2013 Louisiana Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 3, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Louisiana Ragin' Cajun Defense


Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

Preview 2013 - Defense


- 2013 Louisiana Preview | 2013 Louisiana Offense
- 2013 Louisiana Defense | 2013 Louisiana Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense had its meltdowns last season and was never a brick wall, but as long as it can hold serve once in a while and let the offense do its job, all should be fine. The biggest concern early on will be the pass rush after losing Emeka Onyenekwu and Cordian Hagans from the outside, but Christian Ringo should be one of the Sun Belt’s leading sackers moving from tackle to end. The back seven is athletic and active – linebacker Justin Anderson should be an all-star – but the secondary has to get far tighter after being lit up on a regular basis and with little consistency.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Justin Anderson, 98
Sacks: Christian Ringo, 7
Interceptions: Several with 1

Star of the defense: Junior DE Christian Ringo
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior CB Trevence Patt
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jevante Watson
Best pro prospect: Ringo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ringo, 2) LB Justin Anderson, 3) DT Justin Hamilton
Strength of the defense: Run Defense, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Third Down Stops

Defensive Line

The defensive front loses Emeka Onyenekwu and Cordian Hagans, who combined for 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss from the outside. However, junior Christian Ringo should be able to pick up the slack at one end after serving last season at tackle with a team-leading seven sacks to go along with 29 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. One of the strongest players on the team, he’s able to hold down the interior, but with his quickness and 6-1, 285-pound size, he’s an interesting prospect on the outside. He’ll combine with 6-5, 280-pound senior Jalen Fields, who came up with one sack and nine tackles, missing a bulk of time after undergoing gall bladder surgery.

On the other side will be a pure speed rusher, 6-3, 235-pound sophomore Dominique Tovell, a linebacker-sized end who made 21 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. He showed up big against Arkansas State with six tackles, and now he appears ready to join 6-5, 260-pound sophomore Chris Prater on one side.

With Ringo moving over, that leaves the inside over for junior Justin Hamilton, a massive 6-3, 330-pound run stopper who turned into the anchor making 28 sacks with three sacks and eight tackles for loss. A force who’s physical for the interior, he led the team with three forced fumbles delivering the big pop. He’ll join with 6-5, 300-pound junior Brandon McCray, a good reserve last year who produced when given his chances making 13 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. With great size and an excellent frame, he can hold up well against the quicker runners by using his size.

Watch Out For … end Courtney Miggins, a dangerous 6-5, 255-pound freshman who spurned Mississippi State and Louisville to become a Ragin’ Cajun. Fast for the position, he has great closing ability and the potential to become a devastating pass rusher on the end after hitting the weights.
Strength: Size. With the move of Ringo to the outside, now ULL has three tackle-sized starters up front to go along with the decent-sized Tovell and Prater. Having a 330-pounder in Hamilton and a 300-pound run stopper in McCray on the inside, not to mention 6-3, 325-pound redshirt freshman Karmichael Dunbar to provide the bulk.
Weakness: The loss of Hagans and Onyenekwu. It would be nice if Ringo could’ve stayed at tackle, but with the departure of the team’s most dangerous ends, the move had to be made. ULL loses two reliable veterans who were big parts of the success.
Outlook: The pass rush will come from all four spots and the pressure in the backfield will be among the best in the Sun Belt, while he run defense should be fine with more size inside and plenty of experience. It might take a while to come up with the right end rotation, but the production will come.
Unit Rating: 5

Linebackers

After growing into the starting lineup late in 2011, senior Justin Anderson took the middle job and ran with it last year leading the team with 98 tackles with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Not just good against the run, the 6-2, 235-pounder did a nice job against the pass with a 38-yard pick six against Tulane while showing nice playmaking ability into the backfield. Great in the open field, the former defensive end handles himself well when plays are funneled his way. Also in the mix for time in the middle is veteran Andrew Hebert, who saw time on the defensive side in his first few years before moving to tight end and getting hurt. At 6-2 and 212 pounds, he’s not big, but he should know what he’s doing.

6-2, 210-pound junior Boris Anyama is built more like a safety than a true linebacker, working more as a rover last year, but he hits well and has great range. He hasn’t done much so far outside of working as a reserve, making 22 tackles, but he has the potential to put up big numbers on the strongside. He’ll work in a rotation with sophomore Christian Hill a 5-11, 200-pounder who saw plenty of action as a true freshman making 21 tackles. Fast, he can be used as a pass rusher and seamlessly drops into coverage without a problem.

