Western Michigan 2006 Preview - Defense
Western Michigan Broncos
Preview 2006 - WMU Defense
What you need to know ...
Nine starters return to what could be the X factor in the
MAC race. The run defense was solid last season and no one was better in
the MAC at getting to the quarterback, but the young secondary got
flat-out torched. On the plus side, this is an exciting group of
defensive backs that should be far better this season. The linebacking
corps has the potential to be the best in the conference led by pass
rushing terror Ameer Ismail on the outside. The line is nothing special,
but it's experienced and has a rising star in tackle Nick Varcadipane.
Antwain Allen, 95
Ameer Ismail, 8
Interceptions: Louis Delmas, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Ameer Ismail
Size up front, proven pass defense
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
CB Londen Fryar
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Zach Davidson
Best pro prospect: Junior S Antwain Allen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ismail, 2) DT Nick
Varcadipane, 3) Allen
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
The line has the potential to grow into something really
good if the tackles can hold up. It's not a huge line with not enough
sides of beef to clog things up in the middle, but it should be a good
pass rushing group with room to grow. The best pass rusher, and best
player, is tackle Nick Varcadipane, who's destined for a spot on the
All-MAC team if Cory Flom can do his job and be a run stuffer on the
nose. While the ends can move, there's not a sure-thing pass rusher in
the group. That could quickly change if Zach Davidson grows into the
The key to the unit: Generate a bit more of a pass rush from the
ends and get another great year out of tackle Nick Varcadipane..
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Anthony Belmonte, Sr. - 50 tackles, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 interception
The former linebacker is a veteran on the line now after starting the
last two years up front. He's not a great pass rusher, but he's tough
against the run and has steadily improved each season.
- NG Cory Flom, Soph. - 13 tackles, 2 TFL
The 285-pound nose guard started four games last year and grew into a
nice anchor. He's one of the line's biggest players, and one of the
- DT Nick Varcadipane, Soph. - 50 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1
interception, 3 broken up passes
The start of the line, the 272-pound Varcadipane had a tremendous
freshman season turning into a top interior pass rusher and a strong run
defender. He has the athleticism of an end in a tackle body.
- DE Zach Davidson, Soph. - 20 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5. TFL, 2
A part-time starter as a redshirt freshman, Davidson grew into a decent
all-around defender and showed good promise to become one of the team's
better ends. He's a very athletic natural pass rusher.
- DE Matt Ludeman, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL
Leudeman started half of last year and could step in again if needed
behind Zach Davidson. He's not as strong against the run as Davidson,
but he can move. He's a good special teamer.
- DT Andy Laue, RFr.
The 255-pound Laue will see time at both end and tackle. He's one of the
team's most talented prospects, but he needs to find a spot and has to
grow into a role.
WMU has 16 linebacker prospects to work with
starring three great starters in Dustin Dulco in the middle, Paul Tithof
on the strongside, and pass rushing terror Ameer Ismail on the weakside.
There's depth to burn with true sophomores Austin Pritchard and Greg
Marshall good enough to start. Getting into the backfield and making
plays against the run won't be a problem, but the entire group could be
better in pass coverage.
The key to the unit: Using all the experience and
talent to make more big plays.
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Ameer Ismail, Sr. - 93 tackles, 8 sacks, 20 TFL, 1
broken up pass, 3 recovered fumbles
The former running back has become a natural linebacker. Ismail turned
into one of the team's best all-around defenders last year as an
unstoppable pass rusher from the weakside earning First Team All-MAC
honors. He's good against the run, but the 225-pound senior is about
speed on the outside.
- Dustin Duclo, Soph. - 58 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2
A rock of a starter in the middle last year, the sophomore did a little
of everything well showing off good skills as a pass defender and
finishing fourth on the team in tackles. He's a quick, active defender
on the inside.
- Paul Tithof, Sr. - 38 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 recovered fumble
The former safety has been a solid linebacker on the strongside with
good pass rushing ability and nice range. He was one of the team's top
tacklers despite missing three games injured. He's tough as nails for
only being 217 pounds.
- Austin Pritchard, Soph. - 54 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1
Pritchard turned into one of the team's top tacklers as a true freshman.
