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2007 Ball State Preview - Defense
Posted Jul 17, 2007

Preview 2007 Ball State Cardinal Defense

Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Ball State Preview | 2007 Ball State Offense Preview
2007 Ball State Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Ball State Preview 

What you need to know:
Awful for the last two seasons, the defense started to get a little better as last year went on and should make even bigger strides with plenty of experience returning. Six starters are back, and most of the new starters have seen enough time to be ready to hit the ground running. The 3-4 is good at getting into the backfield, but there hasn't been enough sacks and not nearly enough consistent production against power running teams. The pass defense has been non-existent for the last two seasons. Corners Trey Lewis and Trey Buice have been around, and can hit, but if they don't cover better, the Cardinals won't be able to take the next step.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Wendell Brown, 83
Sacks: Cortlan Booker, 5
Interceptions: Alex Knipp, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Wendell Brown
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Drew Duffin
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Kenny Meeks
Best pro prospect: Junior P Chris Miller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown, 2) LB Cortlan Booker, 3) CB Trey Lewis
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, overall experience
Weakness of the defense:
Pass defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Cardinals lose two of the starters up front, but gets back 6-2, 275-pound senior Amara Koroma on the nose. He's not all that big, and he's not all that strong against the run, but he's terrific at getting into the backfield with nine tackles for loss and a sack among his 32 stops. He got better as the year went on becoming more consistent at making plays, and now he'll have to be even better as the veteran up front the rest of the line will work around.

Taking over at the end in the 3-4 will be sophomore Drew Duffin, who made 16 tackles, two sacks, and five tackles for loss as the team's rising defensive star. He has decent size at 6-3 and 253 pounds to go along with a great first step.

At the tackle spot will be 6-3, 280-pound senior Jacob Jordan, one of the biggest players up front who needs to be a stronger run stopper. He only made eight tackles, but he came up with three tackles for loss in his limited time in the rotation. It's the former walk-on's time to shine.

Projected Top Reserves: Koroma is the starter in the middle, but 6-4, 307-pound junior Roger Morris will see plenty of time in the rotation to add more bulk to the run defense. He could occasionally step in at another tackle spot and allow the defense to run a true 4-3 against bigger running teams.

6-3, 248-pound sophomore Brandon Crawford played a limited role, but showed promise with two sacks, two forced fumbles, and 12 tackles as a freshman. While built like an outside linebacker, he should shine on the end behind Duffin.

Watch Out For ... plenty of plays in the backfield. By design, the defense is all about trying to be disruptive behind the line. While that might not translate into sacks, there will be a lot of aggressive plays.
Quickness. Relying on smaller, quicker players to try to be disruptive, the Cardinals will try to swarm to the ball thanks to a decent rotation. There will be stretches when this group causes a lot of problems.
Run defense. Roger Morris and Jacob Jordan are big, but they're not elite run stoppers. The Cardinals had good moments, but were inconsistent. They stopped Kent State for 84 yards, but they got ripped up by Toledo for 226 yards. Expect more of the same with the better running teams rolling at will, and the mediocre teams having problems.
Outlook: The line will get into the backfield from all three spots, and that includes the backups, but stopping the run will be priority one. The front three got shoved all over the place and didn't do nearly enough in key moments. Now there's a little bit of rebuilding needing to be done, but the production won't be any worse than last year.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters: The linebacking corps gets three of the four starters back led by senior Wendell Brown, a smallish 214-pound hitter who was second on the team with 83 tackles with six tackles for loss and a sack. While he might not be all that big, he's one of the team's surest tacklers doing good things on both the strongside and the middle over the last few years, and he'll be expected to be the leader of the corps again this year.

On the weakside will be 230-pound junior Bryant Haines after making 49 tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for loss. He had a phenomenal spring showing great timing at getting into the backfield and good all-around playmaking ability, and now he should emerge as a statistical star with more of an emphasis on making big plays. With his size and aggressiveness, he'll be a regular in opposing backfields.

The fourth position in the BSU linebacking corps is a hybrid of outside linebacker and defensive end is the rush end, once again manned by senior Cortlan Booker. A high school track star who struggled to find a niche over his first few seasons, he blew up to finish fourth on the team with 64 tackles with a team-leading five sacks and 14 tackles for loss. With his 245-pound size and tremendous quickness, he has All-MAC potential.

The newcomer to the mix is sophomore Kenny Meeks on the strongside after seeing a limited role, mostly on special teams. He's the type of athletic, potential all-around playmaker who could be the surprise star in the scheme. Making plays in the backfield would be nice, but the defense mostly needs him to be strong against the pass.

Projected Top Reserves: Good enough to start at any of the outside spots, and seeing plenty of time on the weakside last year, was senior Mike Dorulla, a safety-sized defensive back who has made 57 stops over the last two seasons with three tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. He plays bigger than his size.

