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2013 Kent State Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 3, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Kent State Golden Flash Defense


Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2013 - Defense


- 2013 Kent State Preview | 2013 Kent State Offense
- 2013 Kent State Defense | 2013 Kent State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Overall, this is an undersized athletic D that needs to rely on a rotation to keep everyone alive and kicking. Brian George goes from coaching the line to handling the entire defense, and he has to get a little bit creative. The secondary in the 4-2-5 has to replace four starters, while the linebacking corps has to find a new leader with the 143 tackles of Luke Batton gone. The line should be decent around Roosevelt Nix, but there’s little bulk. The pass defense has to somehow get much, much tighter after struggling throughout last season, but the pass rush should be solid and the takeaways need to continue to come after creating 38.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Luke Wollett, 119
Sacks: Roosevelt Nix, 6
Interceptions: Mark Fackler, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DT Roosevelt Nix
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior LB Danny Gress
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Keenan Stalls
Best pro prospect: Nix
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Nix, 2) SS Luke Wollet, 3) CB Darius Polk
Strength of the defense: Pass Rush, Takeaways
Weakness of the defense: Secondary, Linebacker

Defensive Line

Finishing off one of the great careers in the history of MAC defensive linemen is senior Roosevelt Nix, an undersized 5-11, 267-pound all-star pass rusher and playmaker with 20.5 career sacks, 52 tackles for loss and 141 tackles. Able to play tackle or end, he’s active and always around the ball and into the backfield with big play ability and good toughness against the run. After taking the MAC by storm as a freshman with ten sacks and 20 tackles for loss, his production dropped off, but he’s still been extremely effective making 59 tackles with six sacks and 15 tackles for loss last year. With a non-stop motor and peerless quickness off the ball, he has to be held in check on every play is always working to make something happen. He doesn’t really have a next-level position, but with his athleticism and production, he’s auditioning.

Moving from end to tackle is 6-4, 261-pound sophomore Nate Terhune, who’s too small to play on the nose, but he’s being put there to utilize his quickness and burst off the ball. Mostly a special teamer last season, he finished with 15 tackles, and now he’ll be a part of a rotation with 6-2, 312-pound sophomore Chris Fairchild, a true interior presence who’ll bring the toughness and bulk to the interior after seeing a little time making nine tackles.

Trying to generate pressure from the outside is 6-3, 255-pound senior Mark Fackler, a decent part of the rotation making 25 tackles with 1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss with five quarterback hurries, but the biggest surprise was his play against the pass with three picks. He’ll combine at one spot with Richard Gray, a 6-2, 255-pound senior who was fantastic when given the chance, making 15 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Both of them have a tremendous burst off the ball and should camp out behind the line.

Working at the Leo position is 6-1, 241-pound senior Zach Hitchens, a very fast, vary athletic pure pass rusher who has to do more pure pass rushing. Solid last season with 27 tackles, he didn’t do enough to get into the backfield making 1.5 sacks with three tackles for loss. He’s more like an outside linebacker playing in a hybrid position.

Watch Out For … Tyson Reinke, a great-looking tackle prospect out of Minneapolis with 6-2, 260-pound size and dangerous interior pass rushing skills. He not huge, but he makes up for it with effort and good strength for the interior.
Strength: Quickness off the ball. The Golden Flashes sacrifice raw bulk for athleticism and speed at all four spots. Everyone swarms into the backfield and everyone is fast on the snap and has to be accounted for. The pass rush came from several sides.
Weakness: Dana Brown. The line should be able to make up for the loss of Jake Dooley, the team’s best pass rusher who cranked up seven sacks from the Leo, but it’s going to be really, really hard replacing Brown on the nose. While he wasn’t huge at 6-0 and 290 pounds, he provided a nice base for everyone else to work around while making 50 tackles and four sacks.
Outlook: The line won’t be as good without Brown and Dooley, but Nix is still an all-star force no matter where he plays and Fackler is a nice end to work the pass rush around. There’s just enough talent and experience to get by, but it’s asking too much to get 2012 production.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

Losing leading tackler Luke Batton in the middle is going to be a problem, but 6-1, 219-pound sophomore Matt Dellinger served as the understudy and will try to fill some very, very big shoes. A good tackler with nice quickness, he made 17 tackles in his limited time including four in the MAC title game. He has the athleticism and upside to be one of the team’s leading tacklers.

6-0, 238-pound senior Danny Gress was the third man in the mix in the middle last season, but now he’ll get a long look at the weakside linebacker job after making just ten tackles. Mostly a special teamer, he has the experience and the size to finally become a key performer and top tackler as part of the defense. He has the build for the inside and could end up working in the middle from time to time. 6-1, 230-pound junior Nate Vance has mostly worked as a long snapper and a defensive end, but he’ll get time on the weakside to use his size as a run stopper. He’s an all-star in the classroom.

