UL Lafayette Preview 2006 - Defense

Posted Aug 8, 2006

UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Preview 2006 - ULL Defense

What you need to know ... Eight starters return to one of the Sun Belt's better defenses. There isn't a lot of size, but there's plenty of production in the front seven with linebackers Mark Risher and Brenton Burkhalter each on the verge of all-star honors. Corner Michael Adams might only be 5-8 and 170 pounds, but he's one of the league's best all-around corners. Being stronger against the run will be the major area of improvement, while preventing sharp passers from dinking and dunking will also be a priority.  

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Mark Risher, 59
Sacks: Brenton Burkhalter, Anthony Hills, 4
Interceptions: Michael Adams, 2

Star of the defense: Senior CB Michael Adams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Rodney Hardeway
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Korey Raymond
Best pro prospect: Raymond
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Adams, 2) DE Anthony Hills, 3) LB Mark Risher
Strength of the defense: Secondary depth
Weakness of the defense:
Size, run defense

Defensive Line
The line improved by leaps and bounds against the run in Sun Belt play, but it got steamrolled over by everyone else. This should be a strong front four with Anthony Hills and Rodney Hardeway a strong pass rushing tandem, while JUCO transfer Korey Raymond should be an instant star in the middle. There's enough good experience among the reserves to get a good rotation going.
The key to the unit: More pressure needs to be generated in the middle, and Anthony Hills and Rodney Hardeway have to be dominant on the outside.

Defensive Line Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- DE Anthony Hills, Sr. - 19 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles
The honorable mention All-Sun Belt senior has been a nice pass rusher and an occasional run stopper, and now he has to do everything well. He's an imposing 6-4 and 240 pounds with good quickness and the most experience up front.

- DT Korey Raymond, Jr.
A top JUCO prospect, the 6-4, 290-pound junior originally signed with Ole Miss but was ineligible. He's a big run stuffer with surprising quickness on the inside. Don't be shocked if he becomes the line's best player.

- DT
Marshall Delesdernier, Sr. - 12 tackles. 1.5 TFL
The 6-0, 276-pound bowling ball in the middle is the team's best clogger. He's not flashy being used to occupy the middle of the line so everyone else is free to make plays. He's not huge and he won't make many big plays in the backfield, but he'll be a key cog.

- DE Rodney Hardeway, Jr. - 18 tackles, 3 sacks, 4.5 TFL
It'll be Hardeway's job to take over
Eugene Kwarteng's job on the other side of Anthony Hills. He came one over the second half of last year to be the team's most productive lineman down the stretch and should be a dominant pass rusher if Hills can take the pressure off with a strong season.

Top Backups
- DT Travis Ferguson, Sr. - 11 tackles
The 295-pound senior is the team's biggest lineman with the skills to become a force on the inside ... maybe. He hasn't lived up to his potential over the last few seasons and needs to be more of a factor.
- DT Joe Bradley, Sr. - 13 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL
Used occasionally as a big end, the 6-3, 265-pound veteran will be a top backup on the inside behind Marshall Delesdernier. He needs to be a more effective interior pass rusher.
- DE Greg Hathorn, Jr.
A linebacker by trade, the JUCO transfer turned into a strong defensive lineman at East Central College in Mississippi. He'll backup Rodney Hardeway and at 245 pounds will be the team's biggest end.

The linebackers should be excellent with Brenton Burkhalter and Mark Rusher two rising stars who should be among the team's leading tacklers again. The return of Wes Simon from a concussion problem and Joseph Hadnot from an ankle injury will be a huge boost to the all-around play, while Tre Green has the speed to grow into Tyler Norman's old role on the outside.
The key to the unit: The undersized group has to hold up against power teams. Toughness isn't an issue, but it'll be hard to ask everyone to stay healthy for an entire season.
Linebacker Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- Mark Risher, Jr. - 59 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2 forced fumbles
Richer went from being a tough middle linebacker to a productive playmaker on the outside finishing second on the team in tackles. He's not going to be a dangerous pass rusher, but he'll be among the team's most consistent players and should become even more effective at making big plays.

- Brenton Burkhalter, Soph. - 53 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL
The 230-pound Burkhalter finished third on the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in sacks. He turned up his production several notches over the second half of the year before missing the UL Monroe game with a wrist injury. He has All-Sun Belt potential with the ability to hover around the 80-tackle mark.

- Tre Green, Sr. - 28 tackles, 2 TFL
The speedy Green will take over a full-time starting role looking to replace leading tackler Tyler Norman. He's a good veteran with 13 career starts under his belt, but he'll have to battle hard to keep the job with several good prospects waiting in the wings. He has to start making more plays in the backfield.

