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2008 Louisiana-Lafayette Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 30, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajun Defense

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Preview 2008
- Defense

- 2008 CFN Louisiana-Lafayette Preview | 2008 ULL Offense
- 2008 ULL Defense | 2008 ULL Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN UL Lafayette Preview | 2006 CFN UL Lafayette Preview 

What you need to know:
Defensive coordinator Kevin Fouqueir's group had a disastrous 2007 as the run defense went from one of the best in the Sun Belt to one of the worst in America despite the emergence of a good linebacking corps. Almost the entire line and secondary need to be replaced, there's no proven pass rush to count on, and the defensive backs are woefully undersized and a bit green. On the plus side, Antwyne Zanders, Brenton Burkhalter and Grant Fleming form one of the league's best linebacking corps, and there's a good second team to fill in when needed. There have to be more takeaways, more third down stops and more production overall from a D that allowed 447 yards and 36 points per game. Improvement might be hard to come by with so much turnover.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Antwyne Zanders, 93
Sacks: Several with 1
Interceptions: Gerren Blount, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Antwyne Zanders
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Seth Adams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Orkeys Auriene
Best pro prospect: Auriene
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Zanders, 2) LB Grant Fleming, 3)
LB Brenton Burkhalter
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Size, defensive line, run defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Step one on the line is to find two new starting defensive ends, and junior Hall Davis and sophomore Terrell Richardson will get the first looks. The 6-4, 214-pound Davis is built like a big safety and is extremely quick. Now he has to start producing after making 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in a limited reserve role. A smart player with too much speed for most tackles, he'll get his shot to jump-start his career. He's been around for a while, but he was out his first year with an ankle injury.

Richardson has decent size at 6-5 and 235 pounds, but he's still not huge and will need to prove he can hold up against the run. A decent pass rusher with a sack to go along with 18 tackles as a true freshman, he's a bright prospect who should be a fixture on the line for the next three years.

6-3, 283-pound junior LaQuincy Williams is back on the inside after starting 11 games last season. A quick tackle, he has the ability to be a factor in the backfield but it hasn't happened yet with just two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss to go along with 25 tackles. With so much turnover on the line, Williams has to grow into more of a factor.

Senior Seth Adams is one of the bigger options up front at 6-4 and 288 pounds. A reserve over the course of his career, it's his job to be a full-time producer on the inside after making just five tackles last year. He's been around the defense long enough to finally become a factor.


Projected Top Reserves: Certain to be a major player in the end rotation is 6-5, 237-pound sophomore Jeremy Cook. While he's not quite the prospect Terrell Richardson is, he made six tackles and a tackle for loss in a little bit of time as a freshman and dominated in spring ball with seven stops and two sacks in the spring game.

Sophomore Sharrick Moore isn't big option for the inside, but the 6-2, 253-pound tackle has the quickness to grow into a dangerous interior pass rusher. He didn't get on the field too often as a freshman and made four tackles with a tackle for loss, and now he'll play behind Seth Adams.

Ready to become more of a playmaker is 6-2, 223-pound junior Chris Lanaux after making eight tackles and a sack as a reserve. He might not have too much experience, but he's a smart player who needs to establish himself early on behind Hall Davis.

Watch Out For ... a major rotation on the ends. Lanaux and Cook have to play big roles right from the start behind Hall David and Terrell Richardson or it could be a long year for the defense. There has to be a steady pass rush from somewhere.
Strength: Quickness. The jury is out on how good the line will be, but everyone can move. The line has to use it's relative athleticism to get into the backfield more often.
Weakness
:
Stopping the run. The nightmare of last season could continue with big changes in and out. If tackles Seth Adams and LaQuincy Williams aren't productive or get hurt, there will be big, big problems with little in the way of size behind them.
Outlook: Easily one of the team's biggest disappointments in 2007, the line was awful throughout despite returning a slew of decent veterans. Now it'll be up to defensive coordinator Kevin Fouquier and assistant Gerald Broussard to pick up the pieces with former line coach Shawn Quinn gone, but there's not much to work with. Almost all the sack production from last year's line is gone, and the tackles don't project to be anything special. The hope is for the front four to become a pleasant surprise, but it might not be.
Rating: 4

Linebackers

Projected Starters: All three starters return to the linebacking corps led by leading tackler Antwyne Zanders, a 6-0, 212-pound guided missile who made 93 tackles, a sack and seven tackles for loss. Not only was he the team's top tackler, he had 21 more than anyone else. While he's not big and has had problems in the past with academic eligibility, he's going to be the team's leader and should be the team's most consistent performers at his spot on the outside. Technically a senior, he'll be back for another season in 2009 if he can get to class.

The team's number two tackler last year was sophomore Grant Fleming, who came up with a surprise first season making 71 tackles with a tackle for loss. More like a safety at 6-3 and 210 pounds, he earned All-Sun Belt honors last season as a freshman and showed the potential to become a killer weakside producer. He's great against the pass along with being able to hold tough against the run.

The outside linebackers are the stars, but 6-0, 223-pound Brenton Burkhalter is a nice veteran in the middle. He's had a hard time making it through an entire season healthy, but he's productive when he's on the field finishing third on the team with 65 tackles and two tackles for loss. Extremely consistent, he'll be a big hitter inside and will led Fleming and Zanders shine.

