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2013 Ball State Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 20, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ball State Cardinal Defense


Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2013 - Defense


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

What You Need To Know: The defense that was such a disaster last season still needs plenty of work with several big changes all across the board. The D allowed 462 yards per game and didn’t get any semblance of a pass rush outside of the 8.5 sacks from Jonathan Newsome. The run defense was pushed around too easily and the secondary was beaten deep way too often. Depth is a problem with the starting 11 still needing to be figured out in the 4-2-5 alignment that often uses a fifth defensive back like another linebacker. There must be more takeaways and more big plays, but more than anything else, the D has to find something it can do well.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Eric Patterson, 61
Sacks: Jonathan Newsome, 8.5
Interceptions: Quintin Cooper, Eric Patterson, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Jonathan Newsome
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Julian Boyd
Unsung star on the rise: Junior SS Brian Jones
Best pro prospect: Newsome
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Newsome, 2) CB Eric Patterson, 3) CB Jeffery Garrett
Strength of the defense: Newsome, Cornerback
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Pass Defense

Defensive Line

The defensive front struggled way too much against the run and didn’t do nearly enough to get into the backfield, but senior Jonathan Newsome did his part with a team-leading 8.5 sacks with 12.5 tackles for loss and 52 tackles. Steady, he came up with two sacks against both Indiana and Kent State, but did a nice job of getting into the backfield on a regular basis and held his own against the run. At 6-3 and 236 pounds he has good size and a great burst into the backfield.

With all the attention paid to Newsome on one side, junior Nick Miles has to be far more effective on the other after starting every game but generating just two sacks with 4.5 tackles for loss. He came up with plenty of stops making 54 tackles, but the 6-2, 265-pounder was neutralized way too easily by the stronger offensive tackles. Inside, 6-1, 288-pound senior Joel Cox is back on the nose after working in and out of the lineup. Decent when he’s in the lineup and 100%, he has made the most noise on special teams blocking three kicks. While he’s not bug, he gets good leverage. Next to him will be veteran Nathan Ollie, a 13-game starter who finished second on the team with four sacks to go along with 51 stops. At 6-1 and 295 pounds he’s one of the biggest options up front, but he has to be far stronger at holding at the point of attack.

Watch Out For … the depth in the rotation. The starting foursome is full of experience, but there hasn’t been enough production outside of Newsome’s ability to get into the backfield. 218-pound sophomore Michael Ayers and 6-2, 245-pound sophomore Osa Igbinosun will get more than their share of chances to shine as pass rushers, while sophomores Darnell Smith and Keenan Noel need to be factors inside to keep everyone fresh.
Strength: Newsome. For a team that doesn’t have any semblance of a pass rush from several spots, he’s the one guy who occasionally changes things up. The Cardinals need to take advantage of his disruptive ability.
Weakness: Stopping the run. The pass rush and getting behind the line is a problem, but the bigger issue is stuffing the run with too many teams able to blast away up the middle. Too many plays are made down the field.
Outlook: After finishing 114th in the nation in tackles for loss and 106th against the run, the line has to be far stronger. It’s not a big group and it’s not active enough, but there are enough bodies to come up with a decent rotation.
Unit Rating: 4

Linebackers

Leading tackler Travis Freeman is gone in the middle and Tony Martin is gone on the weakside. Sophomore Ben Ingle got his feet wet last season and now is poise to become a statistical star after making 12 tackles in a reserve role. Only 6-0 and 224 pounds, he’s not huge for the interior, but he’s tough and can hit making 12 tackles in his limited time. He’ll be backed up by sophomore Trent Toothman, who adds a little more size at 6-0 and 236 pounds, surprising speed and a little bit of experience.

Junior Julian Boyd is a 6-2, 220-pound prospect who has yet to do much but now will work on the weakside. He has pass rushing potential and can hit, but he needs time at the position after coming up with 17 tackles in a limited role. JUCO transfer Stephan Martin will come in to push for time on the outside after starting the last two seasons at Fort Scott Community College. The 5-11, 226-pounder is a hitting machine.

