2013 Ohio Preview – Defense

Posted Jul 20, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ohio Bobcat Defense

Ohio Bobcats

Preview 2013 - Defense

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- 2013 Ohio Defense | 2013 Ohio Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: It's not going to be a brick wall, but the defense should be able to hold serve more often than not. The key will be to find a few disruptive forces. A couple of dangerous pass rushers would be nice, and more interceptions from the corners is a must, but there will be times when the D has to hold on for dear life in shootouts. Everyone can tackle and this is a sound group, but steady defenders have to fill in the gaps around middle linebacker Keith Moore and strong safety Josh Kristoff.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Keith Moore, 98
Sacks: Ty Branz, 3
Interceptions: Nate Carpenter, Keith Moore, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Keith Moore
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Ty Branz
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Brandon Atwell
Best pro prospect: Moore
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moore, 2) SS Josh Kristoff, 3) CB Larenzo Fisher
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Depth
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Corner Interceptions

Defensive Line

The defensive front has some work to do and needs to be better at getting into the backfield. It starts with senior Ty Branz, a former transfer from Iowa Western CC who became a factor in the rotation on the end making 25 tackles with three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. The 6-2, 252-pounder is built like a linebacker, but he's a defensive end who needs to hit the quarterback more. Back on the other side is 6-3, 230-pound senior Nic Barber, a quick veteran with great athleticism and the speed to get around the ends. However, he only came up with 13 tackles on the year with a sack and two tackles for loss.

Fighting for time is 6-3, 261-pound junior Kendric Smith, a former JUCO transfer from Blinn College who got into the end rotation right away making ten stops with half a sack. Now he'll work behind Branz, while 6-3, 231-pound redshirt freshman Kurt Laseak is a dangerous tackler who could grow into a disruptive force behind Barber.

6-1, 308-pound junior Antwan Crutcher is built for the nose, and now he needs to become an anchor. While he has the quickness off the ball to be a good interior pass rusher, his job will be to stuff the run after making 28 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a key part of the interior rotation. "Crutch" was a good get for the program, and now he's about to show why. Next to him is 6-3, 282-pound junior Tony Davis, a promising option with decent athleticism for his size. He saw a little bit of time making five tackles in four appearances.

Watch Out For … Watson Tautuaki and Cameron McLeod, two JUCO transfers who'll instantly make a huge impact for the defensive front. The 6-2, 290-pound Tautuaki will sit on the nose, but he can play either spot. "Bam Bam," the former run stuffer for LA Harbor College, is just a sophomore and could end up being an anchor. The 6-3, 285-pound McLeod comes in from Jones Country JC with excellent quickness for his size. Well coached, he's a turn-key prospect.
Strength: Size. Helped by the JUCO transfers, there's good bulk in the interior to hold up well against the run. The ends have good enough size to hold up against the better ground games.
Weakness: Proven consistent pass rush. It wasn't bad, but it could stand to be better. The D failed to come up with a sack in the last three games of the regular season, and when the production came it came in bunches with six against New Mexico State, four against Eastern Michigan, five against ULM and ten in the other ten games.
Outlook: Like last year, the line will be middle of the MAC pack. There's bulk, depth and good bodies to be solid. It's not going to be a bad line, but it's not going to be a killer unless Barber and/or Branz can shine as a disruptive force on the outside.
Unit Rating: 5


The linebacking corps has a big-time playmaker in senior Keith Moore to work around. The 5-11, 220-pounder led the team with 98 tackles with two sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions highlighted by a fantastic performance against ULM in the bowl win making nine stops with a sack. While he's undersized, he's fast, athletic and doesn't miss a stop.

6-2, 225-pound junior Brandon Atwell was mostly a special teamer over the last two seasons, but he saw a little bit of time on defense making 14 tackles last year. A former wide receiver, he has tremendous speed and shouldn't have a problem becoming a disruptive force in a big hurry now that he has a job on the outside. Likely to work on the weakside will be 5-11, 237-pound junior Tim Edmond, a former JUCO transfer from Hutchinson CC with decent quickness and hitting ability. He didn't do too much in his first season, but he came up with 14 tackles while also working on special teams.

At 6-0 and 232 pounds, sophomore Ben Russell is one of the team's biggest linebackers and a stronger, larger option in the middle behind Moore. He came up with 21 stops with a half a sack as a part of the rotation, and soon the one-time star recruit will be one of the team's statistical stars. While he's for the inside, 6-1, 215-pound junior A.J. Grady will see time on the outside. Built like a safety, he's a terrific athlete who can get all over the field and be strong in nickel and dime packages.

