2012 Utah State Preview - Defense

Posted Aug 8, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Utah State Aggie Defense

Utah State Aggies

Preview 2012 - Defense

- 2012 Utah State Preview | 2012 Utah State Offense
- 2012 Utah State Defense | 2012 Utah State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The Aggie defense came up with a terrific year finishing first in the WAC allowing 366 yards and doing a great job against the run. However, that was with tremendous linebackers Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher, who combined for 247 stops. They're gone, putting more pressure on the line in the 3-4 to do even more against the run. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has a strong secondary with great tackling corners, but coming up with more picks is a must. The defensive backs came up with one pick last season and that was with a decent pass rusher. This won't be a star-studded group, but the D will still be far better than it was a few years ago.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: McKade Brady, 86
Sacks: Bojay Filimoeatu, 3
Interceptions: Nevin Lawson, 1

Star of the defense: Junior CB Nevin Lawson
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior LB Jake Doughty
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Brian Suite
Best pro prospect: Lawson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lawson, 2) CB Jumanne Robertson, 3) FS McKade Brady
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Tackling Corners
Weakness of the defense: Major Linebacking Losses, Interceptions

Defensive Line

The defensive front loses two starters in the front three. The big key will be to get steady play on the nose, and the Aggies have the size and bulk with 6-2, 295-pound redshirt freshman Travis Seefeldt and 6-1, 295-pound senior Havea Lasike combining forces. Seefeldt can move well and is more of a true tackle than a nose guard, but he's strong, while Lasike is a back after working in the mix last year making 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks. The former JUCO transfer is built for the job.

6-3, 289-pound Al Lapuaho is a former JUCO transfer who ended up coming up with a decent 31-tackle season. However, he has to get into the backfield more with just one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. He has good size as a 3-4 end and is mostly in to plug things up. Taking over on the other side will be junior Connor Williams, a 6-3, 266-pound junior who was expected to be more of a pass rushing threat, and he was able to come up with two sacks and three tackles for loss, along with 28 tackles, as a good reserve. He's expected to do far more after emerging late in the year.

A pair of redshirt freshmen will be key parts of the end rotation. The 6-6, 250-pound Jordan Nielsen is a pass rusher and a pure pass rusher. He's athletic and should be good around the edge, while the 6-4, 258-pound Eric Berntson is even more of a speedster, running track in high school, and could find an instant niche as a speed runner.

Watch Out For … the redshirt freshmen. The line needs pass rushers – Lapuaho and Filmoeatu aren't that speedy – and it'll be up to Nielsen and Berntson to be more disruptive.
Strength: Size. By design, the Aggie defensive front three is supposed to be big to clog things up on the inside to let the linebackers clean everything up. It's like there are three tackles up front.
Weakness: Pass rushers. Losing top pass rusher Levi Koskan hurts, and there isn't anyone else to make offenses worry. It would be nice if the line could do more so the linebackers don't have to do everything.
Outlook: There was a big overall improvement with the run defense improving by over 50 yards per game while doing more to get into the backfield, even if the pass rush wasn't all that great. The step up in play was one of the keys to the team's success, and while this year's line won't be anything special, it'll be decent.
Unit Rating: 4.5


There's no way the defensive front seven can replace Bobby Wagner, who made 147 stops and was one of the nation's best defenders. Replacing the 100 tackles of Kyle Gallagher will also be tough. The corps now needs more from Tavaris McMillian on the inside after coming up with 45 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 231 pounds, the sophomore has good size and good experience. The potential is there to be great with a bigger role.

Stepping in at the other inside position will be junior Jake Doughty, a smallish 6-0, 227-pound sparkplug who made 26 tackles with three tackles for loss. He's a big hitter for his size and able to play anywhere in the linebacking corps, but is best for the inside. He'll work with 6-2, 226-pound junior Zach Vigil came to school as a 203-pound safety-sized prospect who was immediately asked to beef up to handle the work at linebacker. Versatile, he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps, but he has to come back healthy after playing in just four games last season after suffering shoulder and knee injuries.

Back on the outside is senior Bojay Filimoeatu, one of the team's best playmakers in the backfield coming up with 41 tackles with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss on the outside. A star JUCO transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, he's a top all-around playmaker who'll be the new leader and top playmaker in the corps. BYU transfer Jefferson Court is a 6-2, 220-pound athlete with smarts and pass rushing potential. He'll work in both outside spots.

The combination of senior Terrell Thompson and Kyler Fackrell will work on the outside. The 6-2, 218-pound Thompson was a key pickup from Glendale CC, but the former safety missed almost all of last year hurt playing in just two games and making four tackles. The 6-5, 236-pound Fackrell is a true linebacker with good size and the athleticism to be exactly what the USU defense needs. All that's missing is a little bit of time.

