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2008 Ball State Preview - Defense
Ball State DE Brandon Crawford
Ball State DE Brandon Crawford
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 18, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Ball State Cardinal Defense

Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 Ball State Preview | 2008 Ball State Offense
- 2008 Ball State Defense | 2008 Ball State Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Ball State Preview | 2006 CFN Ball State Preview 

What you need to know:
The defense wasn't anything special, allowing 432 yards and 28.3 points per game, but it was better than it had been over the previous three years. Now, any production to help out the high-octane offense will be a plus. There's enough experience returning to improve, but there needs to be more production against the run. The coaching staff will do what it can to get more of a pass rush and make more plays in the backfield, but taking the ball away shouldn't be too much of a problem after coming up with 19 interceptions last year and getting three starters in the secondary back. LB Bryant Haines is a strong all-around playmaker to work around, while end Brandon Crawford should make a push for first-team All-MAC honors.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Bryant Haines, 125
Sacks: Brandon Crawford, 8
Interceptions: B.J. Hill & Trey Lewis, 5

Star of the defense: Senior LB Bryant Haines
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Drew Duffin
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Davyd Jones
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Brandon Crawford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Haines, 2) Crawford, 3) CB B.J. Hill
Strength of the defense: Back seven experience, Takeaways
Weakness of the defense:
Pass defense, run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Overall, the defense has to generate more pressure, but that isn't a problem for junior Brandon Crawford, who's coming off a 60-tackles, eight sack, 17-tackle-for-loss season. He bulked up to a large 260 pounds on a 6-3 frame, but he didn't lose his quickness. Originally projected to be an outside linebacker, he has a tremendous first step and is great at closing on the quarterback.

Working on the other side will be sophomore Justin Woodard, a 6-3, 222-pound linebacker who should add more speed to the end. used in only three games last year, he made six tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. He needs to shine with all the attention paid to Crawford.

Looking to stuff things up on the inside is junior Drew Duffin after making 32 tackles and three tackles for loss in a backup role. Woefully undersized at 6-3 and 255 pounds, his worth will be as an interior pass rusher. Able to play on the end or on the inside, he'll be moved around where needed.

Working on the nose will be 5-11, 271-pound sophomore Rene Perry. A spot-starter who got the call in three games mid-season, he did a decent job making 12 tackles in his four games. Now he has to be be the anchor for the rest of the line to work around, and while he has the strength, he need more experience.


Projected Top Reserves: With Duffin's size, there needs to be a steady rotation at tackle. Unfortunately, 6-2, 256-pound senior Gonzalo Barinaga doesn't bring much more bulk. He's a veteran former linebacker who made ten tackles and a sack, but he'll have to prove he can hold up against the run.

6-3, 224-pound sophomore Robert Eddins was thrown in the mix for a few games at end making four tackles and a tackle for loss in two games, and now he'll work behind Woodard. A pass rushing specialist, he should eventually be a disruptive force.

Watch Out For ... more attention to getting into the backfield. This was an issue on a consistent basis last year, and while the coaching staff will bring more pressure from a variety of spots, it's up to the line, as a whole, to do more.
Strength
:
Crawford. The 31-year-old Marine is a big, talented all-around playmaker for the rest of the line to revolve around. With all the attention paid to him, everyone else needs to come through.
Weakness
:
Run defense. This has been a major problem for a few years and will be a big issue once again. While the goal will be to come up with more plays in the backfield to stop things before they start, too many good running teams will destroy the undersized interior.
Outlook: The line will get into the backfield by design a bit more, but the run defense will continue to struggle. This is a smallish, inexperienced group that'll be a problem early on. It needs to be able to do one thing well, and that'll likely be generating pressure. However, it'll have to come at a price; the run D could be even worse after allowing 204 yards per game.
Rating: 4.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: 6-5, 223-pound senior Bryant Haines stepped up on the weakside and led the team with 125 tackles with an interception and nine tackles for loss. He showed a great flash last spring and he more than came through as one of the team's few defensive playmakers, and now he should make even more big plays. With his size and aggressiveness, he'll be a regular in opposing backfields again.

Also returning to a starting spot is senior Kenny Meeks on the strongside making 39 tackles with four sacks and six tackles for loss. Mostly a special teamer before last year, he's great when sent into the backfield and isn't bad in pass coverage. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he's a big presence who needs to be better against the run.

Is Wendell Brown going to be healthy and ready to roll? The 6-0, 214-pound senior finished second on the team in tackles two years ago with 86, and he was going to be the leader of the 2007 linebacking corps when he tore a pectoral muscle working out. After missing the whole season, he'll have to work his way back into a starting role, but he's a big hitter in the middle and could see time on the strongside if needed.


Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Brown is sophomore Davyd Jones, one of the stars of spring ball. At only 6-1 and 200 pounds, he's woefully undersized, but he's tough, and he can move. He made 23 tackles in a limited role, but he has the quickness to be all over the field.

Lorren Womack was almost thrown into the mix as a true freshman, but he ended up redshirting. The 6-0, 221-pounder has decent size on the weakside and should grow into a big-time hitter behind Haines. He was one of the stars of last year's recruiting class, and he's almost certain to be a major factor when he gets to step into a starting job next season.

