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2007 Toledo Preview - Defense
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What you need to know:
Defensive coordinator Tim Rose has done a good job over
the last two years using a flexible 3-4 alignment that
occasionally morphs into a 4-2-5. Now it has to be better after
getting bombed on by everyone over the first half of last year
and only produced once the schedule lightened up. Seven starters
return along with plenty of depth, especially up front, and now
there have to be more big plays and more pressure into the
backfield. Greg Hay and Keith Forestal form a strong 1-2
linebacking punch, while the safety tandem of Tyrrell Herbert
and Barry Church is among the best in the MAC.
Greg Hay, 4
Interceptions: Barry Church, 4
Star of the defense: Senior FS Tyrrell Herbert
Size, pass rush from the front three
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Douglas Westbrook
Best pro prospect: Sophomore SS Barry Church
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Herbert, 2) Church, 3)
LB Greg Hay
Strength of the defense: Speed, outside linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The line is one of the team's deepest areas, but there's only one
returning starter who'll actually get a starting job. Senior Sean
Williamson is one of the team's best all-around players and a
mainstay of the defense starting 27 games in a row with 85 career
tackles and 4.5 sacks. While he got better against the run last season,
he didn't do enough as a pass rusher with only one sack. He'll be
counted on to become a more explosive force on one end when he doesn't
drop into a linebacker role in the 3-4.
6-3, 215-pound sophomore
Douglas Westbrook will get the nod on the other side after making
six tackles as a true freshman. More of a safety playing on the line, he
beefed up a bit and should be able to handle the job a little better
while growing into a dangerous pass rusher. He has an explosive step
that should be too much for most MAC tackles.
Inside, 6-3, 312-pound senior Tyree Pollard is the big man
everything will revolve around. He hasn't done nearly enough throughout
his career and only made three tackles and a tackle for loss in eight
games. He got stronger, dedicated himself this off-season, and now
should become an anchor.
Next to Pollard will be 6-4, 265-pound sophomore
Skylaar Constant, who originally started out the spring as an end
before taking over inside. He beefed up a bit this off-season after
making 15 tackles and a sack last year. He should be a regular in the
Projected Top Reserves: Along with Williamson,
6-3, 240-pound senior Bernard Faithful is the only other
returning starter up front making 22 tackles and three tackles for loss
last year. Potentially a great pass rusher with his quickness and burst,
now he has to start producing more big plays.
Maurice Hill doesn't have nearly the size or Pollard on the nose,
but he's a quick tackle who looked good as a true freshman making ten
tackles and a sack.
Senior Patrick Clark isn't huge at 266 pounds
and only made one tackle last season. Even so, he'll be expected to
become a factor inside behind Constant.
Senior Nick Lawrence will
rotate in behind Westbrook adding a bit more size at 229 pounds. He
played a little bit last season making five tackles and a sack with a
Watch Out For ... a steady rotation. The coaching
staff would like get eight or more guys regular minutes to keep everyone
fresh while creating difference combinations. The experience is there to
Strength: Depth. Only two starters return, but
everyone has a little bit of experience and there are enough good
prospects to wait and see who the hot players are and go with them.
There's a good blend of senior veterans and rising sophomores.
Weakness: Pass rush. Several players look like they should be
devastating pass rushers, but it hasn't happened yet for seniors like
Williamson and Faithful, who've been good, not great. The pass rush came
from the linebackers by design last season. That has to change.
Outlook: It's a good line that'll be serviceable
enough to hold up well against the run and be decent when it has to be
as pass rushers, but it's nothing special. Outside of Pollard, there's
not a whole bunch of size needing to rely on quickness and freshness
with so many options rotating in, which should be fine against the
slower MAC lines but could be a problem against the elite ones.
Senior Greg Hay is back as one of the team's top
all-around defensive forces making 66 tackles, four sacks, 11 tackles
for loss and four broken up passes. A safety-like 6-2 and 200 pounds,
he's hitting the weights hard to get bigger and stronger to handle the
workload on the inside. With his speed and quickness, think of him as a
free safety playing linebacker.
The other inside spot will once again go
to Keith Forestal, who made 45 tackles as he great into a
playmaker as the year went on. He's an active player who'll start making
a bigger impact against the pass and in the backfield now that he knows
what he's doing.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Eric Heller
is technically a backup, but he was one of the team's most
productive players last year making 43 tackles, three tackles for loss,
three broken up passes and two fumble recoveries. He's fast enough to be
all over the field with a high motor and good range, and while he'll
back up Hay on the inside, he could see time in the outside when the D
switches to a 4-3.
235-pound sophomore Derrick Summers is the
biggest linebacker in the mix playing behind Forestal. As a true
freshman, he made 11 tackles and a sack looking like an inside force for
Also in the mix somewhere will be sophomore Archie Donald,
a rising star who made 43 tackles and four sacks as a true freshman.
Coming in soon will be Tyson Patrick, an ideal outside linebacker
recruit with excellent size and tremendous speed.