Watch Out For … the redshirt freshmen. The starting foursome should be fine, but Court and Fackrell will someday soon be among the team's leading tacklers. They'll also be great at getting behind the line.
Strength: Athleticism. The Aggie linebackers are supposed to be active and disruptive, and while there's some work to be done with the starting lineup, the athleticism and speed should be more than fine.
Weakness: Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher. They combined for 247 tackles and were dominant forces all over the field. They were leaders and tremendous all-around playmakers who can't just be replaced by new starters.
Outlook: There will be an adjustment period after losing the team's two best defensive players, but there's good athleticism and surprisingly decent depth to form a good rotation. This will be a very active, very promising corps that just needs a little bit of time. It's a relatively young bunch that should be fine.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

The secondary gets back three starters and should be fine if the pass rush is decent. Senior Jumanne Robertson came in from Phoenix CC and was one of the team's best tacklers making 46 tackles with a team-leading 12 broken up passes. He didn't come up with any picks, but he's a physical tackler with good quickness and 5-11, 181-pound size.

On the other side is the quick Nevin Lawson, a Florida native who was a whale of a tackler finishing fourth on the team with 73 tackles with ten broken up passes and a pick. The 5-10, 184-pound junior knows what he's doing and has tremendous speed. While he has been used mostly as a big tackler, he also has the tools to be one of the WAC's best cover corners.

Senior McKade Brady took over the starting free safety job and ended up finishing third on the team in stops and is the leading returning tackler with 86 tackles with six broken up passes. The 5-11, 198-pounder has good range and experience, and now he's going to be a nice leader who knows what he's doing.

6-3, 207-pound sophomore Brian Suite is coming off a shoulder injury and should take over the strong safety job. He's a promising talent with excellent size and the upside to be one of the team's leading tacklers, and now he's finally healthy after missing all of last year.

Former JUCO transfer Will Davisis a nice nickel defender making 35 tackles with six broken up passes and 3.5 tackles for loss. Savvy, the 6-0, 192-pounder is always around the ball, while senior corner Quinton Byrd is a vital veteran backup who made 31 tackles a two years ago, but came up with just 12 stops last year. A jack-of-all-trades, he can play anywhere in the secondary but will start at corner.

Junior Cameron Sanders started out his career at receiver but moved over to corner where he came up with a strong first season in nickel and dime packages making 28 tackles with three broken up passes in 2010. An Oklahoma state champion sprinter, he has the necessary wheels, and now he has to do more at free safety after making just four tackles last year in a limited role.

Watch Out For … Suite. He appeared to be on the verge of being a big part of the equation before getting hurt. Fortunately he has had a full season to heal up his shoulder, and now he's ready to be a top tackler.
Strength: Tackling corners. It's not really a plus for a defense when the corners have to make a ton of stops, but the Aggies have the players to do it with Lawson and Robertson great at coming up with the stick.
Weakness: Interceptions The Aggies came up with four last year, and three of them were made by linebackers. Lawson came up with one, count it, one pick for the secondary. There were plenty of broken up passes, but not enough game-changing plays.
Outlook: This should be a plus. There's plenty of athleticism, speed, and quickness, but there have to be more picks. Tackling isn't an issue with everyone great against the run, and there's decent depth to rely on. There might not be any sure-thing all-stars, but it'll be among the WAC's best secondaries.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Junior Josh Thompson is back after hitting 6-of-10 field goals, but he didn't show too much range topping out with a 43-yard field goal. Junior Nick Diaz will be back in the mix for deeper shots, but he needs to be consistent to push for the job.

The punting game was among the best in the country averaging 38.2 yards per kick with senior Tyler Bennett averaging 43.8 yards per pop with 21 put inside the 20. He has a nice leg and can blast away on a consistent basis, but big-legged sophomore Jaron Bentrude will get his chance at the gig.

Running back Kerwynn Williams is a terrific kickoff returner, averaging 22.7 yards per try, while Chuck Jacobs was a nice No. 2 option averaging 24.5 yards per try. The punt return game wasn't quite as strong, but it wasn't bad with Williams leading the way with 14 yards per try. Jacobs will be the main punt returner.

Watch Out For … a bit more competition for the kicking jobs. The punting game wasn't a problem and Bennett is a good one, but Thompson isn't steady enough to have a lock on the placekicking gig.
Strength: Punting. Bennett was great at pinning teams deep and only came up with six touchbacks. He was a huge help for the defense and the field position.
Weakness: Kickoff return coverage. The placekicking could be better, and the punt coverage could be a bit stronger, but the Aggies need to be far, far better in kickoff coverage after allowing a whopping 25.7 yards per try and two scores.
Outlook: If the coverage teams are stronger and the placekicking more consistent, the special teams should be solid. Williams and Jacobs are excellent returners who'll be difference makers, and Bennett should among the WAC's best punters.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2012 Utah State Preview | 2012 Utah State Offense
- 2012 Utah State Defense | 2012 Utah State Depth Chart