San Jose State Preview 2006 - Defense
San Jose State Spartans
Posted Aug 9, 2006

San Jose State Spartans Preview 2006 - Spartan Defense

What you need to know ... The Spartan defense improved immensely last season partially because of the new coaching staff and partially because it was a senior dominated crew. Now the D is starting from almost scratch with only three returning starters, no size whatsoever at linebacker, a shaky secondary that's replacing a crew that finished 116th in the nation, and a defensive line that will have to learn on the fly. All is not completely lost with great all-around quickness and athleticism, but the actual football talent is questionable.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Matt Castelo, 91
Sacks: Matt Castelo, Jarron Gilbert, 3
Interceptions: Chris Veder, 1

Star of the defense: Junior LB Matt Castelo
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Ellis Jones
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Justin Cole
Best pro prospect: Sophomore DE Jarron Gilbert
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Castelo, 2) SS Christopher Vedder, 3) CB Christopher Owens
Strength of the defense: Quickness
Weakness of the defense:
Experience, size

Defensive Line
All four starters need to be replaced up front after a
solid year. Stopping the run will be vital early on with Freddy McCutcheon, Josh Pulu, and Kalvin Cressel needing to play like veterans early on. There should be more of a pass rusher with 210-pound Justin Cole and speedy option on the other side of Jarron Gilbert. Work needs to be done with all the new starters, and even more needs to be done to develop some quality reserves. 
The key to the unit: The production can't slip from last year even with four new starters.

Defensive Line Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- DE Justin Cole, RFr.
At only 6-3 and 210 pounds, Cole has to shine right away as a pass rusher. He might be light, but he's an interesting option with track star speed and tremendous athleticism on the outside.

- DT Freddy McCutcheon, Sr. - 10 tackles, 5.5 TFL
At 6-2 and 295 pounds, McCutcheon is the biggest player on the line and one of the most experienced tackles. The former JICO all-star and San Diego State Aztec is good at getting into the backfield and big enough to be a solid space-eater.

- DT Josh Pulu, Jr.
The former JUCO transfer redshired last year and now will battle with Kalvin Cressel for a starting spot. At 283 pounds, he's bigger than Cressel and needs to be effective right away against the run.

- DE Jarron Gilbert, Soph. - 22 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 2 broken up passes
The line's most experienced player got plenty of work as a redshirt freshman as a good playmaker in the rotation. He was one of the team's top pass rushers and needs to be steady from the start. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he's the team's biggest end.

Top Backups
- DT Kalvin Cressel, RFr.
The 275-pound Cressel will be the first man off the bench in the rotation if he doesn't win the starting job outright over Josh Pulu. He's a true defensive tackle and will spend this year working into a stronger run defender.
- DT Shane Lapka, Sr. - 17 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2.5 TFL
Able to play tackle or end, the 265-pound senior saw most of his time last year on the inside and will be a key backup behind Freddy McCutcheon. He's not going to be a rock against the run, but he can get into the backfield.

Uh oh. Outside of Matt Castelo in the middle, there's little to rely on around him. Dick Tomey's defense is all about speed and all-around playmaking, but there's no size whatsoever with the top three starters averaging around 195 pounds. The only linebacker-sized linebacker is 222-pound Demetrius Jones, and he's mostly a special teamer.
The key to the unit: Hold up. There needs to be a strong rotation to keep all the small defenders fresh.
Linebacker Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- Chris Reese, Soph. - 6 tackles
Only 5-9 and 195 pounds, Reese will be expected to grow into a pass rusher on the outside. The distant cousin of Snoop Dogg saw a little time on defense as well as on special teams. He's not going to be a big hitter, so he has to make plays in the backfield as well as against the pass.

- Matt Castelo, Jr. - 91 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 TFL, 2 quarterback hurries
Able to play inside or out, the undersized 5-10, 200-pound junior is the team's best defensive player finishing second on the team in tackles and was a strong pass rusher with three sacks. He has great range and is at his best helping out on stops rather than being a sure-thing one-on-one tackler.

