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2008 Bowling Green Preview - Defense
Bowling Green LB Erique Dozier
Bowling Green LB Erique Dozier
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 18, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Bowling Green Falcon Defense

Bowling Green Falcons

Preview 200
8 - Defense

- 2008 Bowling Green Preview | 2008 BGSU Offense
- 2008 BGSU Defense | 2008 BGSU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Bowling Green Preview | 2006 CFN Bowling Green Preview 

What you need to know:
Just when the defense appeared to be getting strong, then came the GMAC Bowl loss to Tulsa to set the tone for the off-season. The veteran group, with nine returning starters, came out roaring this spring led by DE Diyral Briggs, who appears to be ready to become a terror in the backfield. Erique Dozier is a tackling machine in the middle, while safety P.J. Mahone and corners Antonio Smith and Kenny Lewis star in a good secondary. The key will be a run defense that got run over by everyone. The pass defense will be fine helped by an improved pass rush, but it won't matter if opposing offenses keep pounding away for over 200 yards per game.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Erique Dozier, 112
Sacks: Diyral Briggs, 5
Interceptions: P.J. Mahone, 7

Star of the defense: Senior DE Diyral Briggs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LB Jerett Sanderson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NG Nick Torresso
Best pro prospect: Briggs
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Briggs, 2) LB Erique Dozier, 3) S P.J. Mahone
Strength of the defense: Experience, cornerbacks
Weakness of the defense: Tackles, run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Senior end Diyral Briggs has always been good, but now he appears ready to take his game to a whole other level. The 6-4, 230-pound pass rusher made 54 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for loss last year, and he appears to be just scratching the surface on his potential. He was the team's dominant player this spring, especially in the spring game, destroying the new starting tackles. A tremendous athlete, he should be in opposing backfields on a regular basis.

The only new starter up front is at the other end. 6-3, 235-pound sophomore Angelo Magnone started the season opener against Minnesota last season but spent the rest of the year as a backup finishing with 30 tackles and three sacks. He was a strong pass rushing specialist who was good at pressuring the quarterback. Now with all the attention paid to Briggs, Magnone should be able to close better and come up with more sacks.

The biggest option for the middle is 6-3, 290-pound sophomore Nick Torresso, a promising option on the nose with a little bit of experience making 16 tackles in eight games. He's a tough player who should be able to maul most average centers.

Moving over from end to tackle is 6-3, 260-pound junior Jacob Hardwick, who made 35 tackles and 4.5 sacks with 6.5 tackles for loss. More of a run stopper than a pure pass rusher, he should be a more active presence on the inside, even if he's a bit undersized and will be pushed around a bit by bigger linemen. 

Projected Top Reserves: While there's no pushing Briggs for a spot at one end, 6-3, 218-pound senior speedster Adrian Baker will see his share of time after starting five times on the right side and finishing with 24 tackles and two sacks with six tackles for loss. While he's built more like a big safety, he has the toughness to handle himself well against the run.

Working behind Magnone will be 6-4, 259-pound senior Joe Schaefer, a career reserve who started three games and finished the year with 19 tackles and a sack. He has a good motor, but he's not much of a consistent pass rusher.

Working behind Hardwick at tackle, and adding a few more pounds to the mix, will be 6-3, 270-pound junior Michael Ream, a decent backup who only played in seven games started the final three. Strong enough to play on the nose, he's better suited for tackle after making 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Somewhere in the mix will eventually be senior Nick Davis, one of last year's better prospects who overcame injury to making eight tackles in four games before being lost for the year with a knee injury.

Watch Out For ... Briggs to go from great to unreal. He's in a salary drive now and could be a mid-range NFL draft pick as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. If he can explode and become a double-digit pass rusher, he'll be getting paid to play next year.
Strength:
Pass rush. After a disappointing season overall getting to the quarterback, things should crank back up again. Briggs will do his part, and with Hardwick moving to the inside, there should be a good push into the backfield from all four spots.
Weakness
:
Run defense. This group got shoved around all over the place by anyone who tried to run giving up 238 yards pr more in six of the last eight games. The tackles have to hold up better.
Outlook: There's excellent depth, good experience, and nice potential. With a star in Briggs to work around, the line dominated throughout spring ball, but that was partly because the O line had issues. Now this group has to be a plus, especially against the run, and it has to do more to get into the backfield.
Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: At 6-0 and 221 pounds, senior Erique Dozier isn't exactly an intimidating presence in the middle, but he's been one of the MAC's best tacklers for the last two years. He followed up a 98 stop season by leading the Falcons with 112 tackles with 1.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss with two interceptions. He's an active all-around playmaker with tremendous range and good instincts in pass coverage. Now he has to do even more to make play against the run at the point of attack rather than five yards down the field.

Looking to come back from a foot injury is senior John Hanline on the weakside. At 6-2 and 231 pounds, he's big for the position and tremendously productive making 96 tackles before getting knocked out for the year with four games to go. He doesn't do enough against the pass, and he could stand to get into the backfield more, but he's a rock-solid veteran who won't make many mistakes.

Moving over to the strongside is former safety Jerett Sanderson, a 6-0, 189-pound hitter who made 34 tackles in just seven games as the starting strong safety before getting hurt. A fantastic athlete who could play either safety position, he's better suited for the weakside than the strongside, and he'll have to prove he can hold up against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Dozier in the middle will be 6-3, 238-pound junior Cody Basler, a bigger option on the inside. He made 30 tackles as a good reserve, and he could move to the strongside if needed. He's a tough tackler who can get into the backfield on designed plays.

