2008 Kent State Preview - Defense
Kent State LB Derek Burrell
Kent State LB Derek Burrell
Posted Apr 28, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Kent State Golden Flash Defense

Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2008 - Defense

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

What you need to know: The defense wasn't quite the killer it was in 2006, but it was above average and was fantastic at getting into the backfield. Expect more of the same with great pass rushers on the end, led by Kevin Hogan, and the linebacking corps could be fantastic with hitting machine Derek Burrell leading the way along with good run stoppers Stevon Moss and Cedrick Maxwell. The secondary is young, with four sophomores playing big roles, but everyone can hit and CB Rico Murray is special.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Derek Burrell, 112
Sacks: Kevin Hogan, 5
Interceptions: Brian Lainhart, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Derek Burrell
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior NT Sam Frist
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Will Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Rico Murray
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Burrell, 2) Murray, 3) DE Kevin Hogan
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, tackling defensive backs
Weakness of the defense:
Steady run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: One of the defense's biggest losses is tackle Colin Ferrell, who made 56 tackles and five sacks as one of the MAC's premier interior pass rushers. 6-0, 280-pound junior Aaron Hull will get his chance as a full-time starter after getting the call in three games last year on the nose. A bowling ball of a defender with good quickness, he made 17 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.

Getting the call on the nose in place of Larry Brown will be junior Sam Frist, who at 6-4 and 269 pounds is over 30 pounds lighter than Brown but is promising. Set back by a knee injury a few years ago, he returned to make 12 tackles and a sack. Athletic enough to play on the end if needed, he'll use his quickness on the inside to try to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but he has to prove he can hold up against the run.

Junior Kevin Hogan has the talent and potential to thrive at the Buck position, sort of a hybrid of an end and an outside linebacker, and he built on a great freshman season with 56 tackles, five sacks and 16 tackles for loss as one of the team's top pass rushers. At 6-3 and 233 pounds, he's built like a linebacker and uses his quick first step to be a disruptive force in a variety of ways. He'll be turned loose even more this season.

6-3, 246-pound Senior David Filippi has been a decent reserve making 19 tackles and three tackles for loss after coming up with ten stops as a sophomore. He has a great motor and he'll get into the backfield from time to time on sheer want-to, but he hasn't been able to produce on a regular basis yet. Now he'll get his chance to shine with more starting work on the outside.

Projected Top Reserves: If senior Darrius Carter isn't the starter on the end, he'll be off the bench in a real hurry. The 6-5, 245-pound former JUCO transfer made 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his first season, and with his quickness and burst off the ball, he needs to be more of a consistent pass rusher.

Senior Prishod Koonce brings more bulk to the nose measuring in over 25 pounds heavier than Sam Frist. He was a promising inside defender before suffering a knee injury, but he spent time in the weight room and got bigger. However, he only got on the field in four games and made two tackles.

Working with Kevin Hogan at the Buck position will once again be sophomore Monte Simmons, who made 19 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role. He got two starts at the end of his true freshman season and showed tremendous promise. the 6-3, 220-pounder is a speed rusher who could be a dominator in the backfield with more playing time. He should be an All-MAC stat producer before his career is over.

Needing to play a big role inside is 6-3, 316-pound freshman Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, who's very raw but has something the line desperately needs: beef. At 6-3 and 316 pounds, he's a run-stuffer who could see time behind Aaron Hull right away on short-yardage plays.

