North Texas Preview 2006 - Defense
Posted Aug 8, 2006

North Texas Mean Green Preview 2006 - UNT Defense

What you need to know ... Last year was a disaster, especially against the run, and now adjustments have been made to fit the personnel. With few good linemen to work with and several great linebacker prospects, the D will go to a 3-4 with the strength at outside linebacker thanks to Maurice Holman and Phillip Graves. Safety will also be a positive with Aaron Weathers and Steve Warren returning, but there are major concerns at corner. The front three has to be much, much stronger against the run after allowing 221 yards per game.  

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Aaron Weathers, 113
Sacks: Jeremiah Chapman, 4
Interceptions: Aaron Weathers, 3

Star of the defense: Junior SS Aaron Weathers
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Sky Pruitt
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Eddrick Gilmore
Best pro prospect: Gilmore
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Weathers, 2) LB Maurice Holman, 3) FS Steve Warren
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, cornerback

Defensive Line
The line was a major issue last year with the young talent getting shoved all over the place by decent running teams. Getting to the quarterback wasn't as big a problem thanks to Jeremiah Chapman, but it's still an area that needs improving. More production is needed out of tackles Sky Pruitt and Joseph Miller on the nose of the new 3-4 alignment, and Montey Stevenson has to become a more consistent pass rushing threat now that he's starting at end.
The key to the unit: Provide more than a stiff breeze against the run.

Defensive Line Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- DE Jeremiah Chapman, Jr. - 61 tackles, 4 sacks, 9 TFL
Chapman was one of the few bright spots of last season leading the team in sacks and turning into a good run stopper on the end. He's a good-sized defender at 6-4 and 255 pounds and should make plenty of preseason All-Sun Belt teams. Making his sophomore season even more impressive was that he pulled it off with an injured foot that required surgery.

- DT Sky Pruitt, Sr. - 17 tackles
Pruitt started most of last season and was a slight disappointment. He's the team's biggest lineman a 295 pounds, and he has to be more of a run stuffing anchor in the middle.

- DE Montey Stevenson, Jr. - 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL
Stevenson can play either tackle or end and will get the start on the outside in the new 3-4 scheme. He's a quick 267 pounds and needs to flourish with the attention paid to Jeremiah Chapman on the other side.

Top Backups
- DE Blake Burress, Jr. - 4 tackles
Burress saw plenty of action this spring with Jeremiah Chapman sitting out, and he should be ready to be more of a contributor this fall. He's a interesting option at 6-7 and 252 pounds.
- DT Joseph Miller, Soph. - 21 tackles, 2 TFL
He struggled a little bit last year when thrown to the wolves as a freshman, but now the 275-pounder should be a far better run stuffer on the nose playing behind Sky Pruitt. He started to show promise at the end of last year and now needs to figure out how to get into the backfield.
- DE Willie Ransom, Sr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 recovered fumble
The star JUCO transfer of last year didn't show much of the pass rushing abilities he displayed at Coffeyville CC in Kansas. Now he'll needs to be more of a playmaker in the backfield as an end and a big outside linebacker.

Easily the strength of the defense with depth and talent, the linebacking corps has to help pick up the pieces from an awful 2005 season and make the run defense formidable again. Maurice Holman and Phillip Graves are All-Sun Belt performers on the outside, while Brandon Monroe is back from a knee injury to shine on the inside. As the team's strength, the coaching staff shifted to a 3-4 alignment to get all the good playmakers on the field at once meaning there's a spot for rising star Eddrick Elmore. There are some great reserves to push for starting spots.
The key to the unit: Make plays against the run and hope Maurice Holman and Phillip Graves can be consistently turned loose as pass rushers on the outside.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- Maurice Holman, Jr. - 86 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
Holman quickly went from being a flashy reserve to an all-conference playmaker on the weakside. He's a good tackler who tried his best to clean up all the messes left by the defensive line. If the line is better, he'll get to make more plays in pass coverage. .

- Brandon Monroe, Jr. - 67 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TL, 2 interceptions.
Monroe is a big hitter able to play inside or out. He's not huge at 220 pounds and had a hard time staying healthy last year suffering a knee injury, but he still finished fourth on the team in tackles after finishing second in 2004. .

