2007 Ohio Preview - Defense
Ohio Bobcat Defense Preview
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2006 CFN Ohio
What you need to know:
The defense made a night-and-day
improvement from 2005, and should be among the best in the MAC
again if replacements can be found for the three star
linebackers and All-MAC corner T.J. Wright. The defensive line
is big and active, and it needs to be stronger against the run.
Getting into the backfield won't be a problem with All-MAC end
Jameson Hartke leading the way. The safeties will be fantastic
leading a deep and talented group. It's all up to the
linebackers, who have talent, but are relatively inexperienced
and haven't stayed healthy.
Michael Mitchell, 55
Jameson Hartke, 7.5
Interceptions: Michael Mitchell, 2
Star of the defense: Junior DE Jameson Hartke
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Michael Brown
Best pro prospect: Hartke
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hartke, 2) DT Landon
Cohen, 3) CB Mark Parson
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, defensive line,
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The star of the experienced line is
junior Jameson Hartke, who has good size at 6-4 and 262 pounds
and great quickness leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for
loss to go along with 45 tackles. He was a second-team All-MAC pick who
dominated in the MAC title game and should explode with the talent
around him up front to take away some attention.
On the other side is
Ernie Hodge, a 271-pound sophomore who made 38 tackles as a true
freshman and showed good pass rushing ability with 3.5 sacks. The size
of most MAC tackles, he should grow into a strong run stopper.
In the middle, the only new starter will be senior Brett Sykes on
the nose after starting last year at the end. He's been a decent reserve
over the last three years and now he'll finally become a regular
starter. He's not a true anchor and will only be a major factor if he's
getting into the backfield, but as far as new starters go, he's not a
Next to him will be senior Landon Cohen, a
second-team All-MAC performer who made 25 tackles and has been
great at making plays in the backfield. A durable rock for the last
three seasons, he's tough as well as quick.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Eric Kenkel
missed part of last season with a broken hand, but returned to finish
with seven tackles as a reserve end. He's smaller than Hodge, but
quicker, and now has to show he can get to the quarterback.
transfer Alan Goff was a disappointment last season making just
two tackles in a little bit of time on the end. He'll be a slightly
undersized 6-4, 266-pound tackle behind Cohen.
283-pound junior Jacob
Williamson is one of the bigger defenders up front playing on the
nose behind Sykes. He saw time in every game last season making five
tackles, and now he'll play a far greater role behind Sykes.
Watch Out For ... the line to be forced to do far
more against the run. The luxury of having a superior linebacking corps
to clean things up is gone, and now the big front four, at least by MAC
standards, has to use its athleticism to be a rock against the quicker
Strength: Quickness. They can all move and they can all get into
the backfield. The line basically has four large ends across the front,
Weakness: The line basically has four large ends across the
front. Teams with good, powerful lines were able to pound the ball a
bit, and should be able to again.
Outlook: If this isn't the strength of the team,
it'll be a major positive with two all-stars in Hartke and Cohen and
good veterans in Hodge and Sykes. There's even some quality depth. With
good size all across the front, and surprising athleticism, this should
be one of the league's better lines.
Projected Starters: Senior Taj Henry has the
unenviable task of trying to replace long-time playmaker Matt Muncy in
the middle. He saw time as a reserve making 14 tackles and should be
effective now that he's in a full-time role. After beefing up to 232
pounds, he'll be a tough rock who'll put up nice numbers.
On the weakside will be 220-pound junior Jordan Meyers, who's finally
healthy after not being quite right last year with a banged up leg. He
was productive in a limited role making 27 tackles and 3.5 tackles for
loss, and now he'll have to show he can be consistently effective
against the pass. 230-pound junior Michael Brown suffered a
broken leg and only made 11 tackles in five games.
Projected Top Reserves: A former safety and a star
high school running back, sophomore Lee Renfro was converted to
linebacker and should grow into a strong all-around defender on the
weakside. Mostly a special teamer last season, he was also a good
reserve making 22 tackles and breaking up a pass.
In the middle, behind
Henley, will be redshirt freshman Stafford Gatling, a star on the
scout team with tremendous speed. He's only 219 pounds, but he has room
to grow into his 6-4 frame.
221-pound junior Chris Hall will back
up Brown on the strongside after making seven tackles last season. The
former safety can move and could play on the weakside if needed.
Watch Out For ... the tackles and stats to be
there. Just because the top linebackers of last year are gone, that
doesn't mean the overall production will stop. The linebackers will come
up with good numbers, they just might not be as meaningful until
everyone starts to figure out what they're doing.
