What you need to know ...
Patience will be the key word for the young defense that
needs several underclassmen to play like seasoned veterans and
add more speed to the front seven. Stopping the run will be the
first priority after allowing 175 yards per game and 20
touchdowns, and it'll have to be quickness that does the trick
with no size up front and big questions at middle linebacker.
The secondary will make big mistakes early on before growing
into something strong. Sophomore corners Antonio Smith and Kenny
Lewis will be good ones if Devon Parks, Diyral Briggs, and the
rest of the speed ends play as expected and get to the
quarterback early and often.
Terrel White, 100
Diyral Briggs, 4.5
Interceptions: Antonio Smith, 2
Star of the defense: Senior DE Devon Parks
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman LB Cody Basler
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Diyral Briggs
Best pro prospect: Parks
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Parks, 2) CB Antonio
Smith, 3) LB Terrel White
Strength of the defense: Cornerback
Weakness of the defense: Middle linebacker
The Falcons line had a rough year getting pushed around
way too much against the run and not generating nearly enough of a pass
rush. It's a smaller line this season, but it's a lot faster and should
be far more disruptive with Brad Williams moving outside in and
more speed added to the outside with redshirt freshmen
Jacob Hardwick and Thomas James backing up Diyral Briggs. Briggs and
Devon Parks should form a devastating pass rushing tandem. Nick Davis
has to be a star on the nose as the only bulk.
The key to the unit: Be stronger against the run and hope the
overall quickness can overcome the lack of size.
Defensive Line Rating: 5
- DE Devon Parks, Sr. - 56 tackles, 4 sacks, 8.5 TFL
A pure pass rusher with 13 career sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss, the
speedy Parks has bulked up to 252 pounds and should be an even bigger
force against the run. He has been a starter since day one and is the
team's best overall defensive player. Now he has to be even more of a
disruptive tone-setter who changes games by getting into the backfield.
- DT Brad Williams, Sr. - 63 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL
A big defensive end and a small defensive tackle, the 256-pound senior
will move inside to add more speed and quickness to the interior. He's a
tough, hard-nosed tackler who'll hold up well despite his size.
- NG Nick Davis, Soph. - 39 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Davis turned into a strong backup and needs to be a strong starter in
place of Mike Thaler on the nose. At 280-pounds, he's the team's biggest
lineman and should be a big boost to the run defense.
- DE Diyral Briggs, Soph. - 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 11
quarterback hurries, 3 fumble recoveries
The 6-4, 216-pound sophomore might be light and a bit too thin, but he
can move and has a fantastic motor. With all the attention paid to Devon
Parks on the other side, Briggs should be freed up to be a big playmaker
and a terror in the backfield.
- DT Bradley Minturn, RFr.
An undersized tackle at 250 pounds, got enough work this spring to be
counted on behind Brad Williams. While he might be small, he's quick and
should be active.
- DE Jacob Hardwick, RFr.
A top scout teamer last year, he should be a speed rusher on the outside
combining with Thomas James behind Diyral Briggs. At 260 pounds, he's a
far bigger option than Briggs.
- DE Thomas James, RFr.
He'll find his way onto the field sooner than later. At 255 pounds, he's
a good-sized end with excellent quickness and the potential to start
right off the bat if he has a big summer. He could see time on either
The run defense wasn't a rock last season and
it could struggle even more if the linebacking corps doesn't play over
its head. Call this a major question mark with the only sure thing being
Terrel White getting a spot at one of the outside positions after
leading the team in tackles. The middle is the biggest issue with Cody
Basler and Jon Jakubowski needing to shine right away. The speed and
athleticism comes this fall when Eugene Fells and Brandon Jackson
arrive, but two true freshmen won't be the major difference makers
needed right off the bat.
The key to the unit: A steady force has to show up in
the middle while Terrel White and Erique Dozier have to be consistent.
Linebacker Rating: 5
- Erique Dozier, Soph. - 19 tackles, 3 TFL
More of a safety than a linebacker at 6-1 and 198 pounds, Dozier had a
decent season as a reserve and needs to be a major factor right away
replacing Teddy Piepkow on the outside. He'll be used as a key pass
rusher and he should be more of a factor against the pass.
- Cody Basler, RFr.
A good scout teamer last year, the 225-pound Basler is in a battle with
John Haneline for the starting job and will have to fight off true
freshmen coming in this fall. He's a rangy, tough tackler who's more
than strong enough to handle the work in the middle. Consistency will be
his key to keeping the job.