- Dimitrous Chattman, Soph.
Originally a safety, Chattman moves over to linebacker where he'll use his speed and talents as a pass defender out the outside. At only 6-0 and 190 pounds, he's not going to be a tough run defender against the bigger teams, but he's going to be a disruptive all-around playmaker with a little bit of time.

Top Backups
- Damaja Jones, Sr. - 25 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The former safety is decent enough to start and will be a key reserve at both outside spots. The 6-1, 191-pound former walk-on saw time last year on special teams as well as on defense.
- Demetrius Jones, Jr.
Jones will be a top backup in the middle behind Matt Castelo and on the outside behind Chris Reese. At 222 pounds, he's the team's biggest linebacker and will be used early and often in the rotation.

Defensive Backs
The secondary was one of the worst in America last season allowing 296 yards per game 21 touchdowns while allowing quarterbacks to complete 63% of their passes. Three starters need to be replaced and the potential is there to be even worse early on until Ellis Jones figures out what he's doing at one corner and Jason Evans and Kevin Jurovich can figure out the free safety spot. Christopher Owens and Christopher Vedder are decent blocks to build around, but they're not going to make any All-WAC teams.
The key to the unit: Be better on third downs. This group will get lit up like a Christmas tree against the better passing teams, but it needs to be better than last year's secondary on key plays.
Secondary Rating: 4

Projected Starters
- CB Ellis Jones, Soph. - 1 tackle
Jones saw a little bit of special teams work as a true freshman and worked on the position change going from wide receiver to corner. He's a great athlete with the potential to be a strong defender, but he's still raw and he still needs work.

- FS Jason Evans, Sr. - 2 tackles
Mostly a special teamer so far, the 6-1, 185-pound senior will get his first shot at doing something on defense. He's a former walk-on who'll be in a battle with Kevin Jurovich all fall for the starting job.

- SS Christopher Vedder, Sr. - 56 tackles, 1 interception, 5 broken up passes
The former JUCO star had a huge first season finishing fifth on the team in tackles and was one of the team's leaders in broken up passes. As one of the most experienced players in the secondary and one of three returning starters, he needs to make more big plays and be a leader.

- CB
Christopher Owens, Soph. - 35 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 broken up passes
Owens had a nice true freshman season as a top reserve and a decent ball-hawk. He's strong enough to hit like a safety and has the ball skills to grow into the team's top pass defender with a little more time.

Top Backups
- FS Kevin Jurovich, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Able to play either safety position, Jurovich came to San Jose State as a corner before switching positions. He got some good experience as a true freshman and should be a key nickel back as well as a main player in the rotation behind Christopher Vedder.
- CB Trae Jackson, Sr. - 10 tackles, 1 sack
Jackson has been a reserve over the last two seasons as both a safety and corner after starting out his career at BYU. He's one of the team's fastest players clocking in at 10.83 in the 100 meters.

Special Teams
The kicking game should be among the best in the WAC if Jared Strubeck can be a little more consistent. Punter Waylon Prather doesn't have the biggest leg around, but he's great at putting it inside the 20. The return game needs more work after averaging a mere 5.39 yards per punt return and mediocre 20.89 yards on kickoff returns. James Jones will handle the punt returns with an open call out for kickoff returners.

The key to the unit:
More pop on the returns and more consistency on field goals.
Special Teams Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- PK Jared Strubeck, Soph. - 11-18 FGs, 28-30 extra points
Strubeck had a solid freshman season, but he needs to be more consistent after missing four kicks inside the 40. He has good range nailing three of six shots from beyond 40 yards and has been excellent on kickoffs and onside kicks.
- P Waylon Prather, Jr. - 74 punts, 2,908 yds, 39.3 yards per kick, 27 inside the 20
Prather was a big boost for the punting game last year and was tremendous at putting it inside the 20 and forcing fair catches. His net average was fine, but it's misleading because he was so great at placing the ball.

Related Stories
San Jose State Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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San Jose State Preview 2006 Further Analysis
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San Jose State Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 9, 2006

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