Ken State Preview 2006 - Defense
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Kent State Golden Flashes Preview 2006 - KSU Defense

What you need to know ... The experience is there, now it has to produce more than just a ton of tackles for loss. The line has two of the MAC's best all-around players in Danny Muir, who'll move from tackle to end, and Colin Ferrell, while corners Jack Williams and Usama Young could grow into the league's top tandem. The secondary has depth to burn, so the concern is up front where the front seven, in some alignment of a 3-4 or 4-3 depending on where it uses its Buck end, has to be better against the run after finishing last in the league allowing 203 yards per game. The linebacking corps will need time with three sophomores occupying the starting jobs.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Fritz Jacques, 75
Sacks: Danny Muir, 3.5
Interceptions: Jack Williams, 4

Star of the defense: Senior DE Danny Muir
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LB Stevon Moss
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Jameson Konz
Best pro prospect: Muir
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Muir, 2) CB Jack Williams, 3) DT Colin Ferrell
Strength of the defense: Secondary, tackles
Weakness of the defense:

Defensive Line
The pieces are there on the front four, or front three with a Buck linebacker/end, to use several different options to find the right fit and be far better against the run. Danny Muir and Colin Ferrell might be the league's best tackle tandem, even though Muir is technically an end, while the rotation of Anthony Dugarte and Larry Brown should be strong on the nose. Getting into the backfield and making plays shouldn't be a problem, but they have to help improve on last season's 21 sacks.
The key to the unit: Be better against the run. There's no excuse for KSU to have the league's worst run defense again with this front three.

Defensive Line Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- DE Danny Muir, Sr. - 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 7 quarterback hurries
Muir got really big really fast going from 255 to 285 and is among the best defensive linemen in the MAC. He could be a tremendous run-stuffing nose tackle if needed and has the quickness to be a terror in the backfield moving over to end. It'll be a shock if he's not an All-MAC performer and the leader of the defense.

- NT Anthony Dugarte, Jr. - 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Undersized at 256 pounds compared to the bigger options on the line, Dugarte is expected to be a top interior pass rusher on the nose. He can move to end if Danny Muir ends up going back inside.

- DT Colin Ferrell, Jr. - 51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 4 quarterback hurries
While he doesn't get the press of Danny Muir, the 283-pound junior is an All-MAC candidate and one of the league's top interior pass rushers. He's the team's best lineman against the run and should make another big jump up in production in his third season as a starter.

Top Backups
- DT Damian Matuscheck, Jr.
The 270-pound Pittsburgh transfer had to sit out last year and now is expected to be a solid run stuffer in the middle. While he won't replace Colin Ferrell, his emergence could mean an occasional shift up front to a 4-3 against bigger running teams.
- NT Larry Brown, Sr. - 2 tackles
Brown made a night-and-day improvement from last year to this spring where he looked good enough to take over a starting spot inside. At 308 pounds he'll be a key player inside playing behind the 256-pound Anthony Dugarte.

This could be a little bit of a problem early on with three sophomores getting the start and another Derrek Burrell, the main backup. The three have good size and took their lumps last season, but there's no reliable depth anywhere and a not-that-bad situation could be a nightmare if injuries strike early on. It's never a positive when you have to rely on true freshmen to play big roles. Moss should be a top tackler in the middle while Maxwell and Konz have the speed on the outside to quickly become disruptive. 
The key to the unit: The sophomores have to play like seasoned veterans right away while the backups need time to emerge.
Linebacker Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters

- Buck
David Filippi. Soph. - 12 tackles
Filippi will start out at the Buck, part end, part linebacker, where he'll have to try to replace all-everything Justin Parrish. While he won't be nearly the pass rushing machine Parrish was, he has the potential to be one of the team's most dangerous players if he's able to just be used to get into the backfield. He'll combine with Bruce Rice for the job.

- Jameson Konz, Soph. - 13 tackles, 1.5 TFL
A reserve who saw time in every game last season to go along with a start against Michigan State, the 210-pound sophomore will try to replace the 74 tackles of Andre Kirkland on the strongside. He's a decent athlete who has to prove he can hold up against the better running teams.

- Stevon Moss, Soph. - 42 tackles, 1 interception, 1.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
Moss was one of last year's biggest surprises stepping up in the middle when Bruce Rice moved to defensive end. The 230-pound sophomore was a steady producer who should be far more productive now that he doesn't have to think as much about what he's doing.