Strength: Speed. With so many former defensive backs moving to
linebacker, there will be plenty of plays made all over the field. Now
the corps has to use its athleticism to be disruptive.
Weakness: Starting experience. There isn't any. There are plenty
of good reserves, but it's asking a lot to go from seeing a little bit
of time to replacing all-stars like last year's trio.
Outlook: And here's the problem. The running game
might have carried the offense to the MAC title game, but it was the
linebacking corps that set the tone in defensive battle after defensive
battle. You don't get better by losing Tyler Russ, Matt Muncy, Michael
Graham, and their 235 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and over 700 career
stops. This group will run well, it's big enough to handle itself
against the run, and it should be fine in time.
Projected Starters: The secondary was terrific last
year, but it loses its top playmaker, corner T.J. Wright. Replacing him
will be an ongoing issue until the start of the season with three
prospects battling for the job. The most likely starter on opening day
will be sophomore Idris Lawrence, who made nine tackles last
season as a backup and a special teamer. He's not all that big at 5-8
and 170 yards, but he's a smart, quick player who, at the very least,
will be an important defender in the rotation.
On the other side will be
junior Mark Parson returning to his starting spot after making 44
tackles and breaking up a whopping 16 passes with one interception. He
has tremendous speed and is great at closing when the ball is in the
The safeties will be one of the team's bright spots with the return of
senior free safety Todd Koenig and junior strong safety
Michael Mitchell. Koenig is a big hitter with 121 tackles in the
last two seasons. He was banged up for past of last season and was still
sixth on the team in tackles. Able to play either spot, he's incredibly
physical for a free safety. Mitchell is a big 6-1, 217-pound
all-star-in-waiting who made 55 tackles and picked off two passes
despite only starting in eight games.
Projected Top Reserves: Lawrence will have to earn
the starting corner spot with redshirt freshman Julian Posey and
sophomore Thad Turner each getting equal chances to win Wright's
old job. Posey was a good recruit last year coming in as a top defensive
back and good all-around offensive player. He has good speed and more
size than Lawrence. Turner is the biggest of the three, and also needing
the most work, after moving over from receiver. He made the move before
the bowl game and should be ready to be a big part of the rotation if he
doesn't win the job. At free safety, 6-2, 197-pound sophomore Steven
Jackson is a rising star making 23 tackles as a true freshman
despite missing the final two games with a knee injury. If he can stay
healthy, not a given so far in his career, he'll make a big push for
playing time. Senior Ervin Jackson overcame a knee injury to
finish with ten tackles in seven games. As one of the team's fastest
safeties, he's a dangerous free safety option if healthy.
Watch Out For ... the pass defense to be one of
the best in the MAC. It won't statistically be the best since some MAC
defenses will get run all over and offenses won't pass the ball, but
this will be one of the most effective.
Strength: Experience. With three starters returning and a host
of good reserves, this is the one area of the team the coaching staff
will feel the most comfortable.
Weakness: A true shutdown corner. Can Parson be it? He was
great as a number two on the other side of Wright, but now he'll be the
number one on everyone's top receiver. He has the talent and the
experience, but Wright was special.
Outlook: The pass defense was one of the team's
biggest areas of improvement allowing 111 fewer yards per game than in
2005. It'll be just as strong with so many good prospects. If the second
corner situation can quickly be solidified, there won't be any real
Projected Starters: It'll be up to senior Michael
Braunstein to take over for Matt Lasher, who connected on 13 of 18
field goals but had no range whatsoever. Braunstein is a transfer from
Washington having graduated but with a year of eligibility remaining
under the new transfer rule. He was great last year hitting 10 of 12
field goals earning All-Pac 10 honors.
Redshirt freshman Matt Schulte
will take over Lasher's punting duties. Lasher was unbelievable at
pinning teams deep with a whopping 30 kicks inside the 20 and with 20
forced fair catches. Schulte can be used as a placekicker, but won't
need to be with Braunstein taking over.
Watch Out For ... Braunstein to be even better
than Lasher. He'll add a bit more pop and can be used from beyond the
Strength: Coverage units. The Bobcats made a tremendous
improvement after an awful 2005 by allowing just 14.8 yards per kickoff
return and 3.6 yards per punt return.
Weakness: Reliable punting. Lasher was tremendous at preventing
returns. Schulte will come up with a few more bombs, but it'll be a
shock if he's as consistent.
Outlook: A mega-weakness going into last season
will be a major play. Braunstein will be great, Chris Garrett is a
tremendous punt returner averaging 14.5 yards per try and should be
great on kickoff returns after averaging 25 yards per pop. The coverage
units should once again be a manor plus.
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