Preview 2008 - Defense
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2006 CFN Akron
What you need to know:
The 3-3-5 defense struggled at coming up with big stops
and should be a problem this year with the emphasis on the team's
biggest question mark: the secondary. Bryan Williams, the team's top
rusher last year, moves to strong safety where he should be fine, but
the corners will be an issue and there's no depth whatsoever. The
backups are an issue all across the board. The line, thanks to the
addition of former Iowa Hawkeye Ryan Bain in the middle, will be fine,
and Kevin Grant and Doug Williams will make the linebacking corps solid.
This will be a decent D in time, but it's hardly going to be great.
Andre Jones, 79
Almondo Sewell, 3
Interceptions: Andre Jones, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Kevin Grant
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Ryan Bain
Best pro prospect: Grant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Grant, 2) Bain, 3) SS
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, secondary speed
Weakness of the defense:
Secondary experience, depth
Projected Starters: The line wasn't bad last season, and
even after some big losses it could be better with the addition of 6-2,
305-pound junior Ryan Bain on the nose. The spot was a revolving
door last year thanks to a variety of problems, but the Iowa transfer
will take over for Nate Robinson and should be a star. He played in
every game for two years for the Hawkeyes and was fine, but he got lost
in the shuffle. This off-season, he played like a defender ready to earn
all-star honors; it's possible he could be the best player on the D from
While Bain should be an all-around playmaker on the inside, 6-2,
260-pound sophomore Almondo Sewell should become special on the
end. An all star as a true freshman, making 65 tackles with three sacks
and 14 tackles for loss, he showed tremendous quickness into the
backfield and surprising toughness against the run. Originally a
linebacker, he has what it takes to be a superstar on the end for the
next three years.
Senior Eric Lively started the first three games of last year at
tackle, was moved to the nose, and now will move back to tackle after
making 18 tackles and a tackle for loss. At 6-2 and 275 pounds, he has
decent size and better pass rushing ability than he showed. His key will
be his ability to hold up against the run.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3 275-pound redshirt
freshman Dan Marcoux should be a strong inside prescence with the
quickness to be a factor in the backfield. He's a winner, leading his
New Jersey high school to the state title two years ago, and now he'll
play on the nose behind Bain.
The combination of true freshman Hasan Hazime and redshirt
freshman Joe Rash will play behind Lively on the inside. The
265-pound Rash isn't that big, but he's active, while the 250-pound
Hazime, a Canadian, got to school early and established himself as a
potential inside pass rusher. Extremely strong and very, very fast,
timing 4.5 in the 40, he's an interesting prospect.
6-1, 230-pound Shawn Lemon will back up Sewell on the end after
making five tackles in limited action. While he's not all that big, he's
extremely quick and could work on the other side of Sewell if the
defense switches to a 4-3 for any stretch of time. He has good pass
Watch Out For ... Bain. He wasn't bad at Iowa
making 56 tackles in his first two seasons, and he should flourish as a
Zip. The coaching staff raved about him this spring.
Strength: Quickness. There's decent size, by MAC standards, to
toy around with the lineup and beef up from time to time, but for the
most part the line is made up with puffed up linebackers.
Weakness: Sure-thing pass rusher outside of Sewell. Most of the
pressure came from the linebackers last year, and while this year's
front three should be able to pressure the quarterback, Sewell could use
some help. Bain needs to provide it.
Outlook: The job
of the Akron front three is to hold its own and allow the linebackers to
star, but this group could make some noise of its own if Bain is as good
as he was this spring. Sewell is an all-star, Bain should be one, and
the rest of the line has promise. It's a really, really young
group; Sewell and Bain have to stay healthy.
Projected Starters: The biggest question on the defense is
whether or not Sean Fobbs can adequately replace leading tackler
and pass rushing star, Brion Stokes. Fobbs, a 6-1, 215-pound sophomore,
got a little bit of work in eight games making ten tackles, is a safety
playing strongside linebacker, and while he has the speed to be a pass
rusher, he has to prove he can hold up against the run.
Back in the middle for a third straight year is All-MAC star Kevin
Grant after finishing third on the team with 74 tackles with nine
tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 245 pounds, he's the team's biggest
presence and is a sure tackler. Not only does he have 238 career
tackles, but he's also a fantastic pass rusher. The key is staying
healthy, which he wasn't able to do last year. He's a physical player
who'll make plenty of big stops.
Returning to the Bandit position is 6-2, 235-pound senior Doug
Williams, a former defensive end who made 64 tackles, two sacks, and
six tackles for loss. With great range and excellent athleticism, he has
the ability to make plays all over the field and could do far more to
generate pressure in the backfield. He's one of the team's captains.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 205-pound true
freshman Aaron Williams might be undersized, but he was still a
big recruit for the Zips last year. He didn't enroll until this
off-season and turned into a promising player in spring ball behind
Fobbs on the strongside. With fantastic quickness, the former high
school running back, as well as a linebacker, should grow into a role.
Working behind Grant in the middle will be 6-1, 240-pound senior Ray
Siler, a big body who has yet to see much of the field. While he has
the size, and he's been around the system long enough to know what he's
doing, there's a huge, huge drop off if he has to become a
Able to play any of the
three positions is 6-1, 235-pound junior Al-Teric Balaam, a good-looking
defender who missed last year but should be a key
reserve behind Williams, or wherever he's needed. With
his size, he should be a nice option against the run,
while he has good enough quickness to handle himself in
Watch Out For ... Williams. He had a nice season
after taking over the starting role, but he wasn't
special and he didn't make enough big plays in the
backfield. He has the talent to do far, far more and
become a dangerous all-around force.
