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2008 Fresno State Preview - Defense
Fresno State LB Ben Jacobs
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Fresno State Bulldog Defense
Preview 2008 -
2008 CFN Fresno
- 2008 Fresno
State Depth Chart
2007 CFN Fresno State Preview
2006 CFN Fresno
What you need to know:
The defense came up with a solid bounceback season after a
lousy 2006, and while there's a slew of experienced players
returning, it's not going to be a vastly improved group
after losing star LB Marcus Riley and DE Tyler Clutts.
Getting into the backfield won't be a problem with good
quickness and pass rushing production from all four spots up
front, but the secondary has to do more to pick off passes
after coming up with just three of the team's four
interceptions. The linebackers have the potential to be
strong with Ben Jacobs a rising star in the middle and good
athleticism on the outside.
Tackles: Ben Jacobs,
Jon Monga, 6.5
Interceptions: A.J. Jefferson, Jake Jorde, Moses Harris, 1
Star of the defense: Senior DT Jon Monga
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Chris Carter
Best pro prospect: Monga
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Monga, 2) LB Ben
Jacobs, 3) SS Moses Harris
Strength of the defense: Experience, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Interceptions, run defense
Projected Starters: The line was fantastic at getting to the
quarterback last year, and now, with Tyler Clutts gone, it'll be up to
6-3, 245-pound senior Ikenna Ike to become a force after missing
the second half of last year with a wrist injury. Very quick with a nice
upside, the former walk-on made 21 tackles and a sack before getting
hurt, and now he has to prove he can be consistent in the backfield and
that he can stay healthy. He suffered a knee injury two years ago.
Back on the other side is 6-5, 265-pound junior Wilson Ramos
after making 27 tackles, three sacks, and seven tackles for loss. Big
for an end, he's good against the run and was reliable over the second
half of the year on the other side of Clutts. He's a natural pass rusher
who needs to come up with a breakout year.
6-2, 280-pound senior Jon Monga was one of the few linemen able
to stay on the field for a full season. Very strong and very tough, he
was good against the run making 30 tackles, but his real strength was
getting into the backfield from the inside with 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles
Taking over on the nose is 6-3, 285-pound sophomore Cornell Banks,
a good backup who got a start for Charles Tolbert against Hawaii and
finished with 23 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. While not huge, he's
strong enough to be a rock for the line for the next three years and
quick enough to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Michael Stuart
was originally a tight end, but the former USC Trojan will work in a
rotation on the end, likely behind Ike. The 6-3, 245-pounder can move
and should be a natural pass rusher.
One of the high risers this spring was 6-2, 220-pound sophomore Chris
Carter, a good, quick end who should put up huge sack and
tackle-for-loss totals. He made 15 tackles and two tackles for loss as a
true freshman, but as the team's fastest lineman, he should be
tremendous with a bit more time.
6-3, 245-pound sophomore Kenny Borg will get every chance to win
a starting job at one end. A top recruit last year, he's always working
and always active making nine tackles and 2.5 sacks as a reserve.
The tackle depth is thin, so 6-4, 290-pound sophomore Mark Roberts
has to play a huge role after making seven tackles and a sack. Not
really a nose tackle, he'll try to work into the rotation behind Monga
on the inside.
Watch Out For ... The two transfers. Along with
Stuart, the former tight end from USC, the line welcomes in former Miami
Hurricane Chris Lewis, an undersized tackle who should add even
more to the interior pass rush. These two might not be stars, but
they'll provide interesting, quality depth.
Strength: Pass rush. Even without Tyler Clutts,
the line should have few problems getting into the backfield with
quickness at all four spots. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, this
group should do even more after helping the D register 36 sacks.
Weakness: Tackle depth. There isn't much, so if
something happens to Banks or Monga, the team will have to quickly
scramble for bodies to form a rotation.
