2012 Nevada Preview – Defense
Nevada CB Khalid Wooten
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Mike Bradeson has a slew of veterans and upperclassmen to work with, but will it translate into talent? The Wolf Pack secondary is loaded with seniors, but corner Khalid Wooten and safety Duke Williams have to make more plays when the ball is in the air. The defensive line loses all the top pass rushers and has to hope for some young prospects to turn great springs into terrific seasons, while the linebacking corps has terrific promise and needs to stay healthy. There's size, athleticism and everyone looks the part. Now the production has to start coming on a consistent basis.
Star of the defense: Senior S Duke Williams
Tackles: Duke Williams, 83
Sacks: Jack Reynoso, Albert Rosette, 2
Interceptions: Khalid Wooten, 4
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Jordan Hanson
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Lenny Jones
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) LB Jeremiah Green, 3) CB Khalid Wooten
Strength of the defense: Veteran Secondary, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Big Plays
The pass rush was mediocre after losing terror Dontay Moch and his 8.5 sacks, but Brett Roy dominated in the interior coming up with ten sacks. So who's next? 6-4, 260-pound sophomore Brock Hekking added 15 pounds to his frame over the last year, and while he should be solid against the run at his bigger weight, he has to be a pass rushing end after seeing a little bit of time and making just seven tackles. He's always working and won't stop, but he'll have to get into the backfield on want-to, while 6-4, 265-pound junior Sam Foster has a little bit of experience to go along with his size making eight tackles with a half a sack in his limited time. He's not a top pass rusher, but he'll be a solid part of the rotation.
The other end job will feature a combination of players and talents. 6-3, 255-pound junior Jake Peppard came to Nevada from Cerritos College and was supposed to be ready right out of the box, but he didn't see any time last year. Also in the rotation will be sophomore Tyler Houk, a 6-3, 255-pound JUCO transfer from College of the Sequoias last year with great pass rushing upside. Like Peppard, he didn't get any playing time, while 6-3, 245-pound Lenny Jones is a speed end who could become a specialist.
Trying to make things happen on the inside in place of Roy is sophomore Jordan Hanson, a 6-2, 285-pound athlete who got a little bit of work in six games but didn't record any tackles. He should be a quick interior pass rusher in time, but he has to prove he can hold up against the run. Next to him will be veteran Jack Reynoso, a 6-3, 275-pound junior who started out his career on the offensive line before moving over. He saw time in eight games making 24 tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss, but now he has to be a rock as the most seasoned lineman on the lot.
One of the biggest splashes could be made by redshirt freshman Rykeem Yates after a huge spring. A very, very strong 6-2 and 270 pounds, he could become an anchor and a terrific interior pass rusher with an explosive burst off the ball. He'll start out playing behind Reynoso, but he could be the better option as the season goes on.
Watch Out For … Brock. The team needs a pass rusher, and while Brock is young and inexperienced, he has the explosion to potentially be a specialist who puts up big numbers on third downs.
Strength: Quickness. All four spots will have someone who can move. There won't be a lot of raw bulk, but there are more than enough athletes up front to get into the backfield and swarm around the ball.
Weakness: Experienced production. There isn't really any. Reynoso is a decent tackle, but he's hardly a star or an anchor to build everything around. It's going to take several new players playing big roles to upgrade last year's production.
Outlook: It's a stretch to think this will be a major problem, but it's easily one of the team's biggest question marks. There isn't a ton of size in the middle, but there should be a good rotation to keep everyone fresh. Pass rushers have to emerge from the outside, but the hope is for young players like Jones and/or Yates to rise up and become playmakers right away.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The linebacking corps has some work to do replacing leading tackler Brandon Marshall and second-leading stopper James-Michael Johnson. The hope is for senior DeAndre Broughton to go from being a nice prospect to a star after missing all of last year recovering from a broken leg. The 6-1, 220-pound former JUCO transfer is fast, athletic and he's ready to roll after sitting out so long after making 23 tackles in 2010. He'll work the weakside in the Wolf position backed up by 6-2, 225-pound senior Dray Bell, a former JUCO transfer from El Camino College who made 16 tackles with a sack as a reserve.
Taking over in the middle is 6-2, 245-pound senior Albert Rosette, a very big, very tough option who made 32 tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss moving back and forth between linebacker and end. With his size and athleticism he should be a statistical star in the middle, but he has to be consistent in his final year. Next season the plan will be for 6-2, 230-pound redshirt freshman Jordan Dobrich to take over the job, but he'll see time this year in the rotation. He's smart, quick, and built to hold up on the inside.
6-2, 230-pound senior Jeremiah Green came to Nevada from College of the Sequoias and made an impact right away with 49 tackles with two tackles for loss, three picks, and seven broken up passes. He might not be the talent his brother was – former Nevada star tight end Virgil Green – but he can move and he'll be used more in a variety of ways on the strongside. He'll be backed up by 6-2, 220-pound redshirt freshman Burton De Koning, a top recruit last year who got feelers from LSU and Oregon, among other top programs, but he needs to soon be a star for the Wolf Pack D.
Watch Out For … Boughton. Can he be fast and productive after spending the last year on the sidelines? He came out with an attitude this offseason and this year he could be exactly what the defense needs with so many key players gone.