Strength: Grant. He gets lost in the shuffle with so many good
middle linebackers in the MAC, but he's as good against
the run as anyone in the league. There are few veterans
better to revolve a defense around.
Weakness: Depth. There's promise among several of the prospect
like Williams and Matt Little, but going into the fall
there's a massive drop-off from the ones to the twos.
That's always the case on every team, but it's a bit
more pronounced on the Zips.
Outlook: Grant and Williams are excellent
playmakers who'll clean up everything the line doesn't
get to. The key will be Fobbs, who has good potential
but has some major shoes to fill. It would be nice if
there was more done in pass coverage, but that's not
really this group's job.
Projected Starters: In one of the most interesting moves
of the off-season, leading rusher and All-MAC kick
returner Bryan Williams moved from running back
to strong safety to replace Chevin Pace. The 6-0,
200-pounder has the speed and athleticism, but he'll
have to prove he can become a big hitter. If the spring
game was any indication, he'll be a star.
With Andre Jones moving from free safety to receiver,
it'll be up to 6-1, 190-pound sophomore Jalil Carter
to grow into a role after making six tackles, mostly
on special teams. Speed is hardly a problem for the
former Ohio high school track star, and if he can be
consistent and can be nearly as good as Jones was
against the pass, the pass defense will be fine.
6-2, 195-pound junior Wayne Cobham was a
part-time starter last season making 48 stops with a
broken up pass at the Rover position. Far better against
the run than he is against the pass, even at his
smallish size, he should be a good hitter who'll grow
into more of a role now that he has the full-time job.
Corners Reggie Corner and Davanzo Tate have to be
replaced after great senior seasons. Getting the first
look at Corner's spot will be senior Miguel Graham
after making just six tackles as a reserve. Not all that
big at 5-9 and 160 pounds, he'll have to rely on his
tremendous speed and quickness, along with his
experience as a top JUCO player.
Stepping in for Tate will be 5-11, 175-pound senior
Brandon Anderson, a versatile all-around playmaker
who has seen time at both safety spots and might have
finally found a home at corner. Staying healthy has been
a problem, but he's productive when he's on the field
making 17 stops with a sack last season. A phenomenal
athlete, he's at his natural position.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 196-pound junior
Amin Kabir was originally considered a smallish
linebacker prospect, but now he'll have to star as one
of the team's most experienced backups in the secondary.
It's not like he has seen a ton of time, making just
five tackles in eight appearances, but he's a
hard-hitting, physical player who's great on special
With so many gaping holes in the secondary, the chances
will be there for several of the new recruits to shine
right away. Akron signed eight possible defensive backs
this off-season with JUCO transfer Kevin Funches,
a lightning fast corner option, able to see time right
away. He's one of the team's fastest players, while 6-4,
196-pound Will Fleming, the son of defensive
coordinator, Jim Fleming, could see immediate action at
Watch Out For ... Williams. The experiment
appeared to work as the star running back is a natural
defensive back. He showed off the speed, hitting ability
and instincts this off-season to become an all-star.
Strength: Speed. There's plenty of quickness with all five
projected starters able to move well. Plenty of mistakes
should be made up for by speed and athleticism.
Weakness: Experience. There isn't much. With Andre Jones moving
to receiver, the secondary is all but starting from
scratch. Forget about any developed depth.
Outlook: The coaching staff knows how to train a
secondary, it's been fantastic over the last few years
at putting together excellent pass defenses, but it'll
have to do some serious work on this group. The
secondary isn't exactly starting from scratch, but it's
close, and there will be big, big problems if there are
any major injuries. The safeties should be fine, but
it's asking a lot for Graham and Anderson to be Tate and
Projected Starters: The placekicking was supposed to be a
problem, and then sophomore Igor Iveljic solved it by nailing 15
of 18 field goals including a 51-yard bomb against Connecticut. He was
consistent, showed excellent range, and got better as the season went
on. He should be a major weapon as the coaching staff will allow him to
use his big leg more.
The punting game needs more out of junior John Stec, who
struggled over his first two years and averaged just 37.5 yards per boot
last year. On the plus side, he put it inside the 20 16 times and forced
19 fair catches.
Bryan Williams is one of the nation's elite kick returners
averaging 31.9 yards per try last year, while Andre Jones
averaged a whopping 14.5 yards per punt return.
Watch Out For ... Iveljic to get more
opportunities from deep. It wasn't until he nailed the 51-yarder against
UConn that he started getting more regular work from longer distances.
Now there won't be any fear of bombing away from 40 yards and more.
Strength: The return game. A major weakness turned into a major
strength in one year. Jones and Williams could be the best return tandem
in the country.
Weakness: Punting and kickoff coverage. Stec needs to get more
blast on his kicks, while the coverage team has to allow far less than
22.4 yards per kickoff.
Outlook: The Zip special teams were a nightmare in
2006 and wasn't expected to do anything last year, and then it turned
into something special. If the punting game can be a bit more prolific,
and if the coverage teams can tighten up, Akron will have a big strength
against just about everyone.