Outlook: Arguably the strength of the defense last
year, the line was terrific at getting into the backfield but got shoved
around way too often against the run. Expect more of the same as the
revamped front four will hit plenty of quarterbacks, but will likely
allow more than 175 rushing yards per game. The starting foursome should
be excellent, and while there's depth on the ends, the tackles could be
Projected Starters: The biggest shoes to fill will be at one
outside linebacker spot where WAC Defensive Player of the Year Marcus
Riley and his 132 tackles and 15 tackles for loss has to be replaced.
Sophomore Nick Bates is only 6-1 and 210 pounds, but the former
defensive back has good speed and decent upside after making 19 tackles,
two sack and 4.5 tackles for loss as a true freshman. He's a good
athlete and a strong pass rusher, but he might be at his best in a
Back in the middle is 6-3, 225-pound sophomore Ben Jacobs after
he finished second on the team with 81 tackles, two sacks and six
tackles for loss. He was supposed to be nothing more than a promising
reserve, but he showed off too much speed and too much talent to keep
off the field. While he won't fill Riley's lost production, Jacobs will
be the leader of the corps.
Also returning to a starting spot will be junior Quaadir Brown, a
6-2, 215-pound speedster who came to Fresno State as a defensive back
prospect before finding a home at outside linebacker. A good, sound
veteran, he made 51 tackles and a sack with three tackles for loss, but
with his experience he needs to start doing more in pass coverage. He
has a few problems against the power running teams, but he can fly.
Projected Top Reserves: Looking to get back
healthy from a torn ACL is 6-2, 215-pound junior Ryan Machado
after making seven tackles in the first three games. Fortunately, it
happened early enough that he should be ready to find a spot on the
outside by the start of the season, but the former walk-on needs to get
his defensive back range back.
Starting out in the middle,
but likely to see most of his time on the strongside, is
senior Ryan McKinley. At 6-2 and 225 pounts, he
brings more size to the outside, but he's limited making
just six tackles in six games of work. A decent athlete,
staying healthy has been his problem.
Able to work inside or out, 6-3, 240-pound sophomore
Nico Harron brings more size behind, possibly, Brown at
one outside spot even though he'll likely spend most of his
time in the middle. He made two tackles in a reserve role,
but after a strong spring he could be one of the breakout
players among the reserves.
Watch Out For ... Jacobs to blossom into a superstar.
He was overshadowed by Riley's tremendous season, but this
will be the year Jacobs takes over as the signature star of
the linebacking corps. He'll be in on every tackle.
Strength: Experience. Even after losing Riley, the
corps is more experienced with Machado coming back healthy
(at least that's the hope) along with several other decent
Weakness: Run defense. The line didn't exactly
help the cause, but even with great years from Riley and
Jacobs the linebacking corps struggled against the better
running teams. There were hits and tackles, but too many of
them came five yards down the field.
Outlook: The smallish linebacking corps full of
defensive backs, and Jacobs, will be effective, but can it
be consistent? It didn't do enough against the pass and
struggled to come up with stops against the better running
teams. It's not a stretch to call this the team's
make-or-break unit. If this group is great, the defense will
Projected Starters: Step one is hoping for junior Damion
Owens to be the type of shut-down corner who can take
away everyone's number one target. He had a nice first
season as a starter, at least after he took over in the
fourth game of the year, making 42 tackles with an
interception and four tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 185
pounds he has good size to go along with tremendous
athleticism. He has the skills.
On the other side will be senior Sharrod Davis, a
former JUCO transfer who came in and made 16 tackles with
four broken up passes and two tackles for loss as a key
reserve. The former Oregon Duck has nice size at 6-0 and 185
pounds and great speed. Used mostly on kickoff returns at
Oregon, he'll now need to grow into a ball-hawking playmaker
on the other side of Owens.
Junior Marvin Haynes is back at free safety after
finishing third on the team with 65 tackles with 2.5
tackles for loss. While he has the 6-1, 205-pound size and
great range, he was mediocre against the pass. He needs to
come up with more big plays and do more than be strong
against the run. Basically, he played like a strong safety
at the free safety spot.
