Marshall Preview 2006 - Defense
Marshall Thundering Herd
Preview 2006 - Herd Defense
What you need to know ...
Head coach Mark Snyder is a defensive coach and should have
things in shape soon. It might take a little while more with
three new starters needed in the secondary and a run defense
needing to improve after a lousy 2005. The line has the
potential to be far better with 300-pounders Juan Underwood and
Chris Terrell able to clog up the middle, and rising star Albert
McClellan on the outside. The linebacking corps should be a
strength if Brandon Souder shines in the middle allowing last
year's top two tacklers, Matt Couch and Dennis Thornton, to
combine on the weakside.
Dennis Thornton, 104
Shavar Greer, Dennis Thornton, 4
Interceptions: Several with 1
Star of the defense: Senior SS Curtis Keyes
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB J.J. Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior NT Juan Underwood
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keyes, 2) LB Matt
Couch, 3) Sophomore DE Albert McClellan
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
The line has to be more effective than it was last
season, and it should be with four returning starters and good depth to
rely on. Albert McClellan needs to build on his fantastic freshman
season and become a dominant pass rusher, while Shaver Greer has to make
more plays on the other side. The tackle situation should be interesting
with the possibility of putting the 323-pound Juan Underwood and the
326-pound Chris Terrell in the middle at the same time to load up
against the run.
The key to the unit: The run defense has to be better to go along
with a more consistent pass rush.
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Albert McClellan, Soph. - 40 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 TFL,
2 broken up passes
The team's rising defensive star, McClellan is a 225-pound blur who
should grow into an even more effective pass rusher. He only started
five games at defensive end but was consistent and showed good
explosion. Now he has to get used to having all the attention on him
needing to bypass double teams to still be effective.
DT Chris Terrell, Sr. - 15 tackles, 1 TFL
Terrell was a key backup last
year and will get every shot to start at left tackle. The former JUCO
transfer is 326 pounds and is a huge run stopper. The gig is his with
Adrian Davis suspended after spring ball.
- DT Juan Underwood, Sr. - 37 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 3
The former JUCO superstar lived up to the hype starting in nine games
and becoming the 323-pound playmaker the defensive line needed. He's
surprisingly quick for a defender of his size with All-Conference USA
potential if he keeps progressing like he did throughout last season.
- DE Shavar Greer, Sr. - 22 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL
Greer is an outside linebacker playing on the end at 6-0 and 226 pounds.
He's a good athlete who used his wheels and athleticism to be the team's
top sacker in six starts, but two of his four sacks came in the first
- DE Jason Kaminski, Sr. - 3 tackles, 1 quarterback hurry
A reserve throughout last season, the 235-pound senior wasn't able to
make much of an impact after missing all of 2004. He's a bigger option
than Shaver Greer on the right side and needs to eventually be a key part of the
- DE Ryland Wilson, Jr.
The 248-pound JUCO All-American will be a bigger option at left end than
the 225-pound Albert McClellan or on the right end behind the 230-pound
Shaver Greer. He's a big pass rusher who can be used
in any situation.
- DT Adrian Davis, Sr. - 18 tackles, 3 quarterback hurries
Davis has seen plenty of work over the last two seasons starting in
every game last season, but his return is questionable after being
arrested on marijuana possession charges leading to his suspension. If
he returns, at his
size, he has to be far better at getting into the backfield and has to
be more of a pass rusher.
There's plenty of returning experience, but
there has to be more production again the run. That's why the coaching
staff is tinkering and experimenting with all the possibilities starting
out with 2005's leading tackler Dennis Thornton as a reserve on the
weakside to make room for middle linebacker and second leading tackler
Matt Couch to add more size to the outside, but that has changed around
throughout the off-season. Ian Hoskins is the team's biggest linebacker with
impressive athleticism on the strongside. Outside of Thornton, if he
actually is a backup once the season starts, there's no developed depth.
However, star recruit Josh Johnson will change all that; he could
quickly take over in the middle.
The key to the unit: The starting three has to be
better against the run while room has to be made somewhere for Dennis
Linebacker Rating: 6.5
- Dennis Thornton, Sr. - 104 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 3
broken up passes
The team's leading tackler was listed as a backup going into spring
ball, but that quickly changed. Thornton tied for the team lead in sacks
and showed impressive pass rushing ability, but now he'll combine with
Matt Couch on the weakside.
- Matt Couch, Sr. - 97 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken
up passes, 5 TFL
Couch moved from the middle to the weakside, and now he'll move back to
the middle to get Dennis Thornton on the field ... for now. Sophomore
Josh Johnson could take over in the middle. He's a tough,
quick tackler who finished second on the team in stops and showed a good
ability to quickly drop into pass coverage. He'll get more room to work
on the outside and should be an even bigger playmaker.