Watch Out For … Ryan Seibert, a 6-4, 200-pound safety-sized linebacker out of Columbus with the range and potential to be a whale of an outside prospect. He needs to pack on more weight, but he’s a good enough athlete to possibly see time in the defensive backfield or at the Star position.
Strength: The system. The 4-2-5 Kent State runs tends to funnel everything into the linebackers, and while the linemen are in charge of getting into the backfield, the linebackers are forced to clean everything up.
Weakness: Luke Batton. A heart-and-soul leader, he did a little of everything for the defense with 143 stops, 3.5 sacks, two picks and four recovered fumbles. More than just the stats, he was the tone-setting leader in the middle. He won’t easily be replaced.
Outlook: The linebackers should be fine, but there’s not enough depth for a 4-3 and more options have to rise up. Dellinger will be great and Gress should be okay, but they need to be fantastic for the defense to repeat last year’s success.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

The secondary had a disastrous year, but senior Luke Follett was terrific finishing second on the team with 119 tackles with a team-leading four picks and a sack with six tackles for loss. The 6-0, 195-pound strong safety is quick enough to be used as a punt returner and a big hitter, coming up with eight tackles or more in the final eight games with 11 in the bowl loss to Arkansas State. While he’s a force against the run and did a nice job in pass coverage, he needs to help out even more with the corners likely to struggle a bit again.

Taking over at one corner is 5-10, 172-pound senior Malcolm Pannell, who spent last season in a reserve role making nine tackles with a broken up pass, but he has nice hands and the upside to hold down a steady job at one spot. 5-11, 190-pound senior Darius Polk will step up at the other corner job in a full-time role after working his way around the secondary making 58 tackles with three sacks, two picks and a team-leading nine broken up passes. A high-character player who knows what he’s doing, he appeared to be over the concussion problems of two years ago getting better as the season went on. With ten tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the MAC title game, he showed he could perform on a big stage.

Both corners will have to fight off 6-0, 192-pound junior Dylan Farrington, a good backup who stepped in where needed starting three times making 28 tackles with six broken up passes. A terrific tackler, he can work as a nickel or dime defender if needed.

The Golden Flashes employ a fifth defensive back called the Star – a hybrid of a safety and linebacker. 5-10, 201-pound sophomore Jordan Italiano got in one start against Western Michigan but mostly spent his first year as a key backup making 23 tackles with a pick. The former quarterback gets around well and has an instinct to get to the ball. He’s a good hitter who’ll need to be a big run stopper.

Sophomore Keenan Stalls is a thin 6-0, 185-pound free safety from Tampa who came to KSU with great range and the ability to get around the ball, but he didn’t get much of a shot in his first season, working mostly on special teams making seven tackles. He has the speed, but he’ll need to make big plays when he’s roaming free.

Watch Out For … Kevin Bourne, a 5-10, 180-pound safety who did everything in high school including star as a running back and special teamer. Extremely fast, he’ll have some of the best wheels in the secondary and is dangerous when the ball is in his hands.
Strength: Wollet. It’s a rebuilding year for the secondary, but it has a very good, very sound veteran to steady the ship in Wollet. He’s able to make up for several mistakes, and he’ll need to because of …
Weakness: The lack of experience. Four new starters are stepping in – actually, it’s more like three considering Polk is a veteran – and it’s not like the production was there last season. There will be some big, big growing pains for a secondary that gave up 27 touchdowns on the year and 212 yards or more in each of the last eight games.
Outlook: As long as the defensive backs are picking off passes like they did last season, all should be fine. KSU came up with 23 interceptions, but it didn’t really make up for getting torched in game after game, only keeping Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Army under 200 yards. If the pass rush isn’t rocking, this will be the Achilles heel.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Placekicker Freddy Cortez is gone after cranking up a great senior season hitting 19-of-25 field goals. In steps sophomore Anthony Melchiori, a good dual-threat prospect who’ll handle the punting duties along with trying to shine on field goals despite missing his only attempt last season. A good athlete, he was a high school receiver, but he’s growing into a punting star after averaging 42.6 yards per pop putting 28 inside the 20. He blasted a 75-yarder against Miami University and cranked up 16 punts from 50 yards or more.

Along with all his other duties, Dri Archer will start handling punts, too. An elite kickoff returner, he averaged 36.9 yards per try with three touchdowns last season, cranking up all his touchdowns in the first five games. With his quickness, he should blow up as a punt returner, too.

Watch Out For … Archer as a punt returner. The idea is to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways, but not get him hurt. However, this offseason he told the coaches that he’d like to try out as a punt returner, and he made the job all his.
Strength: Melchiori as a punter. Kent State led the MAC in punting and did a great job in punt coverage allowing just 4.4 yards per try. He was a weapon for field position.
Weakness: Melchiori as a placekicker. Cortez was a difference-maker, and Mechiori has to prove he can be as good from short-to-midrange. Deep shots shouldn’t be an issue.
Outlook: Is Melchiori is merely adequate as a placekicker, the Golden Flashes should be fantastic on special teams. Archer is deadly whenever he has the ball in his hands, and the coverage teams should be solid again. This will be a major positive against most teams.
Unit Rating: 7.5

- 2013 Kent State Preview | 2013 Kent State Offense
- 2013 Kent State Defense | 2013 Kent State Depth Chart