2007 Toledo Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 12, 2007

Preview 2007 Toledo Rocket Defense Preview

Toledo Rockets

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Toledo Preview | 2007 Toledo Offense Preview
2007 Toledo Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Toledo Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Tyrell Herbert, 74
Sacks: Greg Hay, 4
Interceptions: Barry Church, 4

Star of the defense: Senior FS Tyrrell Herbert
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Tyree Pollard
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:
Size, pass rush from the front three

Defensive Line

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 backfield.

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.

275-pound sophomore 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 forced fumble.

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 do it.
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.
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.

Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: 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 the future.

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.
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.

Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

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.

Joining 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 corner.

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 excellent speed.

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.

Junior Jeff 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.
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.

Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: 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.
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.

Rating: 8


Related Stories
2007 Toledo Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 12, 2007
2007 Toledo Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 12, 2007
2007 Toledo Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 12, 2007

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