6-2, 197-pound junior Aaron Davis made ten tackles last season as a reserve and will now play a bigger role on the strongside behind Sanderson. Even though he's a tremendous athlete, he hasn't been able to fit as a defensive back and will try to make more big plays closer to the line.

Watch Out For ... Sanderson as a linebacker. The coaching staff has always tried to put undersized safeties at linebacker, with mixed results. Sanderson isn't big, but he's just tough enough to potentially become a major all-around factor.
Strength:
Tackling. There aren't enough big stops made, and there have been problems against power running teams and spread attacks, but the corps does a halfway decent job of not allowing runners to get to another level. Dozier and Haneline make the stops, but often after decent gains.
Weakness
:
Size. This is partly by design when there are defensive backs playing strongside linebacker, but Dozier isn't exactly a big player. Haneline and Basler have decent size, but that's about it. Of course, there aren't many big linebacking corps in the MAC.
Outlook: While this won't be the most physical group around, it'll do what it can to fly to the ball and gang up on tackles. Having Dozier to clean everything up in the middle, and with Haneline back on the outside, there's a good base to start with. Now the group has to do better at making big stops against the run and being more disruptive overall.
Rating: 5.5


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Junior P.J. Mahone was moved from linebacker to defensive back with excellent results finishing as a second-team All-MAC star. The 5-11, 201-pound safety finished third on the team with 90 tackles and a team leading seven interceptions for a whopping 220 yards. A huge-hitter who plays even bigger than his size, he's an intimidating force who should be the tone-setter for the veteran secondary.

Joining Mahone at safety is junior Jahmal Brown, a 5-10, 192-pound veteran who followed up a 59-tackle season by finishing fifth on the team with 83 tackles and four broken up passes. He doesn't do enough against the pass, but he's good against the run and is tougher than his size.

The corners should be solid led by 5-10, 180-pound senior Antonio Smith, who earned All-MAC honors, after making 80 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up passes. Extremely quick, he's the number one cover man who's always around the ball. He's the big play defensive back of the bunch.

Also returning on the other side is 5-11, 185-pound senior Kenny Lewis, who led the team with four interceptions, and made 70 tackles, as a breakout player of 2006, and then he came through with a nice 61-stop, one interception season with ten broken up passes. He deserved all-star honors for forcing five fumbles and recovered three. He's a big hitting corner who beats up receivers and makes great plays on the ball.

Projected Top Reserves: While the starting corners are set, junior Roger Williams and Tarell Lewis are back and will once again see plenty of action. Williams is a former running back with excellent quickness making ten tackles playing behind Kenny Lewis. Tarell Lewis was excellent in reserve making 32 tackles as a freshman and made 14 stops last year. He's one of the team's faster defensive backs, but he has to be better in pass coverage.

Senior Giovanni Fillari is a big body who'll work behind Mahone. At 6-3 and 216 pounds, he's bigger than most of the team's linebackers and needs to be a big presence against the run.

Watch Out For ...the secondary to start taking more chances. this was a good group overall last year, but it had to play a little bit conservatively at times to help out against a porous front seven. With the improvement up front, the veteran defensive backs can work more on pass defense.
Strength:
Experience. All four starters return, there's good depth at corner, and everyone knows what to do. There are two all-stars in Mahone and Smith, and there in Lewis who should earn all-star honors.
Weakness
:
Safety depth. A few of the linebackers can always move over to safety to help the cause, but there's nothing to count on after Mahone and Brown. Don't expect much of a rotation.
Outlook: The pass defense numbers look solid because everyone spent so much time pounding away on the awful run defense, but when passing teams wanted to throw, like Tulsa and Boston College, they did it without much of a problem. This is a very experienced, very good tackling crew that will be a strength against the run, will shut down the mediocre passing games, and will get lit up like a Christmas tree by the good ones.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The kicking game was among the worst in the country two years ago, and then JUCO transfer Sinisa Vrvillo came in and nailed 15 of 19 field goals, with all four misses coming from beyond 40 yards, and went 47 of 47 on extra points. He has a good leg and doesn't miss inside the 40.

The punting game, the second-worst in the nation two years ago, improved to 103rd in the nation. Junior Nick Iovinelli, a former JUCO transfer, doesn't have a big leg, and while he put 12 inside the 20, he wasn't good at helping out the field position.

The punt return game went from bad to worse averaging a pathetic 5.95 yards per try. CB Antonio Smith will try to add more pop taking over for Zach Charles. The kickoff returns weren't horrible with Roger Williams averaging 24.5 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Vrvillo. He made a bad situation a strength overnight. Now he'll be in the hunt for All-America and Lou Groza honors if he can hit just a few more deep shots.
Strength:
Vrvillo. He's a weapon who can be counted on on any kick from inside 50 yards. He has the leg to start hitting more bombs.
Weakness
:
Everything about the punting game. Iovinelli has to start averaging more than 40 yards per punt, while the return game has to start doing more than 5.9 yards per try.
Outlook:  While there are still several big problems, like the punting game, the punt returns, and the mediocre kickoff returns, the special teams are far better than 2006 when they were the worst in the nation. Vrvillo is a special kicker who'll be the difference in at least one game.
Rating: 6