ronnie Goble was expected to make an impact last year but was knocked out for the season early on with a shoulder injury. Redshirt freshman Bryan Thomas is a 6-3, 240-pound athlete who was a great high school sprinter and will be turned loose into the backfield, while fellow redshirt freshman Charlie Walker, a 6-3, 215-pound linebacker, will be used as a specialist. He's a good tackler who can work on the end or as an outside linebacker.
Watch Out For … the coaching staff to try something, anything to get into the backfield from the outside. The line won't ever be a rock against the run, but it has to do something right. Hitting a quarterback once in a while would be nice.
Strength: Tackles. While the run defense is still going to be a problem, there are four good ones who can keep everyone fresh. Jones, Campbell and Ouellet can all get into the backfield.
Weakness: Playing football. To be fair, Jones is one of the MAC's best interior pass rushers and Campbell has the tools to be a special player with a little more time, but the Falcons have been miserable against the run in the Dave Clawson area. With no pass rush from the outside, nothing worked last year and the ends are now starting from scratch.
Outlook: Can the upgrade in talent translate into production? The coaching staff has done a nice job of coming up with bringing in some good young players, but after so many problems the last few years, the line has ten miles to go to merely be average. The tackle rotation has to be steady and solid, while someone, anyone, has to get into the backfield from the outside.
Unit Rating: 4
State of the Unit: The Falcons had to replace all the top tacklers from 2009, but there were big statistical seasons from a linebacking corps that had to clean up the mess to bail out a miserable defensive front. There's tremendous athleticism, nice promise, and good depth considering the defense only needs two in the 4-2-5 alignment.
The Falcon defense might have had major problems, but Dwayne Woods wasn't one of them. The 6-1, 219-pound junior is a guided missile of a tackling machine making a team-high 134 stops with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, six tackles for loss, and with three forced fumbles on his way to Second Team All-MAC honors. The star recruit of 2008 showed just how good he could be when turned loose, and while he's not built like a middle linebacker, he's tough like one. He's strong enough to hold up against the run and fast and athletic enough to be a major factor in pass coverage. If he stays healthy, consider it a stunner if he's not the team's top tackler by a ten-mile wide margin.
Needing to step in and shine in the Buck position is Paul Swan, a strong recruit in the 2008 class to a decent backup making 28 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and a bulked up 222 pounds, he's one of the team's biggest linebackers and he needs to hold up against the stronger running teams. A high school track star who made 261 tackles in his final two years, he has the athleticism and the hitting ability to be a statistical star.
The key to the corps will be to find a good rotation of backups to give Woods and Swan a break while also filling in a third slot if and when the D goes to a 4-3. 6-1, 220-pound redshirt freshman D.J. Lynch was a nice recruit last year and runs well for an outside option. 6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Gabe Martin is a good hitter and potential leader of the crew; 5-11, 203-pound senior Jason Rice has a few games of starting experience and has been a good special teamer; and 6-0, 211-pound sophomore Eric Jordan, a former running back, saw the field but didn't record any tackles.
Watch Out For … Swan. He's not Dwayne Woods, but he has the talent and the potential to quickly fill in for Eugene Fells and replace his 88 tackles and ten tackles for loss. He'll be a terrific running mate.
Strength: Woods. He's a consummate leader on the field and he'll do a little bit of everything for a defense that desperately needs playmakers. He'll make more than 120 tackles and he'll be one of the league's most disruptive forces.
Weakness: Size. For a run defense that has so many problems, not having a true thumper of a linebacker is a problem. Everyone can tackle and the stats will be there in the two-man corps, but plenty of plays will be made down the field.
Outlook: Partly because the line is so bad and partly because the athleticism is there, the linebackers will make a ton of tackles and will be sent into the backfield on a regular basis to be disruptive. Woods should be an all-star and Swan might not be far behind. The key will be to find a few young players good enough to push for time.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: With no pass rush to help out the cause, the secondary was a sitting duck at times. However, it's not like it locked down in key spots and it struggled against anyone who could throw efficiently. Four starters are back and this is the year the program has been pointing to with three senior starters looking to make a big splash and with some decent young players waiting to add good, quality depth.
One of the team's top tacklers last year, senior Jovan Leacock, returns after finishing second on the team with 91 tackles with two picks. At 5-10 and 209 pounds, he's a thick Stud safety who walked on from the JUCO ranks and grabbed hold of a job right away. He's more than athletic enough to work as a free safety or a strong safety, and he's tough enough to be a sure tackler against the stronger running teams.