Top Backups
- Wes Simon, Sr. - 20 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Simon started over the first three games and looked like he'd be in for a huge season before getting knocked out, literally, with a concussion. He's a fearless open field tackler who hits like a ton of bricks despite only being 6-1 and 200 pounds.
- Joseph Hadnot, Soph. - 2 tackles
An ankle injury kept him out almost all of last year and missed spring ball this season. He's a safety-sized 5-10 and 200 pounds with the speed to grow into a top tackler, but he has to stay healthy and has to prove he can hold up.

Defensive Backs
The secondary got picked apart by accurate passers but only gave up 190 yards per game. Things should be even better even after losing top safety Tyrell Fenton with Lamar Morgan and Johnny Felders ready to come into their own as full time starters. Michael Adams might be small, but he's one of the Sun Belt's best corners. Kyle Ward and Torres Kingsby could each be a solid number two man. There's good depth at each spot.
The key to the unit: Be a bit tougher on short to midrange passes and tighter in the red zone.
Secondary Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- CB Michael Adams, Sr. - 45 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 broken up passes, 2.5 TFL
One of Sun Belt's best tackling corners for his size, the 5-8, 170-pound senior is as tough as they come with 82 tackles over the last two seasons. He has a tremendous speed burst making him a dangerous kick blocker as well as a shut down corner. He has problems with the bigger receivers, but the former Alcorn State transfer has speed to handle the quicker number one receivers.

- FS Lamar Morgan, Jr. - 31 tackles, 1 interception
Morgan split the starting duties at strong safety last season and now will move over to free safety taking over for Tyrell Fenton. He's the team's biggest defensive back at 6-2 and 210 pounds and should be even better now that he's a year removed from a knee injury that cost him all of 2004.

- SS Johnny Felders, Sr. - 51 tackles, 1 interception, 2 TFL
Felders was one of the surprises of last season finishing fourth on the team in tackles despite only starting six times. He's a good hitter who's better against the run than against the pass. He's not huge at 5-11 and 190 pounds, so holding up for a full season as the starter could be a problem.

- CB Kyle Ward, Jr. - 21 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
Ward was the starter over the second half of last season showing off the potential of growing into an All-Sun Belt performer if he can be more consistent. He's 6-2 and 188 pounds with track-star speed. He'll be in a battle all year with Torres Kingsby for the starting job on the left side.

Top Backups
- CB Torres Kingsby, Jr. - 31 tackles
A great tackling corner with 54 stops over the last two seasons, the 5-11, 190-pound Kingsby is neck-and-neck with Kyle Ward for one of the starting corner jobs. If nothing else, he's a reliable back up even though he has to make far more plays against the run.
- NB Jarrett Jones, Sr. - 19 tackles, 1 broken up pass
An almost perfect nickel back for this team, the 5-10, 190-pound veteran has enough corner experience and enough toughness to do a little of everything well. He's not quite good enough to be a lock-down corner, but his range allows him to make plays in pure passing situations.
- CB Jemarcus Smith, Soph. - 29 tackles, 4 broken up passes
Smith had a nice freshman season coming through more often than not despite getting picked on. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he's a bigger option on the right side than Michael Adams and will be groomed for the starting job in 2007.
- SS Derik Keyes, Jr. 16 tackles
Keyes had a nice season as a reserve strong safety and will push for time as the team's nickel back. He's a tough 5-9 and 190 pounds with good range.

Special Teams
The kicking game will be a big issue with Drew Edmiston and Tyler Albrecht looking to replace placekicker Sean Comiskey and punter Brit Framel needing to be better. The punt coverage team needs to improve by leaps and bounds there has to be far more production on kickoff returns after averaging just 16.9 yards per try.
The key to the unit: The coverage teams have to be far better and the kicking game has to at least be average..
Special Teams Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- PK Drew Edmiston, Soph.
It'll be up to Edmiston to take over for the steady Sean Comiskey. He has practice time, but he'll have to be sharp this fall when freshman Tyler Albrecht gets his shot.
- P Brit Framel, Sr. - 47 punts, 1,801 yds, 38.3 yards per kick, 9 inside the 20
Framel needs to get more blast on his kicks with the Ragin' Cajuns finishing 112th in the nation in net punting. Part of the problem was the coverage unit, and part of the problem was Framel's consistency.

Related Stories
UL Lafayette Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
UL Lafayette Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
UL Lafayette Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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