2011 Troy Preview – Defense
Troy LB Xavier Lamb
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Troy Trojan Defense
Preview 2011 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The defense didn't exactly dominate, struggling to keep the better passing games under wraps, allowing a Sun Belt-worst 245 yards per game, while the run defense wasn't too much better. There's a chance for a big step up in overall production with eight starters returning led by linebackers Xavier lamb and Kanorris Davis, two small, speedy defenders who'll get all over the field. Three returning starters in the secondary should help the cause, and now they have to take advantage of a killer pass rush with Jonathan Massaquoi back to lead the way at one end. Consistency is the key for a defense that allowed 24 points or more nine times before stepping up late in the year to allow 42 points in the final three games.
Star of the defense: Junior DE Jonathan Massaquoi
Tackles: Xavier Lamb, 91
Sacks: Jonathan Massaquoi, 13.5
Interceptions: Jimmie Anderson, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE John Robles
Unsung star on the rise: Junior SS Brynden Trawick
Best pro prospect: Massaquoi
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Massaquoi, 2) LB Xavier Lamb, 3) DT Emmanuel Dudley
Strength of the defense: Pass Rush, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Consistency, Pass Defense
The line went from being one of the team's biggest issues and concerns to a major strength in a heartbeat. The addition of Jonathan Massaquoi on the outside gave the Trojans a superstar pass rusher to work around, while the rest of the line did its part to help the D finish fifth in the nation in sacks and 15th in tackles for loss. While it's not a rock of a run defense, the athleticism makes up for a lot of the mistakes and several of the gashes allowed against the better running teams.
The star of the defensive front, and the likely the entire D after a First Team All-Sun Belt campaign, will once again be
Jonathan Massaquoi, a 6-2, 250-pound speed rusher who finished third on the team with 76 tackles while also cranking out 13.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. While the former JUCO star isn't built like some of the great Troy defensive line stars of the past, he did beef up a bit and could project to be an outside linebacker at the next level if used the right way. He's more like a pumped up linebacker or a huge safety, but he has the speed, quickness, and athleticism to bust into the backfield in a hurry. The brother of former Georgia star and current Cleveland Brown wide receiver, Mohommed, has the athleticism to make up for the lack of sheer bulk.
Finding a steady starter on the other side will be vital after losing Mario Addison and his 10.5 sacks. The Trojans always get production out of their ends, and now it's time for senior
John Robles to step up and shine. The 6-4, 245-pound Robles made 16 tackles with two tackles for loss last season, but the former Coffeyville CC star has the quickness to put up big numbers.
The key to the line will be to get better play out of the defensive tackles. 6-1, 285-pound senior Emmanuel Dudley returns at one spot after making 27 tackles with a sack, but he's not much of an interior pass rusher and didn't dominate in his first season like he did at Northeast Mississippi CC. Next to him on the nose early on will be
Tony Davis, a 6-0, 252-pound plugger who made 15 tackles and a sack as a spot starter. While he's feisty, he'll have to be a part of a rotation because of his size.
6-4, 274-pound senior
Sidell Corley will get plenty of work after making 13 tackles as a key reserve last year, while a rotation of underclassmen will be counted on right away led by 6-3, 250-pound Aaron Williams. An extremely athletic interior presence, Williams will move around where needed.
Watch Out For … the young players on the interior. Aaron Williams and redshirt freshman Tommy Stephens are undersized, but they can move. The idea will be to throw several different players into the rotation to try to hold up against the stronger running teams, and the young guys will be counted to do more.
Strength: Pass rushing ability. Jonathan Massaquoi is a superior talent with Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year potential, while there's enough speed and quickness across the front four to be among the most disruptive lines in college football again.
Weakness: Defensive tackle. This was supposed to be an issue last year, and it was. Anyone with any semblance of power could move the ball at will on the interior, and without a true beefeater on the inside, there could be the same problems this year. Again, it'll be all about bodies more than any one play, but the health of Emmanuel Dudley will be vital; he has GOT to stay healthy.