Watch Out For ... Jones. He showed this spring that he's ready to work anywhere in the linebacking corps and even played well enough to keep a healthy Brown out of the starting lineup. Jones will play somewhere.
Strength
:
Experience on the outside. Getting Brown back in the mix should make a huge difference inside, even if he's the backup, while Meeks and Haines are long-time vets working on the outside. Now there has to be more ...
Weakness
:
Production. This group of vets haven't been able to stop the run in a few years. The need to tackle better, be able to get into the backfield ... something.
Outlook: The stats will look good and Haines is a talent, but the experience has to translate into more stops. The defensive front has to do its part, but the threesome in the linebacking corps has to clean up more messes. The call has gone out to get them into the backfield more, too, so there should be more form Haines when it comes to getting to the quarterback.
Rating: 5


Defensive Backs


Projected Starters: There are good pieces to work around with the corner tandem of Trey Lewis and B.J. Hill potentially among the best in the MAC.

Hill, a 5-7, 180-pound senior, is a former running back who ran for 257 yards and three touchdowns in 2006, and then came through with a big season last year finishing fourth on the team with 77 tackles to go along with five interceptions and six tackles for loss. While he's not a big hitter, he's a sure tackler, tremendously quick, and shows a good nose for the ball. Now he has to do a better job in coverage, but with a year of experience under his belt, he should shine.

Lewis is a 6-0, 190-pound senior who made 59 tackles, led the team with six broken up passes, and tied with Hill with five interceptions. He has to be more consistent against the top-shelf receivers, but the former free safety can hit and can make plays when the ball is in the air.

Also returning is 6-0, 194-pound junior strong safety Alex Knipp, who's coming off an 82-tackle, four interception season. One of the surprises of last year, the former high school running back was a good reserve and blossomed as the last line of defense against the run. He plays bigger than his size.

The one newcomer to the starting mix is sophomore Derrick Henry who'll take over for Eddie Burk at free safety. The 6-1, 189-pound Henry saw a little time making 19 tackles, but he didn't do anything in pass coverage. He has the range and the athleticism, and now he needs the experience.


Projected Top Reserves: A spot starter, getting the nod against Western Kentucky at corner and Navy at free safety, is veteran Trey Buice, a 5-10, 175-pound senior who finished fifth on the team in tackles despite playing a backup role. Versatile enough to play almost anywhere in the secondary, and serve as a nickel back, he made 64 tackles with two interceptions and four tackles for loss. He'll start out behind Lewis once his banged up shoulder heals.


5-11, 183-pound sophomore Brandon Carnegie saw a little bit of time as a true freshman making ten tackles in four games of work. Very smart and very athletic, he'll be a starter somewhere in the secondary at some point this year. He's the cousin of former Biletnikoff winner and former Pitt Panther, Antonio Bryant.


Watch Out For ... a constant battle for the free safety spot. Henry will be good enough to handle the work, but Buice, once he's healthy, will look for playing time. If nothing else there will be a strong rotation.
Strength
:
Interceptions. The Cardinals picked off 19 passes with Hill, Knipp and Lewis combining for 14 of them. This group might give up a ton of big plays, but it'll also come up with some big stops of its own.
Weakness
:
Defending the pass. This has been a major issue for a few years. This was the worst secondary in the MAC two years ago and while it improved by leaps and bounds last year stat-wise, allowing 228 yards per game, it got picked apart by anyone who could throw and it did nothing against the efficient passers. The Cardinals finished 90th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.  
Outlook: Teams were able to run the ball so easily on the Cardinal front seven that they often didn't have time to throw. After struggling for a few years, now the secondary has to come through with plenty of veteran starters, decent depth on the corners, and lots of upside among the rest of the backups. Depth at safety will be a big issue early on, unless Buice moves over from corner, and this will never be a brick wall of a pass D, but it should be a bit better.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior punter Chris Miller might be the best in America. A 6-2, 211-pound bomber, he followed up a 46.3-yard-per-kick season by averaging 45.4 yards per kick while putting 23 inside the 20. He's a weapon who can blast the team out of any situation and is great at pinning teams deep.

There will be a battle for the placekicker job between sophomores Jake Hogue and
Ian McGarvey. Hogue hit 11 of 19 kicks but struggled from midrange, while McGarvey nailed seven of nine field goals bit missed two mid-range kicks. McGarvey has the better deep led, but Hogue can bang it around 45 yards.

Dante Love is a solid kickoff returner averaging 22.9 yards per try, while B.J. Hill is a serviceable punt returner averaging 9.7 yards per attempt.

Watch Out For ... more from the return game. A weakness became a plus as the Cardinals finished third in the MAC in punt returns and fourth in kickoff returns. Now Love and Hill, two of the team's most explosive players, should be able to do more.
Strength
:
Miller. While he puts too many kicks in the end zone, he's an elite talent who might be the team's best pro prospect. He has a big leg and has been a major playmaker for the last few seasons.
Weakness
:
Punt returns. Miller sometimes outkicks his coverage, but often times he doesn't get enough help. The coverage team allowed 11.5 yards per return, and if Miller can hang it up a bit more, that has to go down.
Outlook: If the placekicking situation can be settled, and if there can be a bit more consistency from 30 to 39 yards, the special teams should be among the best in the MAC. Miller is a superstar, Hill and Love are solid, and the placekickers, even with their flaws, combined to hit 18 of 28 field goals.
Rating:
8.5

  

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2008 CFN Ball State Preview
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