At 6-4 and 225 pounds redshirt freshman Kevin Fouquier has a great frame and excellent quickness for the weakside. A nice recruit last season, he’s athletic and smart, knowing what he’s doing as the son of the former UL defensive coordinator by the same name. 6-1, 200-pound sophomore Tyren Alexander will also see action on the weakside but can play anywhere after seeing a little time in his true freshman season making 12 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Watch Out For … freshman George Williams, who’ll be the future of the middle with 6-1, 230-pound size and the athleticism of an outside defender. One of the team’s top recruits, he had his choice of several SEC schools to go to, but he’s eventually going to be the main man in the middle, likely taking over for Anderson next year.
Strength: Swarming around the ball-carrier. This isn’t a big group, but everyone can make stops in the open field and the group does a good job of getting to the ball and providing help. Anderson had several double-digit solo stop games, but the defense was at its best when everyone was making plays.
Weakness: Pass coverage. There’s enough quickness to be okay, but it’s not a playmaking corps when the ball is in the air. The linebackers are more functional than fantastic, but they keep the big plays to a minimum. They could stand to break up more passes.
Outlook: The Ragin’ Cajuns use safety-sized linebackers who can get around and get in on plays, but Anderson working either on the weakside or the middle cleans up several messes. There’s good depth and several options to play around with, but it’s all up to Anderson. He needs to hold up and be the main man.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

The secondary had big problems throughout last season, and now it’s going to play around with the lineup starting with junior Trevance Patt, who spent last season mostly working at strong safety making 33 tackles with two broken up passes, and now he’ll move outside to corner to use his 6-0, 185-pound size and excellent speed. Also moving over from safety is junior Sean Thomas, a special teamer and good hitter who can play anywhere in the secondary.

Ready to step in and play a bigger role is sophomore Jevante Watson, a former wide receiver who got his feet wet as a true freshman making 7.5 tackles with a broken up pass. The 5-10, 175-pounder is extremely fast and has the potential to be a No. 1, lock-down corner, but he’ll need time and polish. Adding even more size to the position is 5-11, 187-pound redshirt freshman Dominick Jones, a 4.5 speedster and a one of the team’s better recruits last season.

Sophomore Al-Damion Riles is a good-sized hitter at strong safety, who at a compact 5-11 and 215 pounds is built like a smallish-linebacker and pops like one. A special teamer last year, he made four tackles as a true freshman, but now he’ll move in for Patt and should be one of the team’s top tacklers if he doesn’t get pushed out by true sophomore T.J. Worthy, who came on as a true freshman making 47 tackles as a steady factor throughout the season, coming up with a season-high 11 against Oklahoma State. At 6-2 and 190 pounds, he has good size and excellent versatility able to work in nickel and dime packages.

6-0, 200-pound senior Will Burrowes spent last season as a backup linebacker and special teamer, making four tackles on the season after serving as an all-around playmaker for Mississippi Gulf Coast. Potentially an intimidating force for the secondary, he can work at either safety spot but will be tried out early on at free safety.

Watch Out For … Darius Barksdale, a former superstar running back recruit for Ole Miss, he ended up going off to Hargrave Military Academy by way of Jacksonville State, and now he’s trying to make his career at one of the safety spots. At 6-0 and 200 pounds, he has decent size and tremendous quickness and athleticism. Now he needs a role.
Strength: Versatility. There are no real set spots. Patt can play any spot in the secondary, and others like Watson, Riles and Barksdale can be moved around wherever needed. The coaching staff will find a way to get the four or five best defensive backs on the field at one time.
Weakness: Pass defense. Even with a good pass rush helping the cause, the secondary didn’t do much of anything getting bombed on for 940 yards and six scores over an early two game span against Troy and Oklahoma State and getting lit up for 250 yards or more eight times on the year. South Alabama, ULM and North Texas had some of their biggest passing games of the season.
Outlook: Call this a work in progress. It’s going to take a while to find the right fit and the right combination, but the athleticism, versatility and skill sets are there. Now the defensive backs have to stop someone from throwing the forward pass.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

The team suffers a massive hit with the loss of kicker Brett Baer, who nailed 20-of-23 field goals getting one block. Not just consistent, he had a huge leg hitting two last year from beyond 50. Sophomore JUCO transfer Stephen Brauchle was brought in from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC to take over right away after hitting 7-of-9 field goals last year. He has a big leg, but he has to prove he can be accurate.

Junior punter Daniel Cadona was signed on from Australia, and while he’s not polished, in workouts he showed enough for UCLA and ULL to see with a massive leg and great upside. However, he’ll have to fight off Brauchle for the job.

The awful kickoff return game needs more from receiver Darryl Surgent, who averaged just 19 yards per try and rarely popped any big returns. Surgent will also use his speed as the main punt returner in place of the fantastic Javone Lawson, who averaged 14.67 yards per try.

Watch Out For … the new kickers. They’re expected to be good, and they need to be considering the great players they’re replacing. The coaching staff did its job securing the positions with two of the nation’s better recruits.
Strength: Kick coverage. The staff knows how to come up with strong special teams, and the kicking game should be fine, but that could take some time. The kickoff coverage last year was a strength allowing just 18.72 yards per try.
Weakness: Kick returns. Surgent was mediocre, but no one was able to do much of anything with only a few returns to get out past the 20. ULL finished 110th in the nation in kickoff returns.
Outlook: The new kickers need to be able to handle the work right away, and they have huge shoes to fill. The return game has to be better and has to hope for Surgent to add more, and the coverage teams could be a plus. The special teams are an X factor, but they should be good enough to get by.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2013 Louisiana Preview | 2013 Louisiana Offense
- 2013 Louisiana Defense | 2013 Louisiana Depth Chart