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
Tackles: Fritz Jacques,
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:
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
Defensive Line Rating: 5.5
- DE Danny Muir, Sr. - 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 7
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
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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.