What you need to know ...
If nothing else, it'll be one of the MAC's most
interesting defenses. New coordinator Joe Tresey inherits a whale of a
front seven with, arguably, the MAC's best linebacking corps along with
All-America candidate and superstar pass rusher Dan Bazuin at end. And then there's the secondary. A weak spot last year, it should
have major problems this season with a shaky cornerback situation, no
proven depth, and decent, but unspectacular safeties.
Tackles: Thomas Keith,
Daniel Bazuin, 16
Interceptions: Thomas Keith, 4
Star of the defense: Senior DE Dan Bazuin
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Larry
Best pro prospect: Bazuin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bazuin, 2) LB Thomas
Keith, 3) LB Isaac Brown
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Everything starts with MAC Defensive Player of the Year
Dan Bazuin and goes from there. The rest of the line has to produce with everyone
looking to keep the pass rushing superstar under wraps, so that means De'Onte Burnam and Larry Knight have to shine on the other side. Steven
Friend is a solid tackle who'll have another decent season, but it'll be
tough to replace the size and production of Tony Thompson on the nose.
The key to the unit: Get more production from the end on the
other size of Dan Bazuin.
Defensive Line Rating: 5
- DE Daniel Bazuin, Sr. - 74 tackles, 16 sacks, 26.5 TFL,
3 broken up passes, 5 forced fumbles
The best defensive player in the MAC last season, the 6-3, 269-pound
senior is a pass rushing terror leading the nation in tackles for loss
while finishing second on the team in tackles. He's a big run stopper
and impossible to stop once he gets off the line. He bulked up enough to
start to attract the NFL scouts and become an early round pick.
- DT Steven Friend, Jr. - 22 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL
Friend improved by leaps and bounds from his freshman to sophomore
seasons turning into more of a run stopper. He's good at getting into
the backfield, but his role is as a fast 284-pound clogger on the inside and
has to take advantage of teams double teaming Dan Bazuin.
- NG Ronnie Ekdahl, Soph. - 2 tackles
Ekdahl got one start on the inside and will have to become an anchor as
the team's biggest lineman. At 291 pounds he has the size to grow into a
major contributor as long as he's able to hold up for a full season.
Don't expect him to make many plays in the backfield.
- DE De'Onte Burnam, Jr. - 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL
A slow linebacker and a small end, the 253-pound junior has to become a
dominant pass rusher with all the attention paid to Daniel Bazuin on the
other side. He started most of last season missing a few games early on
and should be more consistent this year.
- DT Evan Brownie, Soph. - 4 tackles
He didn't see much time in the rotation last year needing to add more
weight to find a spot on the inside. Now the 260-pound sophomore has to
grow into a steady reserve behind Steven Friend. He's an end bulked up
to play tackle.
- DE Larry Knight, RFr.
He'll eventually be the team's top pass rusher. He's a rangy
6-3 and 224 pounds with safety speed. Don't be shocked if he ends up
taking over a starting role early on.
- DE Mike Ogle, Sr. - 7 tackles
An athletic end with a good motor and plenty of experience
in the system, Ogle will play behind Dan Bazuin and could push for a
little time on the other side.
It'll be a shock if this isn't among the
MAC's best linebacking corps with three tremendous returning starters in
Isaac Brown, Thomas Keith and Doug Kress, who should combine for around
250 tackles yet again and all be in the hunt for All-MAC honors. The
depth is nothing to ignore with Leython Williams and Jonathan Lapsley
each good enough to start. This group will be outstanding against the
run, but now they have to make more plays against short to midrange
The key to the unit: Get the reserves more involved
to keep everyone fresh and get the starting three to do more from pass
rushing to pass defending.
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Isaac Brown, Sr. - 73 tackles, 1.5 TFL
The former free safety has
become a tackling machine at the Drop Linebacker with two straight 73
stop seasons. He might only be 5-11 and 204 pounds, but he can move.
While he's strong against the run, he hasn't done much of anything over
the last few years in pass coverage.