Outlook: What was the team's biggest issue turned out to be a solid. The pass rushing will be there from the outside while the tackles will have to prove they can hold up. Expect a repeat of 2010 with lots of sacks, lots of big plays, and lots of rushing yards allowed.
Unit Rating: 5
Last year, the Trojans had the unenviable task of having to replace all-timers in Boris Lee and Bear Woods. This year, there's a nice mix of veterans and young prospects to work with, but it all depends on the undersized stars staying healthy. This is a small but quick group that does a little of everything well, but it lacks the raw bulk to hold up against the stronger running teams.
It was senior Xavier Lamb's job to take over for Lee, and he came through with a team-leading 91 tackles with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. At 5-9 and 226 pounds, he's a scooter in the middle who isn't really built for the job, but he proved to be tough as nails and a huge hitter for his size. The former wrestler is very strong, very physical, and very instinctive as he had to clean up many of the messes the defensive interior couldn't handle. He's a tackling machine who'll be the leader of the defensive front seven.
Halfway through last year, junior Brannon Bryan took over on the weakside and he didn't let go of the gig finishing with 24 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss including eight stops and a sack in the bowl win over Ohio. At 5-11 and 230 pounds, he has decent size for the position and has a fullback's toughness when it comes to stopping the run. Flanking Bryan on the strongside will be
Kannoris Davis, who takes over for second-leading tackler, Daniel Sheffield. The 5-9, 203-pound Davis doesn't look the part, but he's a big popper who makes plays whenever he gets the chance finishing with 43 tackles, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss last season.
Troy often uses a fourth linebacker or a sort of nickel defender, and this year sophomore
Johnny Thompson will get the first look for the spot while also serving as a backup for the weakside. The 6-0, 217-pounder was an Alabama high school all-star and has the tackling skills to put up nice numbers when he gets the chance. 6-0, 245-pound junior
Jacoby Thomas brings more size for the inside and will be used as a key backup both in the middle and on the strongside after making 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks including seven stops against Florida Atlantic.
Watch Out For … Brannon Bryan. This is Xavier Lamb's linebacking corps, but Bryan showed excellent promise and potential as last season went on, and he should fill in the hole left by the loss of Daniel Sheffield and his 78 tackles.
Strength: Tackling ability. The Troy linebackers wrap up extremely well and don't miss too many stops. Because they're not all that big, they're ultra-feisty and get to the ball in a hurry. Yes, they bounce a bit off the bigger ball carriers, but they don't miss too many.
Weakness: Size. The Troy run defense has been a problem for the last few years, and it wasn't all the fault of the defensive front. Everyone can tackle, but there were too many plays made down the field. The tackling stats will sometimes look better than actual play.
Outlook: There's a good starting threesome to count on with Lamb a sure-thing all-star this year (after being badly overlooked last season) and Bryan about to break out. Developing depth is vital and coming up with more of a rotation might be a must considering the lack of size. This will be a good, active linebacking corps, but it doesn't have the strength to bother the bigger boys on the slate.
Unit Rating: 5
A complete and utter disaster in 2009, mostly because the team got caught in so many shootouts, the pass defense didn't exactly tighten up last year giving up a Sun Belt-low 245 yards per game while finishing 71st in the nation in pass efficiency defense. There weren't enough big plays with just 14 interceptions, while the 23 touchdown passes were way too many for a defense with so many quick players.
The hope is that experience will turn into production with three starters returning led by junior
KeJuan Phillips at one corner, The 5-9, 176-pound junior returned from academic issues to make 36 tackles with six broken up passes. He didn't pick off a pass, but he has the quickness and now the experience to do far more.
On the other side will once again be Jimmie Anderson, a slight 5-9, 170-pound former JUCO transfer who tied for the team lead with three interceptions while making 28 tackles. A former first-team NJCAA All-American, the senior has the potential to be the team's No. 1 lockdown corner as the season goes on.
Working as a key backup is 5-9, 182-pound Bryan Willis, who tied for third on the team with 73 tackles with a team-leading four interceptions and 12 broken up passes in 2009, but he was moved to more of a reserve role last year making 31 tackles. However, he was a big-play performer with two picks including a 43-yard play against Arkansas State and a 62-yard fumble recovery against Louisiana.