Watch Out For … Quentin Poling, a 6-0, 215-pound freshman who might be undersized, but he never, ever misses a tackle coming up with 509 in his high school career. It's possible he could end up at safety, but he'll soon be used as part of the rotation on the outside.
Strength: Tacklers. The Bobcat linebackers are generally strong at wrapping up. One a ball carrier is hit, he stays hit and tackled; Moore doesn't miss a stop.
Weakness: Size. Edmond is a 237-pounder and Russell isn't small at 232, but overall this is a light, quick linebacking corps that relies on smarts and athleticism. Everyone can move and everyone can hit, but bulky running games could provide a problem.
Outlook: Moore will be an all-star and Atwell and Edmond have been around long enough to know what they're doing. This will be a decent corps, but it might not come up with many blow-up moments or enough plays behind the line. It'll be a good, sound corps, but nothing special.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

It'll take some playing around to find the right combination of talents, but they're there including junior Nathan Carpenter, a starting safety who might work at corner but could quickly go back to safety after coming up with 53 tackles with a sack, six tackles for loss and two picks. The former high school running back is 5-9 and 200 pounds, and he can hit. If Carpenter works at corner, that means 6-0, 223-pound junior Thad Ingol will be one of the key pieces at safety. Big, strong and fast, he has wide receiver moves in the body of a safety, making 28 tackles with a pick working as a nickel and dime defender.

If it's not Carpenter at corner, it'll be sophomore Ian Wells, a do-it-all defensive back who came up with 45 tackles with seven broken up passes and a sack. While he didn't come up with any picks, he's a good tackler who could be moved to nickel back or safety if needed. 5-11, 174-pound junior Larenzo Fisher is back at the other corner spot after starting 11 times and making 50 tackles with eight broken up passes. While he's thin and isn't a blow-up hitter, he made 11 tackles against Marshall. He keeps the deep plays to a minimum and grew into the job as last season rolled on.

6-0, 195-pound junior Josh Kristoff is one of the leaders and veterans in the secondary coming up with 60 tackles with three broken up passes. While he's not an elite athlete, he's like another linebacker at strong safety, even if he's not built for it. Extremely smart, he has a good command of the defensive backfield and is almost always in the right position. He'll be backed up by 6-0, 203-pound sophomore Devin Jones, a promising young playmaker who came up with 11 stops in his true freshman season. At the very least, he'll work in nickel packages.

Watch Out For … Jarid Brown. While he's coming in as a corner prospect, he could move around any end up working anywhere in the secondary. The 6-0, 195-pounder was a dangerous high school wideout and was a nice corner, but he's physical and very, very versatile.
Strength: Experience. With three starters returning, Carpenter likely to find a starting spot somewhere, and decent depth with players like Xavier Hughes returning from injury, the Bobcats have the veterans to be solid as long as the pass rush comes through.
Weakness: Interceptions. The linebackers helped the cause with the 13 picks, and the safeties did a nice job, but the projected starting corners – Fisher and Wells – came up with a grand total of zero interceptions last season. The Bobcats came up with two or more picks in just three games, winning them all.
Outlook: This should be the strength of the defense. More interceptions would be nice, and there will be problems with the bigger bombing teams, but for the most part the secondary will hold its own. There are enough going options to play around with the nickel and dime packages and keep several veterans on the field.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Good luck replacing Matt Weller, and all-star kicker who nailed 23-of-31 kicks last season and was a major part of the puzzle for the last few years. Sophomore Matt Green will give it a try after transferring in from Oklahoma State. The Lexington native got away from Kentucky, and with a huge leg and good range, he should be able to bomb away from the start.

The punting game is set with the return of sophomore Grant Venham, but he has to come up with a bit more blast after averaging 39.5 yards per try. He forced 19 fair catches and put 24 inside the 20, but he needs to hover around 42 yards per shot to be more effective.

Dangerous running back Daz'mond Patterson became a top kickoff returner right away as a true freshman averaging 24.2 yards per try highlighted by a key 100-yard return for a score against Buffalo. Very quick and with a fantastic burst, he gets up the field in a hurry. He can also return punts averaging 14 yards per try on his two attempts against Eastern Michigan.

Watch Out For … the kicking situation. Green has the size and the leg, but can he be as consistent as Weller? Redshirt freshman Matt Amicone is a smallish kicker who might have the midrange ability the team needs.
Strength: Punt coverage. The net punting stats might not be that impressive, but the coverage teams worked well with Venham allowing just 3.3 yards per try.
Weakness: Proven placekickers. With Weller the Bobcats had an ultra-reliable option in key situations. It's going to take a little while to find the same trust the longtime veteran had earned.
Outlook: Fantastic over the years under the Solich regime, Ohio needs to come up with a good punt returner, has to get another great season out of Patterson, and needs the kicking game to be reliable and solidified. The special teams will be good, though. They always are.
Unit Rating: 5

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