- Terrel White, Sr. - 100 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 TFL, 5 broken up
White went from being a good backup to the team's leading tackler able
to play either outside position. The only returning starter to the
linebacking corps, he has to be one of the defense's top leaders and a
steady all-around performer again. He's 224 pounds and is always around
the ball making plays, but he's not a special athlete and he's not quite
good enough carry the entire corps.
- Jon Jakubowski, Sr. - 20 tackles
Jakubowski has been a nice reserve over the last few years as both a
defensive back and a linebacker. He can run and he has bulked up enough
getting to 221 pounds to get more work on the strongside.
- John Haneline, Soph. - 26 tackles, 1 interception
A bit banged up throughout spring, the 225-pound sophomore is
neck-and-neck with Cody Basler for the starting job on the inside. He's
a good tackler who can get into the backfield, but he's not a special
The secondary went from horrible to solid in the course
of a year, at least statistically, but that was partly because everyone
spent so much time running the ball. This is a young, young, young group
that's going to be far better by the end of the year once a slew of
redshirt freshman figure out how to play. Sophomore corners Antonio
Smith and Kenny Lewis will be good ones in time, while Deandre Perry is
a nice safety to build around.
The key to the unit: Live through the mistakes. There
will be some big rough patches early on before things tighten up.
Secondary Rating: 5.5
- CB Antonio Smith, Soph. - 57 tackles, 2 interceptions,
8 broken up passes
Smith took over a starting spot as a true freshman and was one of the
team's best all-around defenders leading the team in broken up passes
and taking two interceptions for touchdowns. While not all huge at 5-10
and 175 pounds, he's a good tackler and a physical cover corner.
- SS Loren Hargrove, Jr. - 35 tackles, 1 sack
Hargrove went from not getting off the bench to starting by the end of
the season. He's an athletic 5-11 and 204 pounds with good potential as
the cousin of former Ohio State and NFLer star Shawn Springs and former
Cincinnati Bengal James Brooks. He's a smart player who needs a little
more time before he can be a confident difference maker.
- FS Deandre Perry, Jr. - 66 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 interception
The team's best safety, Perry is a big-hitting 6-1 and 214 pounds with
105 tackles over his first two seasons. Now he has to become a bigger
factor against the pass and use his experience to be in better position.
He'll be the quarterback in the secondary and could be an All-MAC
performer if he gets his interception stats up there.
- CB Kenny Lewis, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up
Lewis stepped in as a true freshman and saw time as a nickel back and on
special teams picking off a pass against Miami University and showing
off good potential. He's a great athlete and a top prospect who'll need
to take several lumps early on. The mistakes will pay off over the
second half of the season; he'll be solid once he gets more playing
- CB Jarrett Sanderson, RFr.
A good-sized reserve at 6-0 and 180 pounds, he'll see the field early
and often as a backup corner behind Kenny Lewis as well as a nickel
back. He needs time, but he has starting potential once he figures out
what he's doing.
- CB Van Johnson, Sr. - 7 tackles
For a while Johnson was the team's number two
quarterback and even saw a little bit of time in the win over Kent State
last season. He hasn't done too much on the defensive side, but he's the
team's most experienced player and has the athleticism and knowledge of
the system to be more of a factor.
The kicking game is up for grabs with Nick Goss getting the
first shot at improving the field goal situation. Alonso Rojas was rated
the number one punting recruit in the nation and has to kick like it
right away. Corey Partridge will handle the punt returns after returning
three kicks last year for 98 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Jones will
takes over for B.J. Lane as the main man on kickoff returns. The punt
coverage unit only allowed 2.6 yards per return last season.
The key to the unit: Hope for the freshman kickers to
be up-to-snuff right away. Far more production is needed on kickoff
returns after averaging 18.5 yards per try.
Special Teams Rating: 6
- PK Nick Goss, RFr.
Goss is a big, athletic kicker with a nice leg and decent range. He'll
try to improve a mediocre situation with Joe Timchenko and Nate Fry
combining to hit only five of nine kicks and showing no ability to hit
from appreciable distances.
- P Alonso Rojas, Fr.
One of the nation's best punting recruits, the
6-3, 200-pound Miami product averaged 46 yards per kick last season and
should instantly add more pop to the punting game replacing Nate Fry. He
has a huge leg and should be an All-MAC star early in his career.