Watch Out For ... Monte Simmons and Darrius Carter. Kevin Hogan is one of the MAC's best pass rushers, but Carter, a senior, is due to break out and Simmons is about to blow up. These have too much quickness to not be hitting quarterbacks on a regular basis.
Strength: Making plays in the backfield. The Golden Flashes led the league, and were 19th in the nation, in tackles for loss with 87 on the season. There could stand to be more sacks, but there's plenty of pressure. Expect more this year.
Bulk on the inside. Aaron Hull has beefed up, but he's still a puffed up 280 pounds. Prishod Koonce and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen have to have a role right away against the power running teams.
Outlook: Losing Colin Ferrell on the inside will be a problem, but there's enough experience and enough talent to be one of the league's best lines. Big O lines that can pound should have some success, but the big-stodgy ones will have a major problem with all the KSU quickness. The D plays a 4-3 that can be a 3-4 depending on what the Buck position does, but wherever Kevin Hogan and Monte Simmons line up, they'll produce.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: The defense will revolve around 6-2, 240-pound senior Derek Burrell after a 112-tackle, five tackle for loss season. He's a big hitter for a weakside defender, and while he doesn't do much against the pass, he's a major run stopper who's terrific at getting in on every play. While he's not a pass rusher, he could be used as more of one with his experience and quickness. Bigger than some of KSU's defensive ends, he could by used as a hybrid defender and put close to the line at times.

Senior Stevon Moss has been a fixture in the middle for the last few seasons making 171 career tackles with 57 coming last year despite missing the first four games. While he didn't do much to get into the backfield last year, he was solid against the pass picking off a pass against Northern Illinois and coming up with three broken up passes. Beefing up to 230 pounds on a 5-11 frame, he was able to handle himself better on the inside and should once again be a steady producer.

With Jameson Kunz moving to tight end, 5-10, 220-pound Cedrick Maxwell will take over on the strongside after making 74 tackles in the middle and on the weakside. While he's not huge, he's a big hitter who's fantastic at getting to the ball and doesn't make too many mistakes. He has 24 career starts and 31 games played under his belt showing his versatility playing in all three spots.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 239-pound junior Anthony Mirando played a key backup role finishing with 22 tackles. He didn't do much of anything against the pass, but he's a playmaker who isn't a bad hitter on the weakside behind Derek Burrell. He's built big enough to move to the strongside if needed.

6-1, 230-pound Cobrani Mixon is a talent in the middle who was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago. He would've been off to a bigger program out of high school, but he had a torn ACL, which he played through. He'll have a hard time getting too much time playing behind Stevon Moss, but he'll be a tackling machine whenever he's on the field.

Watch Out For ... Anthony Mirando and Cobrani Mixon. The starting linebacking corps is all but set, but there will be a place on the field for the team's two key backups. Mixon will eventually be a star in the middle and Mirando should put up big stats when he gets on the field.
Strength: Tackling. Derek Burrell doesn't miss a stop, while Stevon Moss and Cedrick Maxwell are top playmakers. These three have been around long enough to form one of the MAC's best linebacking corps.
Overall play against the pass. That's the secondary's job. The linebackers are there to make plays against the run and shake things up in the backfield, but it would be nice if the outside linebackers could do more in pass coverage.
Outlook: Even with the Buck position being more of a defensive end than a linebacker, this is a great group with experience, size, and big-hitting ability. Derek Burrell has been a major factor over the last few years and is almost certain to hit the 100-tackle mark. Cedrick Maxwell and Stevon Moss, who's now healthy, will also combine for over 150 stops. There's depth and talent waiting in the wings.
Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Step one is trying to replace speedy corner Jack Williams, who was second on the team with 93 tackles and led the way with three interceptions. Junior Kirk Belgrave will now step in and be a regular starter making 24 tackles and two broken up passes in a backup role. Phenomenally athletic with 6-1, 197-pound size, he should be a steady tackler. The key will be his play when the ball is in the air; he needs to start picking off passes.

On the other side will be 6-0, 196-pound senior Rico Murray, who has started 21 games over the course of his career seeing time at both safety and corner. A great tackler, he finished third on the team with 75 stops and led the way with nine broken up passes. He has it all; size, speed, and safety strength. Jack Williams might have been the star of the secondary last year, and now it should be Murray as he's expected to once again be one of the team's steadiest players.

6-2, 200-pound sophomore Dan Hartman
was one of the stars of spring ball last year and came through with a nice years making 35 tackles in a part-time role. He'll take over at strong safety for Fritz Jacques and he should be one of the team's bigger hitters now that he has a full-time job. A good athlete, he could play free safety if needed.

