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2011 Kent State Preview – Defense
Kent State DE Roosevelt Nix
Kent State DE Roosevelt Nix
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 22, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Kent State Golden Flash Defense


Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2011 - Defense


- 2011 Kent State Preview | 2011 Kent State Offense
- 2011 Kent State Defense | 2011 Kent State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Jon Heacock, the pressure is on. The new defensive coordinator has to keep up the production from a defense that finished fourth in the nation against the run and third in tackles for loss. The goal of the KSU defense over the last few years has been to get to the quarterback and be disruptive, and Roosevelt Nix and the defensive front have the talent and experience to continue the production. The back seven needs to replace two key linebackers and both safeties, including key playmakers in Dorian Wood, Brian Lainhart, and Cobrani Mixon, the team’s top three tacklers from last year. This will be an aggressive defense that has work to do, but will be fast and athletic.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Norman Wolfe, 75
Sacks: Roosevelt Nix, 10
Interceptions: Norman Wolfe, 5

Star of the defense: Sophomore DE Roosevelt Nix
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore S Luke Wollet
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Luke Batton
Best pro prospect: Nix
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Nix, 2) CB Norman Wolfe, 3) DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen
Strength of the defense: Pass Rush, Line
Weakness of the defense: Safety Experience, Linebacker

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: All of a sudden, the defensive front went from good to unbelievable flying into the backfield on a regular basis and coming up big time and again against the run. The line is working in a 4-3 but will have a 3-4 look from time to time with a LEO position doing a little bit of everything. As long as the KSU defense finishes third in the nation in tackles for loss, and eight in sacks, all will be fine.

While he was only, technically, a reserve, true sophomore Roosevelt Nix might as well be seen as a returning starter after a MAC Defensive Player of the Year performance. While he’s a short end, at 6-0 and 255 pounds he’s built like a linebacker but can fly with an incredible burst off the ball. Dominant throughout the year, he finished with 43 tackles with a MAC-leading ten sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and with eight quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. As good as he was, though, he was keyed on over the second half of the year and came up with just one sack in the final five games. He destroyed Akron with three sacks and Bowling Green for two, and while he didn’t get in the backfield as much over the final month he was still active and still freed up the rest of the line with so much attention paid his way.

Needing to take advantage of all the blockers working on Nix is senior Lee Stalker, a part-time starter who did his share of getting into the backfield with 1.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss along with 27 tackles. At 6-2 and 254 pounds he has decent size and is quick off the ball. A terrific special teamer earlier in his career, he brings the effort on every play.

Working at the LEO position, a hybrid of jobs that used to be called the BUCK, is junior Jake Dooley, a solid starter who made 35 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 236-pounder has been a part of the mix since his true freshman season and he knows what he’s doing, and now he’s going to be turned loose even more as a pass rusher. Also seeing time in the position will be sophomore Zach Hitchens, who showed promise as a true freshman making five tackles. Very fast and very athletic, the 6-2, 225 pounder can work as a linebacker or a pass rushing end.

6-3, 304-pound senior Ishmaa’ily Kitchen is a pure run stuffer on the nose, but he got behind the line a little bit making three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss to go along with his 22 stops. Very big and very strong, he’s the anchor that everyone else works around and is perfectly built for the spot. Staying healthy is a must considering he’s the only lineman with any real bulk, but 6-1, 274-pound junior Dana Brown is big enough to hold his own when needed. He came up with 30 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss highlighted by a dominant ten-stop game against Ohio. A starter throughout last year, missing just one game, he’s a good veteran who knows what he’s doing.

A pair of sophomores will figure large in the mix on the end with 6-2, 235-pound Mark Fackler and 6-3, 240-pound Andrew Christopher, two very quick, very good-looking pass rushing prospects. Christopher is a smart, quick option working behind Nix, while Fackler was a good recruit with an impressive burst making seven tackles and two tackles for loss in his limited time.