- Ian Hoskins, Soph. - 15 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Hoskins is the team's biggest linebacker and one of the most physical. A
great athlete for his size, the former high school star running back is
expected to play a much bigger role on the strongside after getting hit
feet wet in four starts.
- Josh Johnson, Soph.
There will be a spot for him in a big hurry this fall. The star recruit
runs a 4.56 40 and has the range in the middle to quickly become the
team's top tackler. He originally signed with Georgia before having to
go the military academy route.
- Brandon Souder, Sr. - 3 tackles
Can he hold battle for the job in the middle? Souder got most of the first
team reps in spring ball moving Matt Couch to the outside, but he
quickly became a reserve again. The former JUCO
star has the size and the ability to be among the team's top tacklers.
- Maurice Kitchens, Soph.
One of the team's fastest linebackers, the 6-3, 226-pound sophomore will
be used as a pass rusher behind Ian Hoskins on the strongside.
- Travis Noel, Jr.
The Canadian has to finally start to play a role. He has too much speed
and potential to not be part of the rotation in the middle. He's only
222 pounds with one career tackle, but he can move.
The pass defense was one of the team's strengths last season
finishing 12th in the nation and on top of Conference USA allowing 178
yards per game and only giving up 13 touchdown passes. However, it's not
like the Herd played a who's who of passing offenses. Three starters are
gone including longtime playmaker Chris Royal at free safety along with
both corners. Geremy Rodamer will do fine in Royal's old job, but corner
is a different story with a glaring weakness on the other side of J.J.
Johnson. Even with the good overall stats, the Herd only intercepted nine
passes and got picked apart on shorter passes.
The key to the unit: A second corner has to emerge and
more big plays need to be made against short to midrange passers.
Secondary Rating: 5.5
- CB James Johnson, Soph. - 42 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 3
forced fumbles, 1 broken up pass
J.J. was a great reserve getting two starts in his freshman season. He's
an active tackler who makes plays all over the field, and now he has to
become a top cover corner after not doing too much against the pass.
He's a much bigger hitter than his 5-11, 180-pound size might indicate.
- FS Geremy Rodamer, Jr. - 29 tackles, 1 interception
Rodamer can play either safety position with his speed making him a more
natural free safety. He got four starts and plenty of playing time
behind Chris Royal, and now the job is his. Don't be shocked if he's
better against the run than Royal was.
- SS Curtis Keyes, Sr. - 88 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 broken up passes
One of the best and most experienced defensive backs in the league,
Keyes has 233 career tackles, 16 broken up passes and three
interceptions. He's great against the pass, but he's known for his
teeth-rattling hits as well as his leadership. He'll have to be better
and more vocal than ever with all the inexperience around him.
- CB Terick Thomas, Soph. - 1 tackle
Thomas can move, but he's really, really, light at a rail-thin 5-11 and
155 pounds. He'll combine with Jeremy Frazie for the second corner spot
on the other side of James Johnson.
- FS C.J. Spillman, Soph. - 38 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken
Spillman had an excellent true freshman season with nice size and
excellent speed. He's a big hitter who finds his way to the ball and
always makes plays, and now he'll be a key defender behind Geremy
Rodamer at free safety and as a nickel back.
- CB Jeremy Frazie, Sr. - 6 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The former walk-on from Morehead State will go from being a special
teamer to battling for an open cornerback spot. He's not the prospect
Terick Thomas is, but he's much bigger.
Both kickers return with improvement needed from both. Marty Biagi is an
emerging punter who should be better after solid freshman season. Ian
O'Connor is an inconsistent veteran who can handle all the kicking
duties if needed, but he'll have to deal with incoming JUCO transfer Anthony
Binswanger, who has an even bigger leg than O'Connor. Chubb Small will
handle most of the return duties after averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff
return and a mere 3.7 yards per punt return.
The key to the unit: More consistency on field goals,
better punt coverage, and more production from Chubb Small on punt
Special Teams Rating: 6.5
- PK Ian O'Connor, Sr. - 7-14 FGs, 16-17 extra points
O'Connor has a good leg and has been the main man for the last two
seasons on field goals, but he was too inconsistent last year and will
be challenged for the starting job. He can punt if needed, but he'll
spend his time focusing on field goals.
- P Marty Biagi, Soph. - 61 punts, 2,343 yds, 38.4 yards per
kick, 15 inside the 20
Biagi had a good, not great, freshman season
and needs to get more blast on his kicks. He's not bad at handing it up
in the air and has decent accuracy, but now he has to show he can bail
the team out of trouble on a regular basis.