2013 Colorado State Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 16, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Colorado State Ram Defense


Colorado State Rams

Preview 2013 - Defense


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

What You Need To Know: Ram fans have to be sick of the word potential, especially when it comes to a defense that hasn't stopped anyone with a pulse in years, but the pieces are coming into place with a terrific young group of defensive backs to build around and a veteran linebacking corps that does a little of everything. The line is the big concern after not generating any pass rush and struggling to hold up against the run against the stronger ground games. Depending on the situation, the Rams will shift around using linebacker Shaquil Barrett as a defensive end in a modified 4-3, even though he's at his best as an outside defender in a 3-4. Either way, the defense has to be more disruptive and far more consistent against the better Mountain West attacks.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Aaron Davis, 84
Sacks: Cory James, 7.5
Interceptions: DeAndre Elliott, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB/DE Shaquil Barrett
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT LaRyan King
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Trent Matthews
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Shaq Bell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Barrett, 2) Bell, 3) LB Cory James
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Line

Defensive Line

JUCO transfer LaRyan King has to be fantastic. The Rams have to be far stronger and far more productive in the interior, and that's where King comes in. The 6-1, 280-pound star prospect from San Francisco City College has the potential to be the disruptive force the defense needs. Not just an anchor, he's a pass rusher.

Looking to take over as a pass rushing end is 6-2, 245-pound senior Eli Edwards, a former JUCO transfer who became a key part of the rotation right away making 14 tackles but not doing anything behind the line. He's more of a run stopper than a pass rusher, while JUCO transfer Martavius Foster could add more to the mix. Part tight end, part defensive lineman, the 6-3, 260-pounder has the size and toughness the line needs, but he's not the quick pass rushing prospect who could fly into the backfield on a regular basis.

The defensive tackle situation isn't all that bad considering former starters Alex Tucci and Zach Tiedgen didn't exactly hold up like a brick wall. 6-3, 330-pound senior Calvin Tonga is a massive option who can move just a little bit. He started three times but mostly worked as a backup making 18 tackles with 1.5 sacks, while 6-4, 265-pound senior Curtis Wilson is more of an interior playmaker with 12 stops in his limited time.

Watch Out For … the linebackers to really be ends. Depending on the formation, linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Aaron Davis are really more like pass rushing specialists on the outside. The line needs to generate pressure from somewhere, and these two are better at it than anyone else on the team.
Strength: The JUCO guys. King is by far the best of the lot end Terry Jackson is being brought in to play right away and Foster, if he doesn't move to tight end, could be a factor out of the box.
Weakness: Production. The line was awful last year even though it was full of experience, and now it's going to be a work in progress. Somehow, the front four has to start getting into the backfield and hitting more quarterbacks so the linebackers don't have to do most of the work.
Outlook: If King is as good as advertised and a consistent end can emerge, the potential is there for the line to not be horrible. The tackles can't be powered on regularly like they were last year, and a consistent second end has to emerge.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Linebackers

The pass rush from the front four has to be stronger and it has to start from the ends. 6-2, 250-pound senior Shaquil Barrett is the lone returning starter on a front that finished 110th in the nation in tackles for loss, although he did what he could with 67 tackles with 3.5 sacks, 75 sacks and a pick six. While he's not huge, and he's really more like an end working on the outside, he's quick off the ball and is one of the team's few dangerous pass rushers with the athleticism and upside to do far more. However, he didn't come up with a sack over the final five games of the year.

Even more of a playmaker in the backfield is sophomore strongside defender Cory James, a 6-0, 235-pound pass rusher who came up with a team-leading 7.5 sacks with 54 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. Three of his sacks came in the opener against Colorado, and while his pass rushing production fizzled late, he has the burst and the ability to be a statistical star.

While he wasn't the pass rusher that Barrett and James were, 6-0, 215-pound junior Aaron Davis managed to use his speed and quickness on the weakside to be the team's leading tackler with 84 stops and five tackles for loss. Great in the open field, he made ten solo stops against Fresno State and 24 tackles in back-to-back games against Hawaii and Wyoming – he's a missile to the ball. Also returning is junior Max Morgan, who took over the starting job in the middle over the last four games and finishing the year with 81 stops and 2.5 tackles for loss. One of the team's biggest hitters, the 6-1, 225-pounder is a tone-setter who thrived in the starting role with back-to-back weeks of 12 tackles late in the year.

This one of the deeper areas on the team with 6-1, 225-pound sophomore Steven Michel ready to do more behind Barrett after making five tackles with a sack in just three games or work. With a good burst, he could turn into a dangerous pass rusher, while sophomore Nu'uvali Fa'apito is a 6-0, 221-pound key backup who stepped in to make 34 tackles on the weakside.