Strong safety LaDarrius Madden stepped in from NE Mississippi CC after transferring from Lambuth University and made an immediate impact. The 5-8, 194-pounder was a ball-hawker in the JUCO ranks and kept it up in his first season with the Trojans making three picks and 49 tackles. He also came up with two fumble recoveries against Florida Atlantic. He'll combine with
Brynden Trawick, a 6-3, 210-pound hard-hitting JUCO transfer, who started out his career at Michigan State, and he should be one of the team's top tacklers.
The one big replacement in the secondary is at free safety with Willard Ross gone. Thrown into the mix as the starter and as the possible backup corner will be
Barry Valcin, a former JUCO transfer who started out his career with Baylor, moved to LSU, and ended up at Troy where he can play any position. The 5-11, 184-pound senior made 51 tackles in 2009 but missed last year with a broken ankle. Also in the hunt is
Cameron Hudson, who spent his true freshman season as a solid reserve making 27 tackles, but he didn't do anything against the pass. At 5-10 and 187 pounds he has good size, and as one of the program's top recruits last year, he has the talent to be a standout now that he gets more time.
Watch Out For … Cameron Hudson. Arguably the most talented player in the secondary, the true sophomore has the potential to blow up with more work at free safety. He has the size, the athleticism, and the ability to be one of the team's leading tacklers, but it might be as a nickel defender if Trawick shines.
Strength: Corners. The Trojans have four good corners to form a rotation and to get the right players in the right spots. The secondary has the ability to easily slip into nickel and dime packages with veterans ready to step in.
Weakness: Stopping the pass. It's been a problem for the last several years, but the production was a bit better allowing 245 yards per game after giving up 287 per outing two years ago. The secondary gets dinked and dunked on way too easily and gets caught napping a bit too often.
Outlook: The pass rush is among the best in the nation and should help the cause, but it doesn't. The potential is there for a far better season from the secondary full of veterans, and considering the one main newcomer to the regular starting rotation, Hudson, might be the best of the bunch, there's no excuse for the production to not be better. It's all relative, but if Troy can get the average down to around 220 passing yards per game allowed and come up with a few more picks, consider the season a success.
Unit Rating: 5
The special teams have been hit or miss, but the biggest positive has been the kicking of senior
Michael Taylor, who followed up an 11-of-14 2009 by hitting 17-of-22 kicks last year. He hit six of his last seven shots with the one miss coming from 49 yards out. While he might not be the best kicker in the Sun Belt, he'll be among the most solid.
Senior Will Goggins returns for his fourth season and he should be an all-star. He has improved his accuracy with 20 put inside the 20 while averaging 42.2 yards per boot. While his coverage team was a big problem, he didn't hang it up enough with returners averaging 11.1 yards per try, with two scores, after averaging 5.5 yards per attempt in 2009.
It's asking way too much to replace Jerrel Jernigan and his 13.3-yard punt return average, and now it'll be up to
Chris Pickett to bring his terrific speed to the spot.
Chris Anderson can also fly, and he'll be the main option at kick returner.
Watch Out For … Anderson as a return man. The Trojans had the second-worst kickoff return game in America, averaging just 17.7 yards per try, even though Jerrel Jernigan averaged 25.2 yards per try.
Strength: The kickers. Taylor and Goggans are veterans who know what they're doing. Taylor grew into a star and showed excellent range throughout the year. Goggans bombed away for 42.2 yards per boot.
Weakness: Kickoff returns and punt coverage. The Trojans allowed a whopping 11.1 yards per try and two touchdowns and was miserable on kickoff returns. Even with a 100-yard return for a score, the average was still 17.7 yards per try.
Outlook: If the return game can figure itself out and Jernigan can be replaced, all should be fine. Goggans is a weapon of a punter and Taylor is a special kicker, and they'll make a big difference. The coverage teams need to be stronger and the kickoff return game has to find some pop, but overall, the special teams should be solid.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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