Also back is senior Keith Morgan, a 6-0, 209-pounder who'll be used partly as a weakside linebacker and as a big-hitting safety. One of the key veterans to last year's group, he made 68 stops and finished fourth on the team with 67 stops and a team-leading three interceptions. A stronger tackler who packs a punch, he missed a few games banged up, and he needs to make sure he doesn't knock himself out with big hits.
The third safety in the equation should be Boo Boo Gates, a 5-11, 200-pound sophomore who's a solid return man and an ultra-quick option at the Rover. He was good whenever he got his chance making 35 tackles with an interception, and he should be a major playmaker with more time and more opportunities. He's too good of an athlete to not be on the field.
Sophomore Cameron Truss and senior Adrien Spencer are back after starting throughout last year. The 5-11, 187-pound Truss is a smart, tough player who missed three games hurt but still made 49 tackles with two interceptions and a team-leading seven broken up passes. He has good size and he's growing into a No. 1 corner, while the 6-0, 191-pound Spencer followed up a 52-tackle season with 37 tackles with four broken up passes. Physical for his size, he can handle the bigger receivers and is just fast enough to hang with the speedier ones.
6-0, 190-pound sophomore Aaron Foster produced when he got his chances making 25 tackles with a broken up pass. With good size and nice range, he can play any safety position. Aunre' Davis is a 5-10, 183-pound athlete who runs extremely well and is the team's most physical backup corner. He made 19 tackles last year as a key reserve and broke up a pass. Junior Tim Moore stepped in and made seven tackles as a reserve, and now he'll work in several safety spots as a jack-of-all-trades. The 5-11, 186-pounder has seen enough time to be ready to be more of a factor.
Watch Out For … Boo Boo. Gates was a special kickoff returner last year, and now he'll bring that same speed and athleticism to the Rover spot. He'll be all over the field and he should fill up the stat sheet making big plays all season long.
Strength: Experience. It's a major plus that so many veteran return to an area that needs five athletic, smart defensive backs to clean up all the messes the front six will make. Four starters are back and Gates is like a fifth starter. There's just enough good depth to expect more production.
Weakness: The big play. The Falcons finished with 14 interceptions and there were some good hits, but there were way too many deep balls allowed as the corners got beat way too often by the more efficient passers.
Outlook: Experience has to translate into production. With so many returning veterans and with one of the MAC's most athletic secondaries, Bowling Green needs to be better. The problem is the pass rush that was non-existent last year and needs work this season. The corners will be on their own with the safeties spending way too much time worrying about the run.
Unit Rating: 5
State of the Unit: The punt return game was great, the kickoff returns were miserable, and there was mediocrity across the board everywhere else. Everyone is back, but the production has to come.
The Falcons have to get more out of the kicking game after sophomore Kyle Burkhardt connected on just 1-of-4 field goal attempts after taking over for Bryan Wright, who hit just 4-of-9 chances. Burkhardt has a decent leg and he was just a true freshman, so while he might not have been great, he'll get every chance to get the job.
The punting game was decent, but it wasn't special with Wright averaging 40-5 yards per try. Looking to take over is junior Jerry Phillips, a big-legged prospect who's untested, but he should be solid. It's asking a lot, though, to replace the 22 kicks put inside the 20 by Wright.
The strength of the special teams should be the punt return game with WR Eugene Cooper back after an all-star season averaging 11.5 yards per try with 20 touchdowns. Much, much more is needed from the kick return game with Boo Boo Gates getting the job after averaging 24.4 yards per try with a 75-yard score as the No. 2 man.
Watch Out For … Gates to be an all-star kickoff returner. He took over for the ineffective Tyrone Pronty and made the kickoff return game shine when he got his chance. Cooper will be one of the league's most dangerous punt returners, and now Gates should be more.
Strength: The return game. It'll be a disappointment if the punt return game doesn't average over nine yards per pop, while Gats could boost the team's overall average from 18.4 yards per try to at least 21.
Weakness: Placekicking. Burkhardt has the potential to be fine, but the kicking has been a major negative over the years and he needs to be a factor for a team that should be in several close games.
Outlook: The special teams have been disastrous at times in the Dave Clawson era, and this group might not be too much better. The return game should be better, but there are major question marks at kicker and punter. The coverage teams were fine last year, but they could be a bit tighter on kickoffs.
Unit Rating: 5
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