Watch Out For … the outside linebackers to be used in a variety of ways. If the line isn't getting the job done, look for even more pressure to come from the interior linebackers and not just Barrett and Davis on the outside. The defense has to be more disruptive, and it starts with this crew.
Strength: Producers. While the stats are a bit better than the actual play, the linebackers did what they could. This is a young group that's maturing all at once with the potential to put up huge numbers across the board.
Weakness: Power teams. The corps tries to get physical, but it's not always great at holding up. The tackles will be made and there will be plays from the outside defenders behind the line, it's not going to be a great corps against anyone who wants to blast away.
Outlook: The secondary has the bigger upside, but the linebackers should be the strength of the defense. There are several options and several returning producers to try to help out the struggling D, and there will be plenty of messes to clean up behind a shaky line.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Most of the top players are back, with several young playmakers ready to do far more. However, the elder statesman, senior corner Shaq Bell is the leader and strongest defender in a veteran group. The 5-11, 195-pounder had a nice year earning all-star honors after making 66 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. He only came up with one pick – and he has to be more of a ball-hawk – but he broke up seven passes using terrific quickness and his experience to be the lockdown corner against No. 1 targets.

With Bell on one side as a sure thing, the Rams have to come up with a steady producer on the left side with 6-0, 175-pound junior Bernard Blake getting the call over the last four games f last season and coming up with 24 tackles with three broken up passes, and sophomore DeAndrew Elliott a good-looking bigger option who got his feet wet making 33 tackles with a team-leading two picks – both against Hawaii – with a score.

6-3, 210-pound strong safety Trent Matthews came to Colorado State as a cornerback but is growing into a very smart, very good safety. While he's not a blazer, he moves well and gets around the ball with a team-leading ten broken up passes with a pick and 71 tackles. He's strong against the run, but he's better in the open field, while 6-1, 212-pound sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis is a promising all-around defender who showed flashes of excellent in his first year making 34 tackles as mostly a reserve. He took over the job late in the season and should put up huge numbers, while 6-1, 190-pound sophomore Jasen Oden is a promising swing defender who'll start out at corner but could be moved around after making 25 tackles on the year to go along with a pick six against Hawaii.

Watch Out For … Elliott. He's a nice open-field tackler with excellent speed. While he's expected to be a corner, he should end up doing most of his work as a nickel and dime defender where he can roam and make big plays.
Strength: Young talent. Bell has one year left, but this is one of the better areas of recruiting focus over the last few seasons and the results should start to pay off. The secondary should grow into a far more cohesive unit over the next few years.
Weakness: Pass rush. The defensive backfield gets absolutely no help whatsoever from the line, and if the linebackers aren't getting to the quarterback, it's uh-oh time. The Ram defensive backs will have to be extra sharp against the more efficient passers working behind tight lines.
Outlook: This turned out to be a surprisingly nice positive, mostly because there weren't a slew of top passing teams on the slate. Giving up 200 yards became the norm over the second half of the season, and all seven picks came in three games, but there's a world of potential and upside to get excited about.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Junior Jared Roberts came out of the blue to become a stunning star for an offense that needed the points nailing nine out of his ten field goal attempts, only missing a 51-yarder against North Dakota State. He showed off a nice leg connecting from 47 and 48 yards against Colorado while topping out at 49 yards against UNLV.

Losing veteran punter Pete Kontodiakos is going to hurt. The longtime star averaged 46.5 yards per try putting 19 kicks inside the 20, and not it's up to redshirt freshman Hayden Hunt to try replacing him. The 6-1, 195-pounder out of Long Beach has a nice leg, but it's asking for way too much for him to be Kontodiakos.

The return game was a positive and it should be fantastic again. Receiver Thomas Coffman averaged 24.6 yards per kickoff return and Charles Lovett is a dangerous option, while receiver Joe Hansley did a nice job on punt returns averaging 12.5 yards per try on his eight attempts.

Watch Out For … Hunt. The Rams got a huge year out of Kontodiakos, and while the coverage team didn't help, the gross numbers were great. Hunt has to give the defense as much field position help as possible.
Strength: Roberts. The kicking problems were quickly solved with a huge start from Roberts, but he wasn't needed all that much in the middle of the year going a stretch of five games in six without a field goal attempt. He'll be used more this year.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The kickoff coverage was miserable, allowing 23.5 yards per try without a touchdown allowed to jack up the average. The punt team wasn't much better giving up a whopping 12 yards per boot.
Outlook: As long as Hunt is solid and the coverage teams are better, the special teams could be a plus. Roberts is a weapon and the returners are good, and considering the issues in several other phases, this needs to be an advantage.
Unit Rating: 6.5

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