2013 Toledo Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Toledo Rocket Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Just about everyone of note is back on a loaded offense that should put up huge numbers. It might need to considering the defense is going to be a work in progress after finishing 109th in the nation in yards allows and was lit up by everyone and anyone who wanted to throw. There are several options at all spots, and it's going to take a while to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, especially in the secondary where playmakers have to be found around corner Cheatham Norrils. Linebacker will also be an issue with Dan Molls, Robert Bell and their 266 tackles are gone. A steady pass rush has to emerge, hoping for more from Jayrone Elliott and the return of a healthy Christian Smith on the outside.
Star of the defense: Junior CB Cheatham Norrils
Tackles: Cheatham Norrils, 74
Sacks: Jayrone Elliott, 6
Interceptions: Jordan Haden, Cheatham Norrils, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Chase Murdock
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Trent Voss
Best pro prospect: Norrils
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Voss, 2) Norrils, 3) DE Jayrone Elliott
Strength of the defense: Youth, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Consistent Pass Rush
The line that struggled so much at times throughout last year and was awful in the bowl loss to Utah State returns a slew of veterans, but mostly it needs 6-3, 240-pound senior Jayrone Elliott to once again be the team's most dangerous pass rusher after leading the way with six sacks. However, he only made 18 tackles and was mostly a specialist who failed to come up with a play behind the line over the final four games. He has the speed and athleticism, but he has to be consistent, while 6-2, 260-pound Christian Smith has to get back to form after getting knocked out in the seventh game of the year with a knee injury. A good veteran who came up with 13 tackles with a sack before getting hurt, he needs to take advantage of teams focusing on stopping Elliott now that the right side job is all his.
Getting tougher against the run is a must in the interior. There's decent size with 6-2, 295-pound senior Elijah Jones on the nose. Active, he came up with 31 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, he's the anchor up front in a rotation with 6-3, 325-pound sophomore Robert Zimmerman, who'll bring more bulk. At the other tackle spot will be 6-2, 285-pound sophomore Orion Jones, who can play on the nose if needed with good strength and a little experience making six stops last season. He'll rotate with 6-4, 290-pound sophomore Chris Collins, who adds a bit more size and decent quickness off the ball.
Watch Out For … junior Ray Bush, a former linebacker who's moving to the end to add a little more pizzazz in the rotation with Elliot. Elliott is the starter, but Bush could turn into a key factor.
Strength: Options. Toledo is good at rotating its linemen to keep everyone fresh, and now the goal is for a few of the players to become stronger with bigger roles. There are options to play around with at all four spots.
Weakness: Big plays. The run defense wasn't miserable, but there weren't enough plays behind the line with the pass rush almost non-existent for stretches once Elliott went cold. There have to be more hits on the quarterback.
Outlook: There's potential, quickness and experience, but there isn't enough production after a mediocre season. This wasn't a disaster like past Toledo lines, but it could stand to be more dynamic. Consistency is the key, and it would be nice if a star could emerge to work everything around.
Unit Rating: 5
How can the Rockets possibly replace Dan Molls, the tackling machine ho came up with a whopping 166 tackles on the year? It doesn't help to also lose second-leading tackler Robert Bell, who made 100 stops on the season, but senior Vladimir Emilien is back after making 33 tackles as part of the rotation on the strongside. The 6-1, 215-pounder has excellent athleticism and can be used more as a pass rusher, but he'll be in a rotation with 6-3, 220-pound sophomore Trent Voss, who came on to become big-time player as the season went on making 47 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He's the next Rocket star and should turn into the one who makes up for the loss of the teams top two tacklers.
6-0, 215-pound sophomore Chase Murdock got in a little bit of work with 11 tackles, and while he might not be Bell right away on the inside, but he's promising with good range. 6-0, 222-pound junior Junior Sylvestre will try to step in for Molls on the outside after coming up with 49 stops. A strong, veteran tackler, he has the potential and ability to put up huge numbers while growing into the role over the next few years.
Watch Out For … redshirt freshman Jaylen Coleman. At 6-0 and 235 pounds he's bigger and stronger than most of the options in the middle, and he'll get several chances to take over the job and move Murdock somewhere on the outside.
Strength: Tacklers. There might not be that much experience with the two big stars gone, but everyone can hit. There isn't too much worry about the new starters and the stats – they'll put up big numbers.
