2007 Bowling Green Preview - Defense
Bowling Green Falcon Defense Preview
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What you need to know: Bowling Green might not always be a
brick wall on defense, but it will do whatever it can to make
plays all over the field. Last year this was a break-but-don't
bend defense giving up points, but not yards. Now it needs to
stiffen. With an emphasis on speed and quickness, the front
seven will be flying around looking to get into the backfield to
dictate the tempo, while the solid secondary will benefit. There
might be problems against the better power running teams with a
new set of tackles and smallish linebacking corps, but that'll
be offset by the big plays ... at least that's the hope.
Diyral Briggs, 7
Interceptions: Kenny Lewis, 4
Star of the defense: Junior LB Erique Dozier
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Jahmal Brown
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Dyral Briggs
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dozier, 2) Briggs, 3)
CB Kenny Lewis
Strength of the defense: Cornerback, ends
Weakness of the defense: Tackles
Projected Starters: The strength of the line, and
possibly the defense, will be at the ends where junior Diyral Briggs
and sophomore Jacob Hardwick are back. The 6-4, 230-pound
Briggs came on over the second half of last year finishing with 69
tackles, seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He looks like the
prototype pass rusher after adding 15 pounds to his frame, and now that
he knows what he's doing, he should by an even bigger terror in the
Hardwick is more of a run stopper on the other side at 6-3
and 260 pounds making 28 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. While he
didn't register any sacks, he was good at pressuring the passer.
Taking over in the middle will be senior Sean O'Drobinak, a tight
end who caught 12 passes for 169 yards last season in eight starts. He
was always more of a blocker, and now he'll bring his athleticism and
toughness to the inside. While he should be a good interior pass rusher,
he has to prove he can hold up against the run at 6-4 and 270 pounds.
Next to O'Drobinak will be sophomore Michael Ream, who appears ready to
shine in a full-time role after making 24 tackles last year. The
270-pounder will be part of a rotation on the nose.
Projected Top Reserves: While Ream appears to be
strong enough on the nose to start, the hope is for 6-3, 281-pound
sophomore Nick Davis to be healthy again after missing all but
three games last year. In a short amount of time he came up with 19
tackles including 12 against Buffalo. If he doesn't win back the
starting job on the nose, he'll see equal time with Ream in a rotation.
Even though O'Drobinak appears to be a natural at tackle, 6-5, 278-pound
sophomore D.J. Young will be at the ready after making seven
stops in a reserve role. He's not huge, but he'll be active.
Watch Out For ... O'Drobinak to play like an
all-star. While he might lack the bulk to be a true anchor, he'll make
plays all over the pace and should be a regular in the backfield.
Strength: Pass rush. The Falcons were third
in the MAC averaging 2.33 sacks per game and was decent at getting into
the backfield. Briggs will always make big plays, and with all the
attention paid to him, everyone else will crank up their stats.
Weakness: Tackles. Yeah, O'Drobinak will be good, but he's still
a former tight end trying to make the switch. If Davis isn't healthy,
there will be issues on the inside early on.
Outlook: If the tackles can even be adequate, the
line will shine. Briggs and Hardwick will put up big years as pass
rushers as well as against the run. Getting into the backfield from all
four spots shouldn't be a problem, but holding up against the top
running teams will be a concern. If injuries hit early on, things could
Projected Starters: 6-0, 221-pound junior
Erique Dozier might not be all that big, but he's tough as nails in
the middle finishing second on the team with 98 stops along with three
sacks and nine tackles for loss. He has tremendous range and good
hitting ability, and now his stats should shoot through the roof with
untested tackles in front of him. When needed, he's also solid against
211-pound senior Loren Hargrove has slowly made his way
into more and more playing time over the course of his career, and now
he'll get the start on the weakside after making 21 tackles with two
starters last year. He's a tremendous athlete who's the cousin of former
Ohio State star, Shawn Springs.
Moving into the strongside job is
undersized defensive back P.J. Mahone. The sophomore might only
be 5-11 and 201 pounds, but he can move and will be asked to make plays
in the backfield as well as against the run after making 31 stops last
Projected Top Reserves: At 231 pounds, junior
John Haneline is a far bigger option than Hargrove on the weakside.
He had a huge year making 74 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and is
certain to see more than his share of plays somewhere in the corps.
