What you need to know ...
This was one of the nation's worst defenses last year
unable to do any one thing particularly well. There's hope for
improvement with a good, deep linebacking corps returning and
two excellent safeties in Erik Keys and Trey Lewis. The big problems are on the line
and at corner. It's a big front four, but it has to generate
some semblance of a pass rush to help out the average pass
defense. Corners Trey Buice and Ricky Rakestraw can move, but
they still have to prove they can cover.
Tackles: Bryant Haynes,
William Wise, 2
Interceptions: Trey Lewis, 3
Star of the defense: Senior SS Erik Keys
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Trey Buice
Best pro prospect: Sophomore LB Bryant Haines
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Keys, 2) Haines, 3) LB
Brad Seiss inj.
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, corner
Rush the passer, rush the passer, rush the passer. Ball
State only managed 16 sacks last year and had to manufacture those from
just about everywhere on the defense. Making matters worse was a run
defense that got steamrolled over by everyone. For good or bad it's a new line with the one
starter from last year, tackle William Wise, likely to backup Tom Kellar.
It's a big line with a little bit of experience that should be stronger,
but there's not much depth to count on for a decent rotation early on.
The key to the unit: Find someone who can consistently get into
Defensive Line Rating: 4.5
- DE Riley Larimore, Sr. - 25 tackles, 1 sack, 9 TFL
Larimore has been a steady backup for the last few seasons and now gets
his shot in the spotlight at left end. He has to turn into a top pass
rusher early using his good 262-pound size to barrel into the backfield.
- NT Tom Kellar, Sr. - 16 tackles, 1 TFL
The 303-pound Kellar has to stay healthy to give the run defense a big
boost. He only played in eight games last year, partly due to being
suspended, and now he has to grow into a space-eater on the inside.
- DT Amara Koroma, Jr. - 12 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
Koroma has the potential to become a major factor. He bulked up to 272
pounds and should be stronger against the run, and he's a quick pass
rusher in the interior.
- DE Cortlan Booker, Jr. - 29 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
The 244-pound junior is a decent size veteran on the right side. He has
seen more than enough time to become more comfortable and to take over
the starting role and become a steady pass rusher.
- NT William Wise, Sr. - 31 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 2
Wise has always been one of the team's more athletic, fast tackles, and
now he's one of the biggest getting up to 290 pounds. He started last
year with Tom Kellar having problems, and now he'll be an experienced
veteran in the rotation at both tackle spots.
- DE Kenny Meeks, Soph. - 6 tackles
Meeks goes from being an outside linebacker to a factor at right end.
The Cardinals desperately need his quickness to become a steady pass
This could potentially be one of the team's biggest strengths
with the return of the top two tacklers, Bryant Haynes and Brad Seiss.
There's experienced depth with Mike Dorulla and Martin Dunbar able to
step into the starting role if needed and at the very least will be
strong in the rotation. With so much experience across all three
positions, they need to make more big plays.
The key to the unit: Get in the backfield more and
make more stops at the line.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5
- Wendell Brown, Jr. - 52 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Brown has been one of the team's better tacklers over the last two
seasons and is a disruptive force on the strongside. He bulked up to 225
pounds and should be more physical. He's a sure hitter who doesn't miss
once he gets to the ball.
- Martin Dunbar, Sr. - 25 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 fumble recoveries
A bulked up safety, Dunbar came over from the JUCO ranks to have a nice
season as a reserve. He's an athletic 220 pounder who makes things
happen when he's in.
- Bryant Haines, Soph. - 83 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL
Haines is a tall, sure tackler at 6-5 and 226 pounds with tremendous
athleticism. He led the team in tackles last year and now should be an
even more productive playmaker on the weakside. He'll be asked to
generate a pass rush if the front four isn't getting the job done.