- Cedrick Maxwell, Soph. - 17 tackles, 1 TFL
Maxwell saw plenty of time last year as a reserve and needs to hit the ground running taking over for star Jon Sessler and his 81 tackles. He's a good-sized weakside linebacker at 223 pounds and should be stronger against the pass than Sessler was.

Top Backups

- Buck Bruce Rice, Sr. - 28 tackles, 1 TFL
Rice will try to ease his way back into the starting mix after suffering a broken foot late last season. He'll battle with David Filippi on the end after starting the last two seasons at both linebacker and end. He doesn't have the best range and upfield quickness, but he's a strong tackler.

- Derrek Burrell, Soph. - 35 tackles, 6 TFL
Burrell became fantastic at getting into the backfield in limited action on the weakside. At 240 pounds he's a bigger option than Cedrick Maxwell and will be used to generate pressure from the outside.
- Joe Crivella, Sr. - 28 tackles, 4 TFL
Purely a reserve, the 220-pound senior has limited sideline-to-sideline range even though he has to quickness to get in the backfield. He'll be a key man in the middle behind Stevon Moss.

Defensive Backs
Easily the team's biggest strength, the secondary finished third in the MAC in pass defense allowing 191 yards per game. Granted, that's because everyone ran the ball, but the talent is there with good options for every spot and the flexibility to play around with the lineup when needed. Jack Williams and Usama Young form one of the league's top corner tandems, while Andre Kirkland, Fritz Jacques and Rico Murray are experienced playmakers who'll be rock solid at safety.
The key to the unit: Outside of Jack Williams, the secondary needs to pick off more passes and come up with more big plays against short to midrange passing games.
Secondary Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- CB Jack Williams, Jr. - 63 tackles, 4 interceptions, 9 broken up passes, 2 TFL
Williams is on the verge of All-MAC stardom after finishing fifth on the team in tackles and leading the way in interceptions. He's not all that big at 5-9 and 180 pounds, but he's incredibly quick and with the make up speed to always be in the right position.

- FS Andre Kirkland, Sr. - 74 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
A strongside linebacker for most of last season after moving over from free safety, the 200-pound senior finished fourth on the team in tackles and was a menace at making plays in the backfield. The former Bowie State transfer will move back to safety where he should be a more natural fit. He has the speed and range to be one of the team's difference makers.

- SS Fritz Jacques, Jr. - 75 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 broken up passes
While a bit light for a strong safety at 176 pounds, Jacques is a big hitter finishing third on the team in tackles despite not taking over the starting job until late in the year. He's a cornerback playing safety and should make more plays when the ball is in the air.

- CB Usama Young, Sr. - 50 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 broken up passes, 4 TFL
It's Young's fourth year as a starter and should be on the short list of All-MAC corners. He has good size at 6-0 and 190 pounds and has been a steady ball-hawker who's always among the team's interception leaders. With the emergence of Jack Williams on the other side, Young will see more and more passes come his way and his stats should be even better.

Top Backups
- SS Rico Murray, Soph. - 62 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 broken up pass
Murray made a huge impact in his freshman season starting half the year at free safety finishing sixth on the team in tackles. He'll move to combine with Fritz Jacques at strong safety but could end up at either spot.
- CB Barry Drakeford, Sr. - 40 tackles, 1 interception
The career backup has carved out a niche as the team's top nickel back. He's a good, sure tackler who should have no problems filling in at either corner spot when needed.
- FS Gary Ham, Sr. - 43 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 interception
One of the stars of the special teams will once again be a key reserve at free safety. He started the seven games at strong safety last season and can be used as a quick linebacker in a pinch.

Special Teams
It'll be Reid Macko handling all the kicking duties unless incoming PK Nate Reed and P Jake Kilroy turn out to be fantastic. The return game needs a lot of work after averaging only 7.1 yards per punt return and 17.9 yards per kickoff return. On the plus side, the coverage units were great and should be solid again.
The key to the unit: Hope Reid Macko can be a reliable all-around kicker, and have a backup plan in place if he's not.
Special Teams Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- P/PK Reid Macko, Soph.
Macko has to make up for the loss of Travis Mayle, who didn't miss from inside 40 but went one of four from beyond. Macko has a big leg and should be just almost as good from short to midrange. He'll also take over the punting job to start out, but he'll have to battle Jake Kilroy for the job this summer.

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Kent State Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Kent State Preview 2006 - Offense
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