The 215-pounder has great speed and is fantastic at getting into the
backfield from the strongside. He'll start out behind Paul Tithof and
could see some time on the weakside.
- Greg Marshall, Soph. - 34 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Marshall made a nice impact as a true freshman highlighted by a huge 14
tackle game against Temple. He's a bigger option than Dustin Dulco on
the inside and has even better range.
- Cornelius Robinson, Soph. - 7 tackles, 1 interception
A speedy, versatile linebacker, the 210-pound sophomore will will be
groomed to be the 2007 starter learning behind Ameer Ismail.
The coaching staff chose to sink or swim with a bunch of freshman last
year, and the pass defense sunk allowing 303 yards per game (only Texas
A&M's secondary gave up more) and didn't do anything against the most
pedestrian of passers. The pieces weren't necessarily there after making
the switch from a 4-2-5 alignment to a more traditional 4-3, but they
are now with plethora of exciting young safeties led by Antwain Allen,
Louis Delmas and C.J. Wilson to go along with rising corner E.J. Biggers.
There's depth and a whole bunch of speed. Now this group has to cover
The key to the unit: Stop getting so badly torched on
deep balls. All the talented young freshmen of last year have to become
rock solid sophomores.
Secondary Rating: 4.5
- CB E.J. Biggers, Soph. - 27 tackles, 4 broken up passes
Biggers is one of the team's fastest players and has the talent to turn
into a shutdown corner. He struggles as a true freshman getting burned
way too often, but that will change with experience. He has too much
athleticism and too much upside not to eventually grow into an All-MAC
- FS C.J. Wilson, Soph. - 47 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 broken
Wilson started every game as a redshirt freshman and showed promise that
he can become a big hitting tone setter for the defense. He's 6-2 and
206 pounds with sprinters' speed, and now he has to be more consistent
and more of a playmaker against the pass.
- SS Antwain Allen, Jr. - 95 tackles, 1 TFL, 6 broken
Allen moved over from wide receiver and turned into a star leading the
team in tackles. He'll combine with Louis Delmas at strong safety early
on and should start every game. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he's a bigger
option than Delmas with excellent speed. He's not as fast as Delmas, but
he can move.
- CB Londen Fryar, Soph. - 3 tackles
The son of former NFL star Irving Fryar, Londen saw a little bit of
starting time last year and turned into a difference maker on special
teams. He'll get the first look at one of the starting corner spots
where he'll get plenty of action with teams looking to stay away from
- CB/SS Louis Delmas, Soph. - 82 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 3
interceptions, 8 broken up passes
Delmas will be starting somewhere. He finished third on the team in
tackles and led the team in broken up passes playing at corner and
safety. His 4.5 40 time makes him a good cornerback option, but he's a
solid fit at safety because of his hitting ability .
- CB Jimmie Vincent, Sr. - 12 tackles, 1 interception
A spot starter and reliable reserve, the 5-9 senior is the team's most
experienced defensive back and will push for time behind Londen Fryar.
He's a sure tackler.
This should be a bright spot if the kick returners come through. PK Nate Meyer is all but
automatic inside 40 yards and P Jim Laney should be among the MAC's
best, but Greg Jennings has to be replaced as the top punt returner and
more pop is needed on kickoff returns. E.J. Biggers averaged 21.9 yards
on his chances at returning kicks, while Louis Delmas will get the first
look at returning punts. The coverage units were great last year.
The key to the unit: Get more out of the kick returns
and continue to shine in the punting game.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Nate Meyer, Sr. - 12-19 FGs, 42-44 extra points
Meyer went from being a kickoff specialist to the team's regular
placekicker. He has a big leg, but not a consistent one only hitting
three of nine shots from beyond 40 yards, but he was solid from midrange
going 9 of 10 inside the 40.
- P Jim Laney, Jr. - 60 kicks, 2,449 yds, 40.8 ypc, 18 inside the
Laney had a fantastic season helping to lead the Broncos to the top spot
in the MAC in net punting. He doesn't have a booming leg, but it's good
enough. He's great at pinning it deep..