Weakness: Molls and Bell. It's hard to get stronger and better if you're losing 266 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and three picks. These two cleaned up all the messes left by a leaky defensive front.
Outlook: Will the inexperience matter? The Rockets have interchangeable options and promising young prospects, especially Voss, but it might take a little while to find the right playmakers. As long as the new starters make the plays there to be made, and get some help from the front four, everything should be fine in time.
Unit Rating: 5
On the bad side, the Rockets lose three starters. On the positive end, the secondary was miserable last season and could use an overhaul. Junior corner Cheatham Norrils is the lone returning starter, and he's a good one. At 6-0 and 195 pounds, he's not huge, but he held up well finishing third on the team making 74 tackles with two picks and five broken up passes. While he's good in the open field and earned All-MAC recognition, he has to be better against the deep balls and has improve when the ball is in the air, focusing too much on stopping in the run, partly because he had to.
5-9, 185-pound sophomore Chris Dukes will step in to a full-time job on the boundary side after making 35 tackles in a rotation. He might not be big, but he's tough for his size and doesn't miss a stop. Also in the mix is sophomore Juwan Haynes, a 6-0, 185-pound veteran who made 11 tackles and now will work a bit more on the field side and could be in nickel and dime packages.
Senior Ross Madison will step in at one of the safety spots, most likely at strong safety, with good size and good toughness against the run making 25 tackles with five broken up passes. The 6-1, 200-pounder can pop, while 5-11, 190-pound redshirt freshman Danny Larkins can move. The athletic free safety isn't the biggest option, but the secondary needs speed and playmakers against the pass. 5-11, 200-pound junior Jordan Haden will be a part of the battle for playing time after coming up with two picks and 16 tackles in a limited role. The younger brother of former Florida star and Cleveland Brown, Joe Haden, can close on the ball in a hurry.
Watch Out For … the safety situation. Madison and Larkins are the likely top options, but the coaching staff will test out anyone who can help make more plays against the deep passes. Haden might be too good a ball hawk to not play a full-time role in some way.
Strength: Youth. The Rocket secondary will have plenty of time to grow into their respective roles with Madison the only senior on the projected two-deep and several underclassmen playing key roles. Again, after last year, things can't be too much worse.
Weakness: Stopping the forward pass. Toledo managed to come up with 17 picks and made up for several mistakes with some big plays, but everyone who wanted to throw, did. The Rockets allowed 200 yards or more in every game.
Outlook: This will be a problem. There's not going to be a killer pass rush to help take the heat off, and it's going to be trial by fire at all four spots. However, after finishing 116th in the nation against the pass, and after getting dinked and dunked on to death, a little improvement will go a long way.
Unit Rating: 4
The offense gets a weapon back in junior Jeremiah Detmer, a smallish kicker with a good, consistent leg hitting 24-of-29 shots last season. While there were a few problems on extra points and with blocks, he managed to get hot at the right time nailing his last 17 field goals including all five in the 29-23 win over Cincinnati. While he doesn't have out-of-the-park range, he can be used from 45 yards and in.
The punting game was a plus last season with senior Vince Penza averaging a solid 40.5 yards per kick while putting 21 inside the 20 with a mere three touchbacks. He's not a blaster, but he gets the job done.
Receiver Bernard Reedy is a superior return man averaging 11.1 yards per punt return while taking one for a score, and coming up with three scores on kickoff returns averaging 27.7 yards a shot.
Watch Out For … teams to do everything possible to stay away from Reedy. He killed Eastern Michigan and Cincinnati with kickoff returns for scores in back-to-back weeks and was the only positive against Utah State. No one will give him a chance to get the ball in his hands.
Strength: Reedy. Besides his tremendous ability to change games around, he's a threat who'll give the team excellent field position when teams stay away from him.
Weakness: Big legs. It's nitpicking, but Detmer isn't going to nail any 55 yarders, missing his lone 52-yard attempt last year, and Penza isn't the type to blast the team out of jams. The kickers are solid, but not necessarily spectacular.
Outlook: After looking like a disaster going into last season, and being one of the team's biggest positive turnarounds,
this could be a major area of strength again. Reedy is one of the best all-around return men in the nation, Detmer comes into the season on a red-hot streak and Penza is a solid veteran. The coverage teams were solid and shouldn't be an issue as long as the kickers do their jobs again.
Unit Rating: 8.5
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