2012 Texas State Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Texas State Bobcats Defense
Texas State Bobcats
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know:
Defensive coordinator Craig Naivar has some interesting pieces to play around with in the 4-2-5 alignment. For the most part the system worked last year with a great pass rush and strong secondary, but top pass rusher Michael Ebbitt is gone and it's going to take the entire front six to pick up the slack. There's no size on the line, but the linebackers make up for it and are strong against the run. However, the stars are in the secondary with the top three tacklers last year all defensive backs and all returning. There's depth in the defensive backfield – the team's biggest strength - and plenty of options.
Star of the defense: Junior FS Xavier Daniels
Tackles: Xavier Daniels, 77
Sacks: Joplo Bartu, 4
Interceptions: Xavier Daniels, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DE Jordan Norfleet
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Craig Mager
Best pro prospect: Daniels
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Daniels, 2) CB Darryl Morris, 3) LB Joplo Bartu
Strength of the defense: Defensive Back, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Line Size, Takeaways
The Texas State pass rush was terrific last year, but that' was mostly helped by Michael Ebbitt, who finished the year with 11.5 of the team's 31 sacks. Now it'll be up to junior Jordan Norfleet to become the main man on the outside after starting every game and making 32 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2, and 235 pounds he's not all that big, but he can move.
The team will rely on a slew of JUCO transfers to make up for the loss of three of the top three ends. 6-1, 255-pouns Jaryl Mamea was a nice pickup from Chabot CC with good athleticism and nice closing ability. Thomas Evans could be used as a linebacker or an end, but the 6-4, 250-pounder will be a pass rusher no matter where he plays. The 6-1, 265-pound Kamu Taulelei will be worked out as a tackle as well as an end. One of the team's top defensive recruits, he's an interior pass rusher with good strength.
While end is a bit of a question mark, the tackle situation should be set with juniors Blake McColloch and Deshun Williams. The 5-11, 290-pound Williams is the anchor on the nose, and while he's mostly needed to gum things up against the run, making 22 tackles, he also came up with two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Very strong and built to get great leverage, he's a good fit for the inside, while the 6-5, 250-pound McColloch is built more like an end or an outside linebacker. He started every game but only finished with 18 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss, but with his frame he's tough to throw over and is good at batting down passes.
The 6-3, 260-pound junior Jamie Clavell-Head will rotate on the inside and on the nose after making 11 tackles with a pick. He's not all that big for a tackle, and he's not bulky, but he's active and quick. The 6-4, 275-pound Samuel Mayes is one of the bigger options up front. He's not huge, but he's a load compared to most of the team's defensive linemen.
Watch Out For … the JUCO transfers. Texas State relies on recruits to play big roles right away, and there's no place on the team that needs more help than at defensive end. The new guys will be asked to shine from Day One.
Strength: Quickness. It would be nice to have more size and bulk, but the Bobcats have a slew of linebacker-sized linemen who can move well and get into the backfield. The team can rush the passer.
Weakness: Size. There isn't any. Williams is 290 pounds, and that's about it. There's little to no size or bulk to rely on.
Outlook: Texas State is going to get hammered on by the bigger and stronger offensive lines, but it's more than fine against the finesse spread attacks and pure passing games. Speed and quickness is a plus, but power running games will rumble.
Unit Rating: 4
The linebacking corps loses some key players making senior Joplo Bartu one of the team's top defenders. He ended up starting ten times finishing with 51 tackles, four sacks, and five tackles for loss, but he ended up working in the middle as a reserve by the end of the season. At 6-2 and 230 pounds he has good size and is tough on the inside, but he might be better for the outside and could be even better as a pure pass rusher. If everything goes well, he'll be one of the team's leading tacklers.
6-0, 230-pound senior Brian Lilly is a nice-sized outside defender who made 52 tackles as a key reserve. Quick and aggressive, he made a sack with 6.5 tackles for loss as a do-it-all defender who was terrific when he got a chance to turn it loose. A starter and leading tackler in the middle two years ago, he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps and will produce.
Two JUCO transfers will play big roles right away. 6-3, 230-pound Damion McMiller is a pure tackler out of California with decent quickness and the toughness to play any of the three positions. David Mayo is a nice recruit who's also from California with tremendous quickness and the make-up to shine in the middle. At the very least, these two will improve the depth.
Watch Out For … Bartu. While he worked behind Bryan Iwuji late in the year, he ended up being one of the team's best all-around defenders and has All-WAC potential either in the middle or on the strongside. There's a chance he could be the team's leading pass rusher depending on how he's used.
Strength: Size. The defensive linemen are small, but the linebacking corps makes up for it with a slew of 230 pounders who can run and hit. The weakside defenders are like an extra safety in the 4-2-5 alignment.
Weakness: Proven depth. There are several redshirt freshmen waiting in the wings, but if the JUCO transfers don't come through there will be some major concerns. Fortunately, only two players are needed for the system.