- Eddrick Gilmore, Soph. - 5 tackles, 1 sack
The 6-5, 250-pound sophomore came to UNT as a top tight end prospect known for his physical play, and now he'll be an athletic playmaker in the linebacking corps in the Bandit position after showing some good potential in a limited role last year at defensive end as a true freshman.

- Phillip Graves, Sr. - 93 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries
Graves earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors after finishing second on the team in tackles. He did a little bit of everything well on the outside turning into a solid pass rusher and a decent, but not superior, pass defender. He'll play the hybrid rover position as part safety and part linebacker.

Top Backups
- Derek Mendoza, Jr. - 32 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception
Mendoza started most of last year in the middle and will now be a key backup behind Brandon Monroe. At 248 pounds, he's a much bigger option and is a big-time hitter.
- Shawn Early, Sr.
One of the team's faster linebacker prospects, the 215-pound senior will try to return from a knee injury that cost him all of last year. He'll push for time behind Maurice Holman as an experienced playmaker on the weakside.

Defensive Backs
Safety won't be a problem thanks to the return of Aaron Weathers and Steve Warren to be among the Sun Belt's best tacklers. Corner is the issue with several young prospects trying to take over for Ja'Mel Branch and T.J. Covington. On the plus side, Branch and Covington stunk last year, so the newcomers can't be any worse. Roderick Cotton provides excellent depth at safety, while several redshirt freshmen will battle with sophomore Dominique Green for the corner jobs.
The key to the unit: Slow down the consistent medium-range passers, get consistent play out of the corners, and more plays against the pass from the safeties. 
Secondary Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- CB Dominique Green, Soph. - 7 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Green started to see a little bit of time as last season wound down, and now the true sophomore is expected to grow into the team's new number one cover-corner. He's a solid tackler considering he's 5-9 and 170 pounds, but the defense needs him to be a playmaker against the pass..

- FS Steve Warren, Soph. - 46 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 broken up pass
Warren stepped in and started in five games as a true freshman and grew into a big hitting free safety. He has good size at 6-1 and 190 pounds, and now he has to show more range making more plays when the ball is in the air.

- SS Aaron Weathers, Jr. - 113 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 broken up passes, 2 TFL
One of the few bright spots of the 2005 defense, Weathers led the team in tackles and interceptions. While he's built like a corner at 5-11 and 198 pounds, he hits like a linebacker.

- CB Desmond Chatman, RFr.
The 6-2, 190-pound Chatman came to North Texas as a running back and now has to hold down the fort at one of the corner spots. He's big, fast, and has the shifty quickness needed to succeed, but he's going to take some big lumps early on.

Top Backups
- SS Roderick Cotton, Jr. - 35 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 broken up passes
Cotton split the starting duties with Steve Warren last year and will now start out pushing for time behind Aaron Weathers. He's a little bit bigger than Weathers and provides a good pop.
- CB Antoine Bush, RFr.
While not lightning fast, Bush has some of the best wheels in the secondary and will get every shot at winning a starting corner spot. At worst, he'll be a key reserve behind Dominique Green.
- FS Cliff Higgs, Jr. - 16 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Higgs only saw time in six games, but he made things happen when he was in. At 222 pounds he's by far the team's biggest defensive back.

Special Teams
The special teams were fine last year and won't get the Mean Green beaten this season as long as Denis Hopovac can fill in for Nick Bazaldua as the new placekicker. Truman Spencer is an emerging strength at punter. Receivers Johnny Quinn and Zach Muzzy will handle most of the return duties after combining to average 8.2 yards per punt return and helping the team average 19.8 yards on kickoff returns. The coverage units were fantastic last season allowing a mere 7.1 yards per punt return and 16. 5 yards on kickoffs.
The key to the unit: More production from the return game and more consistency on field goals..
Special Teams Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- PK Denis Hopovac, Sr.
The main kickoff man last year will have to use his big leg to replace Nick Bazaldua, who only hit 8 of 16 shots last year. Hopovac forced 13 touchbacks.
- P Truman Spencer, Soph. - 75 punts, 2,829 yds, 37.7 yard average, 16 inside the 20
He didn't show off a huge leg last year, but he got plenty of chances to kick and was decent at pinning teams deep. He was great at hanging it up and forcing fair catches.

Related Stories
North Texas Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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North Texas Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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North Texas Preview 2006 - Offense
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