Watch Out For … the sophomores. Nix is the obvious star, but Fackler, Hitchens, and Christopher will be a regular part of the rotation and should all get into the backfield on a regular basis.
Strength: Quickness off the ball. Can the new coaching staff get the same production out of the front four? While the back seven gets involved in the mix, too, the front four is as good as anyone in America at selling out to get behind the line with 35 sacks and 100 tackles for loss.
Weakness: Raw bulk. It helped the run defense stats a bit to play teams like Bowling Green and Murray State who couldn’t run all that well, but the D struggled against the powerful teams. Army and Western Michigan got around the quickness by getting physical, and with just one big body up front, it’s going to be all about quickness and swarming.
Outlook: As long as Nix is being Nix again, and if Kitchen and Brown can form a rock on the nose, the line should be among the best in the MAC. Can the new coaching staff get the same production out of the line? After finishing fourth in the nation against the run, third in tackles for loss, and eighth in sacks, and with almost everyone back, there’s reason to be fired up.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Linebackers

State of the Unit: It took a little while to rebuild, and then the Golden Flash linebacking corps came up big with Cobrani Mixon and Dorian Wood combining for 178 tackles. There’s work to do, but there are several active prospects ready to step in, and having a great defensive line will help the cause.

The lone returning starter is hurt. 6-0, 220-pound junior Luke Batton, a versatile playmaker who can play any of the three linebacker spots and started 11 times last year on the strongside, he missed spring ball banged up, but he’s expected to be back for the start of the season in the middle in place of Mixon and be the leader of the corps after making 68 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and two recovered fumbles. 6-0, 220-pound sophomore Danny Gress got a little bit of time on the rotation and on special teams making three tackles with a sack, and now he’ll see time behind Batton.

With Batton moving, 6-0, 224-pound senior Kyle Reese will step in on the strongside after making nine tackles as a reserve. More of a smallish defensive lineman than a linebacker, he’ll finally get his chance in a full-time role after mostly working as a special teamer. He could become a pass rusher, but he’ll be needed for his maturity and time logged in, while 6-3, 235-pound redshirt freshman Derek Jones is a pure tackling machine who can get behind the line. Big and fast, he’ll be a statistical star when he gets his chance.

5-10, 213-pound senior Byron Tyson hasn’t seen a lot of work, but he has been around long enough to be ready to step in on the weakside. He only has a couple of career tackles, working mostly special teamer, but he packs a wallop and should be a big-hitting playmaker. He has to prove he can handle the full-time role, while 6-1, 224-pound sophomore C.J. Steward is a bigger option after working mostly as a special teamer.

Watch Out For … the underclassmen. There’s a reason that Reese and Tyson are fifth-year seniors who haven’t seen much time on defense. Jones and Steward will likely be in the mix sooner than later.
Strength: Quickness. You can’t play on the KSU defense if you can’t move, and this group has the athleticism to help the quick defensive front at getting into the backfield.
Weakness: Experience. Is there a starting linebacking corps in America with two fifth year seniors and a junior with less experience than this one? Batton, the junior, was a regular last year, but he’s not exactly a star you build around.
Outlook: It always seems like the Golden Flashes are trying to rebuild and retool their linebacking corps. This year, though, it’s all but starting from scratch on the outside while hoping for Batton to stay healthy with the move to the middle. The stats will be there because of the positions, but the linebackers will be merely average and will need the defensive front to take care of most of the business.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: Helped by a devastating pass rush, the Kent State secondary came up with a terrific year allowing 210 yards per game and allowing few than two touchdown passes in every game but two. There are some huge losses, like big-hitting free safety Brian Lainhart, who made 88 tackles and two picks, and strong safety Dan Hartman. Both corners are back, and they have to be rocks until the safeties prove they can shine.

Senior Josh Pleasant was a fringe All-MAC candidate starting most of last year making 45 tackles with two picks and eight broken up passes, and now he’s ready to be even more of a leader. The 5-10, 181-pounder was one of the team’s top recruits a few years ago and is still improving, and with his quickness and all-around skills he should be more dangerous when the ball is in the air.