Outlook: The 4-2-5 works against the run, but it keeps the linebackers from flying into the backfield as much as they probably should. Lilly and Bartu are tacklers and should be sound leaders.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Sophomore Craig Mager came up with a terrific first season as one of the team's top pass defender breaking up 12 passes with a pick and 51 tackles. The 5-11, 181-pounder cuts on a dime and is a nice hitter in the open field. Now he has to make more picks to make more quarterbacks worry about throwing his way. He still needs seasoning against the savvier receivers, but he's a keeper.
Working on the other size is senior Darryl Morris, a good veteran who started every game finishing second on the team with 62 tackles with a pick, six broken up passes, and three sacks. At 5-10 and 185 pounds he's not all that big, but he's a baller and the team's top cover-corner. There won't be a better tackling corner in the WAC and few will do as much as he will in all areas.
Part linebacker and part safety as a weakside defender Jason McLean is one of the defense's most important players. Only 5-11 and 195 pounds, he's a corner playing linebacker, making 42 tackles with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss as a quick playmaker. He's okay in pass coverage and doesn't get into the backfield enough, but he's a veteran who knows what he's doing. Also in the equation is former JUCO transfer Aaron Matthews, who started twice and was a key part of the rotation finishing third on the team with 60 tackles with a sack and two picks. At 6-3 and 193 pounds he's tall, athletic, and has great range.
While he's only 6-0 and 165 pounds, junior Xavier Daniels was the team's leading tackler finishing with 77 stops with a team-leading three picks and five broken up passes. The free safety is terrific in the open field and hits well for his size. While he's solid in pass coverage, he's at his best when he gets to load up against the run. He'll be all over the field.
5-11, 200-pound junior Justin Iwuji was a part-time starter who'll now hold down one of the safety jobs after making 33 tackles with six tackles for loss and five broken up passes. A good special teamer over the years and a pure tackler, he should put up big numbers with more time and more work.
On the way is Martel Summers, one of the team's top recruits and a phenomenal get for the program. He could've gone to several bigger places but should be the star of the show sooner than later with his 6-1, 190-pound size and 4.5 speed. He's a corner, but in this defense he could turn into a whale of a safety.
6-0, 175-pound junior Phillip Benning is a part-time starting corner who can step in and work in nickel and dime defenders after making 15 tackles and three broken up passes. He's a smart player who doesn't make mistakes. Also ready to make an impact are redshirt freshman David Mims II, a good recruit with excellent speed at one corner spot, and 5-10, 175-pound sophomore Tyler Chase, who saw time as a true freshman making seven tackles with a blocked punt.
Watch Out For … Matthews. While he was technically a backup at weak safety behind McLean, he was like another starter and he needs to get an even bigger role. He's a strong playmaker who could be the team's leading tackler with a little more time.
Strength: Tackling. In this defense the defensive backs are the stars. They can all hit with Daniels, Morris, and Mathews finishing 1-2-3 in tackles, and everyone in the back five can get their man down. The secondary is all over the field.
Weakness: Teams that can throw. Texas State's overall stats weren't that bad, but that was partly because it didn't play too many teams that bombed away. Central Arkansas threw without a problem, bombing away for 457 yards, and Texas Tech was Texas Tech. On the year, the Bobcats gave up 250 yards or more five times.
Outlook: The five defensive back system is great against spread offenses and is always swarming around the ball, but it doesn't come up with enough big plays against the pass. This should be the strength of the defense by far with experience, athleticism, and lots and lots of tacklers.
Unit Rating: 5
Sophomore Will Johnson was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman and hit 13-of-24 field goal attempts. The problem was the end of the year missing four of the final five kicks, but he showed good range nailing a 53-yarder against Tarleton and was 9-of-16 shots from beyond 40 yards.
With Ben Follis gone after averaging 41.3 yards per kick with 22 fair catches and 13 put inside the 20, Junior Lloyd Chisum will get the first chance at the job. The transfer from Eastern New Mexico is a smart athlete with a nice leg.
Defensive back Craig Mager will be the main punt returning option after averaging 12.2 yards on his four attempts, while junior receiver Isaiah Battle is coming off a good year on kickoff returns averaging 23.8 yards per try with a 93-yard touchdown.
Watch Out For … the kicking game. Johnson is the main man, but there could be some concerns after a rocky finish to his first year. If he struggles early on, there could be a scramble.
Strength: Punt coverage. The Bobcats were outstanding at pinning teams deep. Even though the net punting numbers were phenomenal, the coverage team did its job allowing just 6.7 yards per try. The punt return game was good and could be even better.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. This might not be as much of an issue with the new kickoff rules, but the coverage team still has to be far, far better after allowing a whopping 24.8 yards per try with a score.
Outlook: As long as Chisum can produce as a steady punter, and Johnson's yips late were an aberration, the special teams should be a positive. The returners will be among the best in the WAC, and the kicking game will end up fine.
Unit Rating: 6
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