Preview 2007 - Defense
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2006 CFN North
What you need to know:
The defense improved dramatically after making a drastic move to
the 3-4. Now it'll go back to a traditional 4-3 and hope the
overall experience and depth will pay off with more big plays
after forcing just 14 turnovers. The linebackers will be solid
with the return of Maurice Holman, Brandon Monroe and Derek
Mendoza, while Aaron Weathers anchors a secondary that should be
better in time. Generating a pass rush from the front four is a
must, but Jeremiah Chapman will be a good end to work around.
Jeremiah Chapman, 4.5
Interceptions: Several at 1
Star of the defense: Senior DE Jeremiah Chapman
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Isaac Thomas
Best pro prospect: Chapman
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Chapman, 2) FS Aaron
Weathers, 3) LB Maurice Holman
Strength of the defense: Experience, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, pass rush, interceptions
In the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the Mean Green might go with three
tackle rotation of Montey Stevenson, Isaac Thomas, and
Joseph Miller. All three could start if the 6-2, 290-pound Stevenson
plays end after making 33 tackles and six tackles for loss. The senior
is extremely quick for his size and could be too much for most guards to
deal with. The 5-11, 289-pound Thomas is a bowling ball who made
11 tackles as a reserve, but now the junior has shown he needs more
playing time. Miller, a junior, is a true tackle who'll play on the nose
after making 30 tackles as a backup.
If the three tackles take turns starting, the ends will be 6-4,
243-pound senior Jeremiah Chapman and 6-7, 263-pound senior
Blake Burress. Champman is one of the team's best defenders earning
second-team All-Sun Belt honors after making 53 tackles and a
team-leading 4.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss. He can do it all.
Burress hasn't quite played up to his intriguing size making just eight
tackles and two tackles for loss despite starting nine games. He's tough
to throw over and is a dangerous kick blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: Part end and part tackle,
the 6-2, 266-pound sophomore, Jonathan Stewart, will see time all
over the place. He's a bit undersized for the interior, but he's quick.
6-3, 257-pound junior Tye Rexrode returned from an injury to make
eight tackles as a backup and special teamer. An extremely interesting
prospect, he was a high school quarterback and track star.
260-pound sophomore Eddrick Gilmore hasn't seen any time yet
after redshirting with academic issues. He's a physical player who came
to the program as a top tight end recruit and could quickly make a name
for himself as a run stopper on the end behind Burress.
Watch Out For ... more plays made in the backfield.
There are too many decent athletes to be as awful as last year's line
was at getting to the quarterback.
Strength: Tackles. The Mean Green have three good
ones with more overall size than most Sun Belt lines. Having Chapman on
the end will certainly help.
Weakness: A proven second pass rusher besides Chapman, and even
he isn't a killer when it comes to generating pressure. The team
combined for just 16 sacks last season, and more has to come from all
four spots. Expect it to happen.
Outlook: It won't be the Mean Green line of old,
but it'll be far better than it's been the last few years. The move to
the 4-3 should help immensely adding more beef for the run defense while
giving the coaching staff more options and combinations. Chapman is an
All-Sun Belt playmaker the rest of the line has to work around, while
Stevenson has the potential to be a star on the inside.
The best of a loaded linebacking corps is 224-pound senior Maurice
Holman, who was second on the team with 74 tackles along with two
sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. With excellent speed and great tackling
ability, he can play any of the three positions and will shine again on
the outside. Now he has to do more against the pass.
Derek Mendoza is a pure inside linebacker who'll starting the
middle. As one of the team's most experienced defenders who should shine
now that he has a starting job all to himself. He's a big hitter who
made 41 tackles last season.
On the strongside will likely be 6-2,
234-pound senior Brandon Monroe, who got a few starts, but mostly
spent the year as a reserve making 38 tackles. He's a good enough hitter
to play inside if needed.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Germaine Dawson
started almost every game in the 3-4 and now will be a top backup if
he doesn't win a starting spot. He finished third on the team with 54
tackles and was a star on special teams with good speed and a big pop.
Only 6-1 and 207 pounds, he needs to use his athleticism more as a pass
6-0, 210-pound redshirt freshman Craig Robertson might be
new to the mix, but that will change in a hurry. One of the best
athletes in the linebacking corps, he'll play a big role behind Holman.
