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2008 Bowling Green Preview - Defense
Bowling Green LB Erique Dozier
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Bowling Green Falcon Defense
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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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Vrvillo. He's a weapon who can be counted
on on any kick from inside 50 yards. He has the leg to start hitting
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.
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
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.
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.