Strength: Size. This is a relatively big group for the right spots. It's big on the inside and good-sized and fast on the outside. The Nevada linebackers look the part and they can all move.
Weakness: Veteran production. With the loss of Marshall and Johnson the Wolf Pack loses 203 of the team's 827 tackles. There's athleticism and potential, but several untested players are going to have to play huge roles from Day One.
Outlook: As always there are athletes to burn in the Nevada linebacking corps, but there isn't a lot of proven experience and there will be lots and lots of chances behind a shaky line. The stats will be there and there's potential for a nice season, but everyone has to stay healthy.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The pass defense was shockingly good against Boise State and Texas Tech, but it struggled as the season went on getting bombed on by New Mexico State, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech. It's going to be hard to improve right away without top corner Isaiah Frey, and that means 5-11, 180-pound senior Thaddeus Brown has to be a factor after making just 22 tackles with one broken up pass. A good talent coming out of high school – with offers from BCS schools and Boise State – he hasn't been able to make himself into a key starter. That has to change on one side.
Senior Khalid Wooten went from being a good special teamer to an athletic and productive corner finishing fourth on the team with 74 tackles with four picks and five tackles for loss. A good hitter, he also forced three fumbles. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he has good size and terrific range.
5-11, 180-pound senior Marlon Johnson has been a good free safety for the last few years following up a 58-tackle 2010 with 53 stops and a pick last year. Smart and with good athleticism and timing, he's a leader against the run and a decent playmaker, but he has to do more when the ball is in the air. He'll b backed up by Charles Garrett, a 5-11, 190-pound sophomore who only saw time in four games but made 18 tackles in just four games before getting knocked out for the year. He's back and should be a productive nickel and dime defender when he gets his chance.
6-1, 190-pound senior Duke Williams took over the strong safety job two years ago and hasn't let it go, finishing third on the team with 83 tackles with a pick and six broken up passes. A great tackler who does a little bit of everything, he's terrific in run support but he doesn't come up with enough big plays when the ball is in the air. He's solid, but he needs to be sensational. He'll work with 6-2, 205-pound senior Tyler Thompson, a huge defender who got in a little bit of time after coming over from Bakersfield College making 16 tackles.
Senior Malik "Fig" James transferred from Cincinnati and was supposed to make an impact after sitting out for a year, but he only made two stops. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he has the size to move at safety if needed, but he'll start out behind Brown at corner, while JUCO transfer Markus Smith comes in from Riverside with speed and terrific potential.
Watch Out For … Brown. He has to come up with a big year on the other side of Wooten. Teams aren't going to be so afraid of Wooten to stay away from him, but Brown has to take advantage of his opportunities.
Strength: Experience. Seven seniors are on the two-deep depth chart with Smith, a junior, the odd man out. There's no problems with experience or ready-made depth at each spot.
Weakness: Production. The Wolf Pack came up with a 15 picks with eight of them coming from Frey, who's gone, and linebacker Jeremiah Green. The corners have to be far better and taking the ball away and the safeties have to be counted on to be more disruptive.
Outlook: After years and years of miserable pass defense the secondary hasn't been too bad over the last few seasons. Last year's defensive backfield was full of experience, but it didn't always translate into production. This year's secondary is really, really experienced and it has to mean a good year. It'll be a decent group, but not a great one.
Unit Rating: 5.5
The kicking situation will be an ongoing question mark with juniors Allen Hardison and Anthony Martinez getting a shot. Martinez hit 11-of-15 kicks in 2010, but he didn't show much of a leg and is mostly used on short-range stuff. Good on the two-foot putts, he hit all three of his kicks from inside the 30 but was 0-of-2 on makeable 38 and 31 yards kicks. Hardison stepped in and nailed 8-of-11 shots showing much better depth and range hitting a 48-yarder against Fresno state and a 41-yarder against UNLV.
The punting game was merely average even though Jake Hurst averaged 41.5 yards per kick and put 24 inside the 20. Coming in from the JUCO ranks last year was junior Chase Tenpenny, a big, strong blaster who didn't step in, but now should step in and be fine averaging well over 40 yards per kick.
The punt return game was explosive with former WR Rishard Matthews averaging 13.3 yards per try, and now it'll be up to CB Khalid Wooten to take over the job. He got three tries last year but wasn't able to do anything with them, and he'll also get a shot on kickoff returns after averaging 22.8 yards per try. The main kick returner will be Kendall Brock who averaged 21.6 yards per attempt.
Watch Out For … Tenpenny. Hurst was great but he didn't get any help from the coverage team. The 6-4 junior could bomb away with moon balls to help give the coverage team time.
Strength: The kicking game. Sort of. It took three kickers to combine to hit 14-of-20 kicks, and if Hardison can be the man to solidify the situation all should be fine. Consistency is a must.
Weakness: The return game. The Wolf Pack coverage teams were next-level awful allowing 13.5 yards per punt return with three scores and 23.4 yards per kickoff return.
Outlook: The Nevada special teams have been hit-or-miss over the year. A major issue a few years ago, they turned into a strength, and then last year it was an issue in several areas. The kickoff return game needs more pop and the coverage teams have to be far, far better, but the kickers will be fine.
Unit Rating: 5
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