237-pound sophomore Tobe Nwigwe has good size on the inside and
is coming off a nice first season making 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven
tackles for loss. With his combination of size and speed, he'll be hard
to get off the field.
Watch Out For ... the linebackers to be a major
strength. Holman is almost certain to earn All-Sun Belt honors, while
Mendoza and Monroe aren't far behind. Nwigwe and Dawson are nice
reserves to rely on.
Strength: Experience. Seven different players got
a start last year in the old 3-4, and now there are more than enough
options ready to rotate in.
Weakness: Plays in the backfield. If the linebackers couldn't
come up with tackles for loss last year in a 3-4, it might not be all
that great at being disruptive in the 4-3.
Outlook: It might not be the best linebacking
corps in the Sun Belt, but it'll certainly hold its own. The key will be
finding the right rotation to keep everyone fresh without disrupting a
rhythm. The only big concern could be breaking up a good thing just to
get everyone some playing time. That's not a bad problem to have for a
group that'll come up with a ton of tackles.
In a league loaded with good safeties, UNT's will stand out with the
terrific combination of seniors Aaron Weathers and Ray Loren
returning. Weathers has led the team in tackles over the last two
seasons making 191 stops, but he did next to nothing against the pass
last year with just one interception and one broken up pass. The former
JUCO transfer is a great leader and the tone-setter for the back seven,
and now he has to use his mobility and experience to be even more of a
disruptive force. The 6-2, 205-pound Loren made 33 tackles despite
missing part of the year with a broken hand. The free safety has
excellent size and good range.
The corners should be more productive starting with junior Latif
Nurudeen stepping in and being ready to shine after transferring
from Baylor. He's 6-1 and 200 pounds and has the potential to be the
shut-down corner the team has lacked over the last few years.
other side will be sophomore Antoine Bush, who was one of the
team's best defenders last year making 42 tackles and an interception.
With 4.6 speed, he's one of the team's faster defenders and now needs to
use his wheels to break up more passes.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Dominique Green
isn't all that big, but he's a physical tackling corner making 33
tackles. He's a great athlete who'll see plenty of time behind Nurudeen.
Playing behind Bush will be senior Gary Oubre, a JUCO transfer
who's only 5-9 and 150 pounds and can move. 215-pound junior Steve
Warren can play either safety position and will start out behind
Loren at strong safety. He got a little bit of starting time making 14
tackles after making 46 the year before. With tremendous speed and
decent size, he should be a good playmaker in the rotation.
Kartey Agbottah is a 6-2, 190-pound hitter who made four stops,
mostly on special teams. He'll play behind Weathers at free safety
adding a little more size.
Watch Out For ... the corners to be more productive.
They were just trying to find their way last season, and now they're
more experienced and more talented with the addition of Nurudeen.
Strength: Tackling. This is a tough group that's
not bad at coming up with plays against the run, especially at safety.
That'll be big in the 4-3 since Weathers and Loren will have to make
even more plays.
Weakness: Interceptions. Six. The Mean Green only came up with
six picks last season, and only four came from the defensive backs.
While no one in the Sun Belt throws enough to have many opportunities to
make picks, the secondary has to do more.
Outlook: The secondary didn't give up many yards,
but it got picked apart by anyone who wanted to throw. That should
change this season with good experience and enough talent to be among
the better Sun Belt secondaries. Even so, there's not enough overall
speed to handle anyone with a good passing attack.
Junior Truman Spencer came up with a great season averaging 40.8
yards per kick and put 15 kicks inside the 20. Despite being 6-3 and 206
pounds, he doesn't have a huge leg and isn't going to air it out, but
he's consistent enough to be an All-Sun Belt candidate. It'll be up to
redshirt freshman Steven Woodward to take over for Denis Hopovac,
who hit a solid 15 of 21 field goal attempts. He doesn't have much in
the way of range, but he'll be fine from 40 yards and in.
Watch Out For ... Woodward to be fine. Hopoviac, as
decent as he was, still missed three kicks inside 30 yards.
Strength: Blocking kicks. The Mean Green came up
with five last year. There are plenty of tall players who can adjust
Weakness: Returns. The Mean Green did nothing in the return game
last season averaging just 18.1 yards per kickoff return and 7.4 yards
per punt return. Now the team needs to find new returners with Johnny
Outlook: Spencer should make the punting game
shine again, but until the return game is better, the special teams
won't be a strength.