- Thomas Keith, Jr. - 104 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4 interceptions
Keith would've received a lot more attention last year if Dan Bazuin
wasn't having a huge season up front. The 239-pound junior ended up
leading the team in both tackles and interceptions becoming an even
better, more efficient playmaker in the middle after making 95 stops as
a freshman. He'll be on the short list for All-MAC honors.
- Doug Kress, Sr. - 73 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Kress surprised and become a tremendous presence against the run
finishing tied for third on the team in tackles despite not starting for
two games. The former safety is up to 240 pounds and should be one of
the team's leading tacklers yet again.
- Chris Wohlgamuth, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 interception
At 246 pounds, the team's biggest linebacker is a slightly bigger option
than Thomas Keith in the middle. He's always working and always going
non-stop in practices.
- Leython Williams, Sr. - 31 tackles, 1 sack
A projected starter when last season began, Williams turned into a
valuable reserve who can play anywhere in the linebacking corps. He'll
start out behind Doug Kress.
- Jonathan Lapsley, Soph. - 7 tackles
At 6-1 and 222 pounds, he's a bigger option than Isaac Brown at the Drop
Linebacker. He's a great athlete with tremendous leaping ability and
The secondary will get plenty of help from a
good pass rush up front, but there are major concerns after giving up
281 yards per game and 25 touchdown passes. The biggest issue is at
corner needing Pacino Horne to move from safety to provide some sort of
stability. The safety situation should eventually be fine with Curtis
Cutts back for another year moving from strong to free, while Aaron Carr
is a good-looking young prospect. The second corner will be a work in
The key to the unit: Pray for merely adequate play
out of the corners and get more big plays from the safeties.
Secondary Rating: 4
- CB Pacino Horne, Sr. - 66 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 1
broken up pass
Horne spend last year at free safety and now will move over to corner.
The former JUCO transfer is one of the fastest players in the secondary
with good hitting ability.
- FS Curtis Cutts, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1 interception, 6 broken up
At 210 pounds, Cutts is CMU's biggest defensive back to go along with
excellent speed. Now he has to make more big plays against the pass and
has to make more plays across the middle.
- SS Aaron Carr, RFr.
Carr has all the tools to be one of the team's top producers with 4.5
speed and good strength in a 6-1 frame. His skinny, but he should be a
physical replacement for Marlin Maxwell.
- CB Terrance Robinson, Sr. - 1 tackle
The walk-on has to shine. He's only 5-6 and will get picked on by any
receiver with a little bit of size. On the plus side, he's very quick
and should be physical at 181 pounds.
- CB Josh Gordy, RFr.
At 5-11, Gordy is a much bigger prospect at one of the corners than the
5-6 Terrance Robinson. He has tremendous speed and phenomenal strength
for his size, and now he needs experience.
- FS Jason Ruger, Soph. - 9 tackles,1 broken up pass
A good-sized tackler, the 5-11 sophomore will push for time behind
Curtis Cutts at free safety. He could move to strong safety if needed. .
Veterans are in place for the kicking game, but PK Rick Albreski and P
Tony Mikulec each has to show more blast and range. The return game
should be rock solid with Damien Linson back to handle all the duties
after averaging 9.2 yards per punt return, but a mere 17.9 yards per
kickoff return. The coverage units could stand to be stronger.
The key to the unit: More range from the kicking game
and more pop on kickoff returns.
Special Teams Rating: 6.5
- PK Rick Albreski, Soph. - 10-19 FGs, 31-32 extra points
Albreski had a decent first season doing well from short range but
missing all four kicks from beyond 40 yards. He struggled with his
consistency late in the year missing four of his final six kicks.
- P Tony Mikulec, Jr. - 72 kicks, 2,742 yds, 38.1 yard average,
18 inside the 20.
He doesn't have a big leg, but he was accurate putting a whopping 18
inside the 20 . This is his third year kicking for CMU, and now he has
to get his average around the 40-yard mark.