Returning to his spot at strong safety is fifth-leading
tackler Moses Harris, a 6-1, 200-pound junior who is
one of the team's speedier defensive backs. After making 62
tackles and an interception, with five broken up passes, and
with two years of starting experience under his belt. He's
expected to take the next step up in his production and
become a legitimate pro prospect.
Projected Top Reserves: Is A.J. Jefferson
ready to be more than a kickoff returner? An All-America
return man who averaged 35.8 yards per try last season with
two touchdowns, the 6-1, 190-pound junior has tremendous
wheels and the type of athleticism that should translate
well at corner. While he made 37 tackles and broke up three
passes, he can do more. He has the potential to be great.
Working behind Harris at strong safety will be 6-1,
195-pound senior veteran Jake Jorde, a former wide
receiver who made 23 tackles and a pick. Fast like a corner,
and built more like one, he'll work again on special teams
and occasionally as a nickel and dime defender.
Providing more depth at corner is 6-0, 195-pound senior
Will Harding, a serviceable backup who made 17 tackles
and a sack with two broken up passes. The former JUCO
transfer made the transition from running back to corner,
and he'll be good enough to step in and play an even bigger
role this year.
Watch Out For ... Harris to grow into more of a
leader. He has been around long enough to know what he's
doing, and with his combination of skills and experience, he
should grow into a star for the back seven.
Strength: Experience. With three returning
starters and Davis having played at the JUCO level, this is
a veteran group that should be more productive as long as
everyone stays healthy.
Weakness: Interceptions. This has been a major
issue for the last few years as the secondary picked off
three passes in 2006 and a mere three of the team's four
interceptions last year. There's too much experience,
athleticism and talent to not force more turnovers.
Outlook: On sheer athleticism, the Bulldogs should
be decent, but they haven't been a rock against the better
passing games. By comparison, Fresno's secondary was better
than most in the WAC, but there weren't enough picks and not
enough stops. The teams that could throw the ball had few
problems doing. This will be a good secondary, but even with
potential all-stars like Harris and Haynes, it's not likely
to be special.
Projected Starters: The special teams took an about-face after a
lousy 2006 with a tremendous season. Gone is PK Clint Stitser after a
nice career, and while he had good range and a big leg, so does redshirt
freshman Kevin Goessling. After a decent spring, the left-footer
appears to be a more than adequate replacement.
The punting game was fine, but nothing special as Kyle Zimmerman
averaged 39.7 yards per kick with 21 put inside the 20. Sophomore
Robert Malone got in two kicks averaging 36 yards per try putting
both inside the 20. He won't have to air it out, but he'll need to be
The return game is special. A.J. Jefferson averaged
a whopping 35.8 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns
on his way to an All-America season. Junior Marlon Moore
will handle most of the punt return duties from Clifton
Smith, who averaged 14.4 yards per try. Moore got two
chances and ran one for 17 yards and one for -1. He'll be
Watch Out For ... Goessling. Stitser nailed a
52-yarder last year and 10 of 14 kicks from beyond 40 yards.
Goessling doesn't have to be that good, but he should be
solid from mid-to-short range, while hitting a 50+ yarder of
his own once in a while.
Strength: Jefferson. He'll be a marked man this
year, but he'll still be a weapon who'll bring the fans to
their feet every time he touches the ball.
Weakness: Punting. The coverage team was mediocre
allowing 12.1 yards per try, while Zimmerman was merely
average. Malone might not be a big upgrade. The punting game
will be fine, but nothing special.
Outlook: The special teams took a big, positive
step forward last season and now they should be solid if the
kicking game doesn't fall off. It's asking a lot of
Goessling to be Stitser, and it's asking even more of
Jefferson to do that again, but thhis won't be the
weakness it was two years ago.