Sophomore Chris Clancy, playing behind Meeks on the strongside, and junior Antonio Beasley, the number two behind Booker at rush end, will be key in the rotation. They've been in the mix for several years, mostly as special teamers and reserves, with Beasley seeing time at defensive end, and they'll have to use their experience to step in throughout the year against the better running teams.

On the way are true freshmen
Pete Rolf and Lorren Womack, two of the stars of the recruiting class. They're both undersized, and potentially suited more for the secondary, but they're extremely tough and big-time hitters.

Watch Out For ... an all-out assault. The coaching staff has made a point of making the linebackers even more aggressive than last year when it comes to generating pressure, and the outside defenders will do whatever they can to get into the backfield.
Experience. It's not just the three returning starters who'll make a huge difference, there are several veteran reserves able to see time in a rotation.
Stopping the run. While this is an active group that can get to the ball, they're not the surest tackling linebacking corps and has problems making the stop at the point of attack.
Outlook: There should be several stars coming out of the corps led by Booker on the rush side and Haines, while Brown will be a steady, regular tackler again in the middle. While there are several veteran reserves, there's a drop-off from the ones to the twos. The hope will be for the true freshmen to instantly upgrade the depth.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Both starters return at corner, both safeties have to be replaced. The big hole is at strong safety, where Eric Keys led the team with 90 tackles and four forced fumbles, but senior Chris Allen has experience and isn't starting from scratch. While not all that big at 5-10 and 188 pounds, he's a good hitter (though not nearly as good as Keys) making 29 tackles last season. He saw a little bit of time at free safety, but didn't do much of anything against the pass.

Taking over the full-time job at free safety will be senior Eddie Burk, who started the final four games of last season finishing with 21 tackles and an interception. Still a bit untested even this late in his career, he'll be the X factor in the secondary.

Junior Trey Lewis was the team's most productive corner, at least against the run, finishing third on the team with 66 tackles, five tackles for loss, and ten broken up passes. He has to be more consistent against the better receivers, but he's big (6-0 and 194 pounds), can hit (he used to play free safety), and has decent range.

On the other side will once against be junior Trey Buice, a good tackler at 5-10 and 179 pounds. He made 28 stops in eight games, missing time early on, but didn't do enough against the pass with just one interceptions and five broken up passes.

Projected Top Reserves:
In an attempt to get more athleticism into the secondary, junior running back B.J. Hill, who was third on the team with 257 yards and three touchdowns, will move to corner behind Lewis. He's still raw, but he appears to be a natural making several good plays in spring ball. While he's not all that big at 5-7 and 180 pounds, he's tremendously quick.

Pushing Burk for time at free safety will be junior Marcus McClure, who made 43 tackles and an interception as a spot starter. He's one of the team's best all-around athletes with excellent speed and range.

Rotating in at strong safety will be sophomore Alex Knipp adding 6-0, 193-pound size and 33 tackles and two interceptions of experience. He's a former high school running back who can hit.

Watch Out For ... Keys to not be missed all that much. As good as he was against the run, he provided next to no help against the pass last year. Burk won't hit like Keys, but he'll come up with more big plays when the ball is in the air.
Experience. They might not have been that good, but Buice and Lewis have been around. Allen and Burk have logged in more than enough time to step in and be fine as the new starters. There's even decent depth to work with.
Defending the pass. The toughness and athleticism are there, but the overall playmaking isn't. This has been one of the nation's worst secondaries over the past two seasons, and it'll likely be an Achilles' heel again.
Outlook: 115th in the nation in pass defense, last in the MAC, and 100th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, the Cardinals need to try anything and everything to come up with a little bit of production. Yeah, things got better at the end of the year, but that was because Michigan and Toledo ran the ball at will. There are good athletes, and everyone can tackle, but Lewis and Buice have to use their experience to be night-and-day better in all areas, or Hill and redshirt freshman Jakeem Gregory will take over.
Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The good: junior punter Chris Miller returns after a phenomenal season averaging a whopping 46.3 yards per boot with 20 kicks put inside the 20. The bad: placekicker Chris Jackson, who nailed 17 of 19 field goals, has to be replaced. Redshirt freshman Jake Hogue will get the first shot at the job, and while he doesn't have the best leg, he just has to be consistent. Miller has one of the best legs in the country and will be playing on Sundays some day.

Watch Out For ... more of an emphasis on the return game. The Cardinals struggled in all phases averaging 5.75 yards per punt return and 19.36 yards per kickoff return. There will be a search all year for the right returners.
Miller. While he put too many kicks in the end zone, he's a weapon who bailed the team out time and again. He's a vital playmaker in the field position game.
Uncertainty at placekicker. If there isn't consistency from Hogue or sophomore Adam Weber, the Cardinals will lose at least two games because of it.
Outlook: Call this a work in progress. Getting more from the returners is the first priority, while hoping someone emerges from the kicking prospects is the big hope. If there can be just a little more pop from the returns, and if Hogue can just be average, the special teams will be fine. Expect the return game to grow into a positive.


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2007 Ball State Preview - Offense
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2007 Ball State Preview - Depth Chart
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2007 Ball State Preview
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