Will Johnson got four starts as a true freshman and finished with 27 tackles and two tackles for loss even though he missed a little time with a concussion. The sophomore has good 6-0, 200-pound size and excellent speed, but his real strength is his tackling ability. He didn't miss much of anything in high school and showed great potential last season. Now he should shine with an expanded role at free safety, but he needs to prove he can make plays against the pass. If nothing else, he's going to hit like a ton of bricks.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Brian Lainhart was the starter for most of last year finishing fifth on the team with 63 tackles and two interceptions with three broken up passes, but he had problems with neck and shoulder injuries and missed a little bit of time late in the year. The big question was whether or not he could be consistent tackler and he answered that with a big yet. Good against the pass, he's a good strong safety who'll combine with Dan Hartman in the rotation.

Junior Greg Keys was supposed to be one of the team's star rushing options early last year but was moved to his more natural safety spot after injuries hit the secondary. At 6-1 and 215 pounds with tremendous speed, he didn't see any time after getting just two carries. He has the skills and athleticism to be a major player behind Will Johnson at free safety.

Junior Danny Sadler is a serviceable corner who made 31 tackles as a reserve. He's not a great pass defender, but he can be a spot starter if needed and be a decent second corner. He's not a No. 1 coverman by any stretch, but he's a great backup for both corner spots.

Waiting in the wings is top recruit Josh Pleasant who was an absolute steal for the Golden Flashes. A 5-10, 185-pound speed corner who could see time as a kick returner, he's a good tackler  who could also be used on offense from time to time. He's a major-league athlete who needs to get into the mix sooner than later.

Watch Out For ... the strong safety combination. Dan Hartman and Brian Lainhart might each be good enough get on the field at the same time, and at the very least they should each be fresh in a nice rotation.
Strength: Tackling. The entire secondary can pop and all four spots will come up with the tackle as the last line of defense against the run. The safeties can blow up receivers, and the corners are big enough to be physical.
Interceptions. Jack Williams came up with three of the team's nine picks. The rest of the secondary didn't do much to take it away, and for a team that needs positive momentum, especially on offense, the defense has to be more active at attacking the ball when it's in the air.
Outlook: There was a drop-off after a sensational 2006, but it's not like the secondary was too bad considering there were a ton of injuries and plenty of young players getting their feet wet. There's no replacing Jack Williams, but Rico Murray is a great corner who should be a star and the sophomore safeties should grow into special defenders over the next few years.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Nate Reed has turned into a major weapon hitting 18 of 24 kicks showing off a great leg with a 52-yard bomb against Central Michigan. He struggled a little bit with his consistency missing five field goals inside the 40, but he was 5-of-6 from beyond 40 with the one miss coming from 48.

The punting game was among the worst in America finishing second-to-last with a net average of 30.54 yards per kick. Junior Jake Kilroy averaged 36.6 yards per boot, and while he didn't show off that much of a leg, he put 15 inside the 20 and forced 17 fair catches. This is his third year as the punter, and he'll do more of the same.

A punt returner needs to be found to replace the mediocre Jon Drager while more is needed from an average kickoff return game from Derek McBryde and Alan Vanderink.

Watch Out For ... Reed to get more chances. He had too many mid-range misses overall, but most of them came in the Central Michigan loss. Even so, he's too good and has too much of a leg to not get more deep shots.
Strength: Reed and kickoff returns. Reed's deep leg is a godsend for an offense that doesn't have much of a passing game, while Alan Vanderink averaged 22.3 yards per kickoff return last season.
Punting average and punt returns. Considering KSU is a running team and field position is a must, the punting game can't average 30.54 yards per kick again and more than 5.96 yards per punt return is a must.
Outlook: There are plenty of veterans returning, but the special teams were among the worst in America for the second year in a row and needs far more pop in the return game and more than just good placement from punter Jake Kilroy. Fortunately, PK Nate Reed is one of the team's biggest plusses.