Watch Out For … 6-1, 207-pound new recruit Anthony Winbush, a high school defensive lineman who projects as a college linebacker. Arguably the team’s top recruit, he’s a tremendous athlete with good pass rushing skills.
Strength: Opportunities. The linebackers in the Ball State defense make lots and lots of plays, partly because things get funneled their way, and partly because the line doesn’t get the job done.
Weakness: Experience. Freeman and Martin combined for 209 tackles last season and did a little bit of everything. The Cardinals will get the numbers out of the positions, but the two veterans will still be hard to replace.
Outlook: The Cardinals occasionally bring up a safety and use him as a third linebacker, but mostly they stick with a 4-2-5 alignment. The numbers will be there and there won’t be any problems coming up with tackles, but generating big plays will be another story.
Unit Rating: 4

Defensive Backs

The secondary was torched way too easily, but it got a decent season out of boundary corner Eric Patterson, a 5-10, 193-pound junior who led the team with two picks and nine broken up passes while finishing fourth on the team with 51 stops. The third-team All-MAC performer is a great open field tackler and physical, but he can get beaten deep. On the field side will be senior Jeffery Garrett, a 6-0, 186-pound veteran who started out the season on the boundary side before moving over to the other, finishing with 57 tackles with six broken up passes. Now he has to come up with more big plays when the ball is in the air.

Used like a nickel defender and a strongside linebacker, 5-11, 202-pound junior Christopher Calloway will have to d a little of everything on the outside after making eight stops as a reserve. Fast, he can be used as a free safety and get all over the field, but 5-10, 195-pound junior J.C. Wade will be the starter at the spot after making 51 tackles with five broken up passes. Fast, he gets all over the field with great range and quickness. 5-10, 195-pound junior Brian Jones is another good athlete who can move, but he’ll have to hold up against the run at strong safety after coming up with 34 tackles as a spot starter. Junior Quinton Cooper will also be in the mix at all the safety spots after coming up with 46 tackles and two picks as a spot starter. While he’s only 5-7 and 184 pounds, he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty.

Watch Out For … freshman Ralph Smith. The 5-8, 164-pounder needs time in the weight room and about ten extra pounds, but he’s the ball-hawker the secondary desperately needs. While he’s not afraid to tackle, he’s at his best when the ball is in the air.
Strength: Interchangeable parts. The Cardinals can move around all the safeties where needed and can flip-flop the corners if they must. The coaching staff will play around with the combination until they get it right.
Weakness: Making plays. The lack of a pass rush was a problem, but the secondary didn’t do its part coming up with a mere five picks. There were way too many big plays allowed and most quarterbacks who wanted to work deep didn’t have a problem.
Outlook: Abysmal last season, the Cardinals allowed 255 yards per game and 28 scores. Without a stronger pass rush to help the cause, and with several new faces in the starting mix, it should be another long year.
Unit Rating: 4

Special Teams

Steven Schott is gone after connecting on a solid 25-of-32 field goals and hitting a 52-arder against Eastern Michigan. Stepping in is junior Scott Secor, a good-legged blaster who did a decent job on kickoffs last season, but he has to prove he can be consistent from mid-range. The punting game was fantastic last season with Scott Kovanda averaging 40.3 yards per kick and working well with the coverage team, but now it’s up to redshirt freshman Kyle Schmidt, who has all the tools but needs the time to work on his consistency and show what he can do.

The return game was phenomenal thanks to wide receiver Jamill Smith, who averaged a whopping 25.6 yards per kickoff return and 13.8 yards per punt return. He has the perfect combination of shiftiness and straight-line speed.

Watch Out For … Secor. He has a lot of proving to do in terms of consistency, but he has a big leg and good upside. He’ll have the time to show what he can do.
Strength: Smith. He’s a weapon who’s a threat every time he has the ball in his hands. He didn’t even have a monster kickoff return for a score on his résumé, and he still averaged close to 26 yards per try.
Weakness: Proven kickers. Secor and Schmidt are expected to be okay, but after a great year from the kicking game, it’s asking a lot to get the same results or better.
Outlook: If the kickers can be consistent, the Cardinals should have a huge advantage. The return game is solid and the coverage teams fantastic allowing just one yard per punt return and 20.4 yards per kickoff return.
Unit Rating: 6.5

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