Watch Out For ... there to be plenty of movement in
the scheme. Toledo likes to mix up the 4-3 with a 4-2-5 meaning ends
like Sean Williamson and Bernard Faithful will spend plenty of time at
outside linebacker. Hay and Forestal will start out inside, but they
could move outside at times.
Strength: Speed and quickness. Hay and Forestal
are built like safeties and each can move. They'll have to do even more
to get into the backfield to make up for the loss of Mike Alston's eight
sacks and 20 tackles for loss.
Weakness: Losing Alston. He was the one who made everything go
on the defense when it came to making plays and generating a pass rush.
Hay should be able to pick up the slack, but he's not Alston.
Outlook: Flexibility will be the key with several
players rotating in and others who'll play a little bit at end and a
little bit at linebacker. Hay and Forestal will put up big numbers,
while Heller and Summers should shine with more time and more
responsibility. It'll be a good group that'll clean up several messes
against the run.
Projected Starters: The strength of the defense,
and perhaps the team, is at safety with the return of leading tackler Tyrell
Herbert, who made 74 tackles and three interceptions, and second
leading tackler Barry Church, who made 71 stops and four
interceptions with six broken up passes. Herbert, a senior, is a free
safety who hits like a strong safety, while Church, a 6-3, 216-pound
sophomore, is a strong safety who basically plays like a free safety.
Herbert's the team's vocal leader and top tackler over the last two
seasons making 168 tackles. Church played like a freshman at times after
coming in as a top recruit, but he also earned All-MAC honors and made
up for most of his mistakes by simply being really, really good.
the two at safety is sophomore Rover Lester Richmond, who might
not be built like a brick house at 6-1 and 184 pounds, but he can pop
making 19 tackles last year .
Senior Nigel Morris returns for his fourth season as a starting
corner. While he's certainly productive with 152 career tackles, six
interceptions and 21 broken up passes, he hasn't quite progressed into a
true stopper on the outside. He's 6-0 and 181 pounds with good speed,
and now he has to use his experience to become an All-MAC caliber
On the other side will be sophomore Walter Atkins, who
looked decent in a reserve role making 24 tackles with four broken up
passes. At 6-1 and 182 pounds, he has good size to go along with
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Desmond
Marrow is one of the team's most versatile defensive backs. At 6-3
and 196 pounds, he has the size to shine at Rover, or any of the safety
positions, and the speed to play corner if needed. He made 19 tackles as
a true freshman and should someday be an All-MAC talent.
Green is one of the only other backup defensive backs with any
experience making six tackles in six appearances. While not all that
fast, he has good size and should be a bigger part of the rotation
behind Church at strong safety.
A slew of young players will provide a
bulk of the overall depth. Joe Shuler and Greg Harris are
the main backup corners with Shuler making one tackle in seven games of
work. They're not lightning fast, but they have good size.
Watch Out For ... Herbert and Church to be playing on
Sundays. These are two legitimate pro prospects that'll dominate the MAC
throughout the year.
Strength: Hitting. Everyone can tackle led by the
safeties who can pop like linebackers when they get a free shot. The
corners can all wrap up well.
Weakness: Warp speed. Church and Herbert are fast for safeties,
but it's not like the corners are going to fly. More interceptions out
of the corners are a must. There's not one returning corner who made a
pick last year.
Outlook: The safeties alone should make the
secondary and the overall pass defense better. There were too many big
plays allowed, too much inconsistency, and too many problems giving up
19 touchdown passes and an average of 12.1 yards per throw. Morris has
to go from serviceable to great, and several young players have to
quickly rise up and provide options at corner.
Both kickers are back, and that's a major plus. Sophomore
Alex Steigerwald connected on 7 of 8 field goal attempts., but he
didn't show much in the way of range. Actually, he didn't get the chance
with his longed attempt coming from 39 yards. His biggest play of the
year was a fake field goal taken for a touchdown for a win over Akron.
He doesn't have the biggest leg; senior Michael Krispinsky will
likely handle the kickoff duties.
At punter, senior Brett Kern is
back after averaging a solid 41.7 yards per kick. Able to hit it a mile
high, he forced 27 fair catches and put 21 inside the 20. While Jalen
Parmele is expected to handle kickoff returns, that might not last
considering his worth to the offense. Andrew Hawkins might get
most of the work as both the top kick and punt returner.
Watch Out For ... the special teams to be among the
best in the MAC if Stiegerwald showed any range. Hawkins and Parmele
will be solid returning kicks, the coverage units should be great again,
and Kern is an all-star waiting to happen.
Strength: Kern. His ability to put the ball where
he needs to deep means everything for field position. He's a weapon.
Weakness: Distance on field goals. Will Krispinsky start getting
a few long range attempts/ Steigerwald needs to at least get some tries
early on just to see what he can do from beyond 40 in game action.
Outlook: The Rockets will be good here. The
kicking game is reliable, the return game potentially explosive, and the
coverage units, as always, will be fine. Special teams should be the
difference in at least one game.