5-8, 163-pound senior Norman Wolfe is a smallish, feisty veteran who started every game and became a playmaker with five picks and five broken up passes. Even though he’s not that big, he’s a terrific hitter finishing fourth on the team with 75 tackles and doing a great job of making the play in the open field. Soon, teams will be afraid to start throwing his way if he keeps making quarterbacks pay. 6-0, 173-pound junior Sidney Saulter will back up Wolfe after making seven tackles in his limited action. Extremely fast and with 6-0 and 173-pound size, he has the raw tools to be a top playmaker if he gets more time.

With Lainhart and Hartman gone, it’ll be up to 6-1, 190-pound sophomore Luke Wollet after spending most of last year as a key reserve and getting the start at Bowling Green. More of a strong safety than a free safety, he’s a good hitter with tremendous quickness, and now he’ll work with Pleasant on the right side.

Working at Left Safety will be junior Leon Green, a 5-11, 204-pound junior who has seen plenty of time as a special teamer and now gets a shot to do big things in the secondary. A physical player who was a good high school offensive performer, and he moves well enough to be dangerous when the ball is in the air. 5-10, 202-pound senior Brian Hummer, like Green, has mostly been a special teamer, and now he gets his chance in the rotation.

Looking to make an impact is 6-2, 184-pound sophomore Fabrice Pratt, a fast safety option with a good frame and nice range. The Miami product will work with Wollet at right safety but could play anywhere in the secondary and be a whale of a nickel or dime back. Also in the hunt for time will be sophomore Darius Polk, who had to redshirt after getting hurt as a true freshman, and then made 14 tackles last year. One of the team’s best athletes, he has to be on the field in some way.

Watch Out For … the sophomores. Youth is a theme among the key players on the Golden Flash defense, and the secondary is the same with Wollett, Pratt, and Polk all good enough to come up with big seasons. They’re no names now, but that will change.
Strength: The pass rush. The KSU secondary doesn’t have to be a rock, but it has to take advantage of all the opportunities it’ll get thanks to a devastating push to the quarterback from the front seven.
Weakness: Veteran safeties. Green, Wollet, and the rest of the safeties have promise, but it’s asking a lot to replace Lainhart and Hartman.
Outlook: As long as the pass rush is working like it has over the last few years, the secondary will be just fine. The corners have speed and experience, and there are enough decent safety options to hope for a good season. The better passing teams on the slate won’t have too much of a problem, but the defensive backs won’t ever be a weakness.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Junior Freddy Cortez came up with a good true freshman season hitting 13-of-19 field goals, and was solid last year connecting on 11-of-17 attempts. While he missed his share of makeable shots, one of his missed was from 51 yards out and three of his misses came from 40-to-49 yards. He has a good leg and is good enough to be relied on.

The punting game finished second in the MAC netting 38 yards per kick, and senior Matt Rinehart is back after averaging 42.7 yards per kick and putting a ridiculous 24 kicks inside the 20. With a great leg and tremendous accuracy, putting 59 career kicks inside the 20, the two-time All-MAC performer was among the best in the country.

Dri Archer averaged 20.5 yards per kickoff return and will combine with Eric Adeyemi to handle the work. Adeyemi, the lightning fast transfer from Kentucky, will take over the punt return duties as well after Leneric Muldrow averaged four yards per try.

Watch Out For … Adeyemi. With tremendous speed and quickness, he’s perfect to burst onto the scene to become one of the MAC’s top all-around returners.
Strength: Coverage teams. For all the great things the KSU special teams were able to accomplish, the coverage teams were among the biggest strengths allowing just 17.5 yards per kickoff return, and that’s with a 75-yard touchdown allowed, while giving up a mere 5.6 yards per punt return.
Weakness: Cortez’s consistency. Assuming Adeyemi is going to be terrific, the only real concern for the great special teams will be Cortez from inside the 50.
Outlook: Can the new coaching staff keep the production going? The kicking game will be fine, with Rinehart among the best in America, while the coverage teams should be strong again and Adeyemi will be a playmaker.
Unit Rating: 8.5

- 2011 Kent State Preview | 2011 Kent State Offense
- 2011 Kent State Defense | 2011 Kent State Depth Chart