San Jose State
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 San Jose State Preview |
2007 SJSU Offense Preview
2007 SJSU Defense Preview
2006 CFN San Jose
What you need to know: The Spartan defense took a giant leap
forward giving up yards, but not a whole bunch of points
allowing fewer than 24 in ten of the final 11 games. Seven
starters are back from the ball-hawking crew led by tackling
machine Matt Castelo at middle linebacker and corners Dwight
Lowery and Christopher Owens. The defensive front has to do a
better overall job, and it will now that it's experienced after
cutting its teeth last season. Jarron Gilbert and Justin Cole
will be pass rushing terrors. Expect this group to give up
plenty of yards, but also come up with more than its share of
Tackles: Matt Castelo,
Jarron Gilbert, 5
Interceptions: Dwight Lowery, 9
Star of the defense: Senior LB Matt Castelo
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DT Adonis Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Carl Ihenacho
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Dwight Lowery
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Castelo, 2) Lowery, 3)
DE Jarron Gilbert
Strength of the defense: Corners, tackling linebackers
Weakness of the defense:
Safety experience, proven interior
Projected Starters: Junior Jarron Gilbert leads a veteran
line that should be much better than last year. The 6-5, 260-pound
junior was a good reserve and turned into the top pass rusher the line
desperately needed with five sack and 7.5 tackles for loss to go along
with 32 tackles. As the one the offensive coordinators will have to
gameplan around, he has to be prepared to be double-teamed throughout
On the other side is 235-pound sophomore Carl Ihenacho,
a ridiculously raw prospect who's still growing into his potential as an
athlete much less a football player. He saw a little bit of time
throughout last year making 28 tackles, a sack and three tackles for
loss, but he only started playing football, and organized sports, two
6-3, 281-pound senior Jerome Pulu returns to his starting spot
coming off a 15 tackle season. The former JUCO transfer wasn't always a
rock against the run and didn't use his quickness to get into the
backfield as often as he needed to. Now that he has a year of starting
experience, he has to become more productive.
Next to him will be
290-pound sophomore Adonis Davis, who needs to play up to his
size to clog up the middle. With 11 tackles in a little bit of time last
season, he has the experience to do more, but don't expect him to
collapse the pocket too often.
Projected Top Reserves:
Sophomore Justin Cole was one of the
team's new stars last season making 32 tackles, four sacks and 9.5
tackles for loss earning Freshman All-America honors. He's not
technically a starter going into the year after missing spring ball, but
he might as well be with the amount of time he'll see at both end spots.
Tremendously quick off the line, he has a great burst when he's turned
On the other side, 235-pound senior David Lomu is a decent
veteran who'll fill in behind Ihenacho and make a few plays against the
run, but he's not a pass rusher. 305-pound sophomore Justin Willis
and 278-pound sophomore Kalvin Cressel form part of the
future of the defensive interior. Cressel was a major force as a reserve
making 24 tackles and two tackles for loss after making himself into a
stronger, quicker run defender. Willis has the size to do far more
playing behind Davis.
Watch Out For ... a big jump in pass rushing
production. Last year's line was trying to figure out what it was doing.
This year's group is full of veterans who should be able to take more
chances and start to make more big plays. It's not just going to be
Gilbert and Cole getting into the backfield.
Strength: Experience. Ten players return with
significant experience to form an excellent rotation that should keep
everyone fresh. Don't get hung up on who's starting; everyone will see
Weakness: Proven interior pass rush. Davis,
Cressel and Willis are young and talented, but they haven't shown
anything in the way of collapsing the pocket. That has to change to take
the attention away from Gilbert.
Outlook: A young, untested group that relied on the coaching and
the overall defensive scheme last year, now this is a veteran line that
should be fantastic. Think of it this way; the defense was third in the
WAC with almost no help up front. That'll change this year.
Projected Starters: If senior Matt Castelo isn't the best
linebacker in the WAC, he's number two. While only 5-10 and 210 pounds,
he's a sure-tackler making a whopping 165 last year (and 265 over the
last two seasons) to go along with four forced fumbles and an
interception. Always being around the ball is an understatement
considering his 87 assisted tackles would've been good enough to finish
fifth on the team. He's a smart player who's never out of position.
Senior Demetrius Jones returns on the outside where he finished
with 78 tackles and nine tackles for loss after starting his career as
mainly a special teamer. Able to roam free with Castelo cleaning
everything up, the 222-pounder uses his speed to make plays all over the
place. Expect him to see time inside and out depending on the situation.
Sophomore Ryno Gonzalez takes over the other outside spot from
backfield terror Damaja Jones, who cranked out 10.5 tackles for loss and
99 stops. Gonzalez was a good backup with 28 tackles, and he has the
speed and toughness to quickly turn into a major playmaker both in the
backfield and against the run.