While he's a rock of a run stuffer, he's not as strong an athlete as
6-3, 238-pound Cody Basler is a bigger defender in the
middle than Dozier, but isn't going to start unless there's an
emergency. He made the tackles on the year and should be a good
Watch Out For ... a lot of playing around with the
rotation. Against stronger running teams, the big backups will see more
time than the faster, quick top three.
Strength: Getting into the backfield. By
design, this is a smallish corps that's built for making plays all over
the place, and that includes shooting through to the quarterback.
Weakness: Size. Yeah, there's bulk among the top two reserves,
Haneline and Basler, but it's Dozier, Hargrove and Mahone who need to
shine. They're all safety-sized.
Outlook: While this won't be the most physical
group around, but it'll do what it can to fly to the ball and gang up on
tackles. While the biggest plays will be made behind the line, the more
the top three can do to help out against the pass, the better. As long
as Dozier is strong again, the outside defenders will produce.
Projected Starters: The Falcons are loaded at
corner led by junior Kenny Lewis, who led the team with four
interceptions to go along with 70 tackles. The top recruit of a few
years ago blossomed showing off his athleticism with three blocked kicks
against Miami University and was one of the team's surest tacklers.
the other side will be junior Antonio Smith after starting nine
games and making 39 tackles and breaking up two passes. While not all
that big at 5-11 and 185 pounds, he's physical.
Anchoring the secondary at safety will be 6-0, 189-pound sophomore
Jerett Sanderson after finishing fourth on the team with 73 tackles.
While he's still learning how to do more when the ball is in the air,
the strong safety is a good hitter with the athleticism to play free
safety if needed.
Also back at free safety will be sophomore Jahmal
Brown, who made 59 tackles with an interception. He started ten
games as a true freshman and played like a seasoned veteran.
Projected Top Reserves: While the starting corners
are set, sophomores Roger Williams and Tarell Lewis will
see plenty of time. Williams is a former running back with excellent
quickness, while Lewis was excellent in reserve making 32 tackles. He's
one of the faster defensive backs, but he has to be better in pass
Sophomore Vincent Corner got in a little bit of work on
kickoff returns and now will play a bigger role behind Sanderson at
strong safety. He's 5-9, 200 pounds and lightning fast; he was the 2006
Ohio State high school champion in the 110-meter hurdles.
Watch Out For ... the corners to be among the best in
the league. Lewis and Smith just needed a little bit of time before they
became top-notch starters, and they started to shine as the year went
on. Now they're ready to turn into stars.
Strength: The corners. It's not just Smith
and Kenny Lewis, Tarell Lewis and Roger Williams are starting-caliber.
The Falcons can do a lot in nickel and dome packages.
Weakness: Production against the efficient passers. The Falcons
did a good job of preventing the big plays, but they got picked apart by
the quarterbacks who could actually throw.
Outlook: On experience alone, this should be one
of the MAC's better secondaries. The corners alone should shut down most
of the average league passers, while the sophomore safeties, in time,
should provide solid support. With the pressure the front seven should
provide, the job should be even easier. Expect good pass defense
numbers, but there have to be more interceptions and more game-changing
Projected Starters: Last year's nightmare of a
kicking game should be better with the addition of JUCO transfer
Sinisa Vrvillo, who has a good leg, but above all else, should be
far more consistent after Sean Ellis hit 4 of 9 field goals.
game, the second-worst in the nation last season, will hope for junior
Nick Iovinelli to bring a bit more pop. Unfortunately, he only
averaged 36.6 yards per boot last year at Harper College, but he showed
a nice leg this spring.
Corey Partridge will try to do more for a
punt return game that averaged a mere 7.1 yards per try while Kenny
Lewis will beef up a kick return game that averaged a pathetic 17.6
yards per try.
Watch Out For ... a major improvement. Things can't
be any worse than last year.
Uh, um, hopefully it'll be more consistency from the
kicking game. Vrvilo and Iovinelli have seen plenty of time. It might
have been in the JUCO ranks, but at least they have a little bit of
Weakness: Proven production. 4 of 9 field goals, 7.33 yards per
punt return, 17.6 yards per kickoff return, 23.6 yards allowed per
kickoff return, 14.1 yards per punt return. Yeah, there's a lot of work
Outlook: Overall, the Falcon special teams
were the worst in the nation doing absolutely nothing right in any
phase. It was a major weakness that if improved in a big way will be the
difference in at least two games.
Things will be better, but don't expect this to be the MAC's best
special teams unit right away.