- Brad Seiss, Sr. - 81 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL
The former running back has found a home in the linebacking corps, but
he might have to wait until later this year to get back, if he comes
back at all, after tearing knee ligaments in spring ball. He
was originally going to play on the outside before turning too valuable
in the middle. He's one of the fastest all-around athletes on the
- Mike Dorulla, Jr. - 30 tackles, 3 TFL
A good, sound tackler, Dorulla is a nice backup on the weakside. He's
not all that big at 6-0 and 217 pounds, but he plays bigger and tougher
than his size.
- Anthony Corpuz, Sr. - 5 tackles
Corpuz was expected to be a steady starter last year on the outside but
he only saw time in six games and is now out for the year after tearing
up his knee.
This was one of the nation's worst all-around
pass defenses last year, and it likely won't be appreciably better
unless more help comes from a pass rush. Safety won't be a problem with
Trey Lewis and Erik Keys sure to combined for around 150 tackles, and
Chris Allen and Marcus McClure nice backups to count on. Corner is
another story where the starters are small and there's not a sure-thing
coverman in the group. Trey Buice and Rickey Rakestraw can move, and now
they have to come up with a few interceptions.
The key to the unit: Get more big plays out of the
cornerbacks and find a few backup corners who can play.
Secondary Rating: 4
- CB Trey Buice, Soph. - 29 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 broken up
Buice was a key backup last year turning into a surprising tackler
despite his size. He's only 5-10 and 168 pounds, but he's tough. Now he
has to make more plays when the ball is in the air.
- FS Trey Lewis, Soph. - 74 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 broken up
Lewis turned into one of the biggest surprises of the season as one of
the team's top defenders from the opening snap. He has fantastic range
and decent size at 6-0 and 193 pounds, and now he'll be expected to be
more of a ball-hawker now that he knows what he's doing.
- SS Erik Keys, Sr. - 69 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 broken up
Keys is built more like a linebacker at 5-10 and 220 pounds, and he hits
like one. Unfortunately, he also covers like one. Despite being one of
the team's top tacklers over the last few years, he doesn't do much for
the pass defense outside of come up with the huge hits against receivers
coming across the middle.
- CB Ricky Rakestraw, Sr. - 9 tackles
Rakestraw has tremendous speed, and now he has to use it. He only saw
time in eight games last year playing mostly as a reserve, and he didn't
do anything for the pass defense. He has too much speed not to become
one of the team's top cover corners right off the bat.
- SS Chris Allen, Jr. - 27 tackles, 1 interception
Allen went from being just a good special teamer to a reliable reserve.
He's not as big as Erik Keys and doesn't hit like him, but he's a tough
player who'll see plenty of action at both safety spots.
- SS Marcus McClure, Soph. - 15 tackles, 2 interceptions
One of the team's best all-around athletes,
McClure will be a valuable backup behind Trey Lewis. He's not nearly as
big as Lewis, but he's fast and it one of the team's few players who can
make plays when the ball is in the air.
- CB Corey McGee, RFr.
McGee was a top high school running back who averaged 10.8 yards per
carry as a senior. He's being moved over to corner to provide a little
bit of depth as a bigger option behind Ricky Rakestraw.
The kicking game should be rock solid with steady Brian Jackson
returning for another year as a good short range field goal kicker and
Jacob Richardson one of the nation's best young punters. The kickoff
coverage unit needs to be better after allowing 22.4 yards per return,
but B.J. Hill and Terry Moss should provide a strong return game.
The key to the unit: A bit more range from PK Brian
Jackson and a little more pop from Terry Moss on kickoff returns.
Special Teams Rating: 7.5
- PK Brian Jackson, Sr. - 9-13 FGs, 26-27 extra points
Jackson has been a nice, reliable kicker over the last few years who
showed off an impressive leg hitting from 54 yards last year. He doesn't
normally have a lot of deep pop, but he's decent from inside 40.
- P Jacob Richardson, Soph. - 68 punts, 2,917 yards, 38.4
average, 20 inside the 20
There was concern over whether or not
Richardson could take over for Reggie Hodges and his 42.6-yard-per-kick
average. All Richardson did was average 42.9 yards per kick putting 20
inside the 20 as one of the MAC's top punters. He can get great air
under his kicks.