Projected Top Reserves: It's not like there's a
lot of work to be had for Castelo's backup, but the combination of
sophomore Travis Jones and redshirt freshman Jason Swisher
will try to form a good tandem in the middle. Jones made 17 tackles last
season mostly in mop-up time, while Swisher should grow into one of the
team's tougher, more physical players. Undersized junior Chris Reese
was supposed to be the starter going into last season, but he was
relegated to backup duty making ten tackles. At only 5-9 and 205 pounds,
if he's not using his quickness to get into the backfield, he's not
doing too much good behind Gonzalez.
Watch Out For ... Castelo and Demetrius Jones to form
the best 1-2 tackling punch in the WAC. Everyone in the league knows
about Castelo, but now Jones will start to make a name for himself once
he starts cranking out a few sacks.
Strength: Hitting. This group will swarm to the
ball and always make the big tackle. The overall stats might not be
quite the same with an improved line in front of them, but they'll all
get their chance to shine.
Weakness: Size. Toughness isn't an issue, bulk it.
At 222 pounds, Demetrius Jones is the biggest linebacker in the
rotation. Anyone who wants to try to power the ball should be able to
wear this group down late.
Outlook: There's a lot to be excited about.
Castelo alone makes this a good corps, but Jones and Jones, along with
the emerging Gonzalez, should make the Dick Tomey defense do exactly
what it's supposed to: make big plays.
Projected Starters: There's not a better returning cornerback
pair in the nation as far as interceptions than senior Dwight Lowery
and junior Christopher Owens. Lowery was an All-American with
nine interceptions to go along with seven broken up passes and 48
tackles. At 6-1 and 185 pounds, he has excellent size to go along with a
nose for the ball when it's in the air. Between his time as a JUCO star
and last year, he came up with 22 interceptions in 28 games. When he
gets the ball in his hands, he's an offensive gamebreaker able to crank
out big returns. Teams can't stay away from Lowery with Owens on the
other side making four interceptions, five broken up pass and 50
tackles. He's good in the open field hitting like a safety despite only
being 5-9 and 161 pounds.
While the corner situation is set, the safeties will be settled this
fall when the top recruits have had a chance to show what they can do.
JUCO transfer Andrew Ryan made a huge impact in spring ball
making play after play in practices including an interception in the
spring game. Getting to school early has helped him immeasurably get a
leg up on the incoming stars-in-waiting.
Former running back
Dominique Hunsucker has moved over to the defensive side using his
next level, track star speed to become a key free safety. He's still
learning the position after making five tackles last year, but his
athleticism should make up for his mistakes.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 190-pound JUCO
transfer Joe Bates was a top corner for Laney College but
projects as a safety. His versatility might be the key to the secondary
since he can play either safety spot or even move to corner for a
stretch. Freshman Duke Ihenacho might be too good to keep off the
field. He's still young and needs seasoning, but he's 6-1, 200 pounds
and 4.55 fast. The top backup corner will be senior David Bowen,
a career special teamer who made eight tackles and broke up one pass in
a limited role. He has outstanding speed and could see time as a nickel
Watch Out For ... the new safeties. Ryan and
Hunsucker aren't just going to hand over the starting jobs, but Bates
and Ihenacho need to at least be very productive reserves.
Strength: Picking off passes. Lowery and Owens
attack the ball and make passing games pay. That's a plus in the WAC.
Weakness: Safety experience. While there are
plenty of promising options, there isn't any starting experience. The
corners might be on their own for a little while.
Outlook: Even with all the big plays made by the
corners, and the great season by safety Chris Vedder, the pass defense
didn't exactly stop anyone cold. It'll give up yards in chunks and will
occasionally get ripped deep, but it'll win more than its share of
Projected Starters: The kicking game will be tremendous with the
return of junior placekicker Jared Strubeck and senior punter
Waylon Prather. Strubeck has nailed 20 of 30 career field goals
showing great range and consistency. He connected on four of his five
shots from behind 40 yards and has the leg to be great on kickoffs.
Prather had a good first year, and then started bombing away averaging a
tremendous 44 yards per kick putting 19 inside the 20. He could use a
big more hang time only forcing five fair catches and with ten
Watch Out For ... the kicking game to be the best in
the WAC. Strubeck and Prather have great legs and can do it all.
Strength: The veteran kickers. The coaching staff
won't have to rely on the kicking game as long as Strubeck remains
consistent and if Prather can combine his big boots with the accuracy he
showed off two year ago when he put 27 kicks inside the 20.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. The Spartans only
averaged 17.8 yards per return last season with the longest return a
mere 35 yards. This is the one chink in the special teams' armor.
Outlook: As long as a steady punt returner can be
found for James Jones (possibly Dwight Lowery or Patrick Perry), and if
there can be a bit more pop on kickoff returns from Dominique Hunsucker,
this should be among the team's biggest strengths. The field position
battle should belong to the Spartans game in and game out.