Projected Top Reserves: If the linebacking corps wasn't small enough, in comes 5-11, 195-pound sophomore Daylon McCoy after making 36 tackles and an interception as a safety. Extremely fast, he'll be turned loose as a pass rusher and all-around playmaker behind Antwyne Sanders at one of the outside spots.

6-2, 252-pound sophomore Fred Davis brings some desperately needed size to the mix. He didn't play football until his senior year in high school and is still trying to figure out how to become a middle linebacker, but he was able to product when he got a chance making 35 tackles and a sack in a reserve role.

Needing to turn into a viable option right away is redshirt freshman Richard Brooks, a 6-1, 205-pound speedster who's built to be a top weakside defender behind Grant Fleming. He was a good recruit for the program two years ago and he should be a talented upgrade to the corps once he gets his feet wet.

Watch Out For ... this to be the strength of the defense by far. Not only is there the most experience and the most talent, but the potential is there for the stats to go through the roof with all the problems on the defensive front.
Strength: Veterans. The three starters return with Zanders, Burkhalter and Fleming combining to make 229 tackles. Davis and McCoy have seen enough time on the field to be considered good backups from day one.
Weakness
:
Size. This isn't just a small corps, it's safety-sized. There's a little bit of bulk in the middle, but the outside linebackers will get flattened by anyone power running team. Everyone's tough, but there just isn't enough size.
Outlook: There's experience, quickness, and a whole ton of returning production to what could be the Sun Belt's best linebacking corps. Zanders and Fleming are tackling machines, while Burkhalter is a nice veteran in the middle. If the backups can provide a bit of a burst with their speed and with 252-pound Davis in the middle, there will be a better rotation than last year.
Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The secondary lost three starters with junior free safety Gerren Blount the only one returning; and he's a question mark due to academic issues. The 5-10, 179 pounder has excellent speed and is a good hitter making 51 tackles while leading the team for the second year in a row with three interceptions.

Senior Derik Keyes will step in at strong safety after making 18 tackles and two tackles for loss as a reserve. While he's an undersized 5-10 and 192 pounds, he has good hitting ability and has been around the program long enough to know what he's doing. The problem could be injuries. He wasn't able to stay healthy two years ago, and at his size and with the way he throws his body around, he might not last the season.

Taking over one corner spot will by sophomore Orkeys Auriene after coming in out of the blue to make 27 tackles and an interception with four broken up passes as a key reserve. He's a rail-thin 5-11 and 165 pounds, but he's a playmaker who should be a consistent force when the ball is in the air.

Stepping in on the right side will be a combination of players led by 6-1, 185-pound senior Justin Branden. The backup played in just six games last season after transferring over from Pearl River CC where he helped lead the team to the 2005 JUCO National Championship. He has the size to be a physical coverman, but he has to be consistent against the speed receivers.

Projected Top Reserves: Technically, junior Phillip Nevels is the starting free safety, but that might not last once the season starts. With Gerren Blount out in spring ball to work on going to class, Nevels, a former wide receiver who was third on the team with 16 catches for 67 yards, took advantage of the opportunity and showed he could handle the work. Bigger than Blount, at 5-10 and 190 pounds, and with excellent speed, he should be a factor in some way this year, and yes, he could even be the starter after opening day.

The fastest of the ULL defensive backs is junior Junior Jean, who used his 4.45 speed in just five games last season making four tackles. He'll combine with Justin Branden at right corner, but he has too much speed to keep off the field for too long.

6-2, 179-pound sophomore Maurice Rolle is a great hitter with the range of a corner, but he was set back this off-season thanks to a shoulder problem. He came up with a nice first season making 19 tackles as a backup, and now he'll push for time in the free safety rotation.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to quickly find a way to get Blount on the field once he's eligible. Nevels might turn out to be the starting free safety after all, but it Blount is eligible, he'll play.
Strength: Surprising depth. For a team that lost three starters and might make the fourth a backup, this is a surprisingly deep group with several options at each spot. The second-stringers are just young enough to make an impression for next year, and just experienced enough to step in at any time.
Weakness
:
Defending the short pass. The Ragin' Cajuns got picked apart way too easily allowing opposing passers to complete 63% of their throws. Part of that was by design, but when the run defense isn't doing much of anything, there needed to be more production from the defensive backfield.
Outlook: The gameplan will stay the same as it has over the last few years: give up underneath passes, don't get beaten deep, and try to come up with the one big stop when needed. It didn't work last year as the defense rarely came up with that big stop and were miserable on third downs. There's promise in the secondary this year even with three starters gone, but the corners have to come up with more big plays and the undersized safeties have to improve the position despite being far less experienced than last year's tandem.
Rating: 4

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Drew Edmiston is one of the nation's better field goal kickers nailing 21 of 27 over the last two seasons. He didn't get much of a chance to show it last year, but he has a decent deep leg hitting all seven of his attempts from beyond 40 yards two years ago. However, he slipped last season only connecting on one of four attempts from beyond the 40. Even so, he's one of the team's best weapons.

The punting game is a different story after averaging a lousy 32.28 yards per kick last season. Sophomore Spencer Ortego put 12 inside the 20 and forced eight fair catches, but he didn't show a lot of blast on his kicks and he got no help whatsoever from his coverage unit.

The returning game was abysmal. Orkeys Auriene will step in to try to save a punt return team that average 5.7 yards per try, while the kick returners averaged 19.3 yards per attempt. Deon Wallace and Jason Chery will get their chances to improve.


Watch Out For ... more from the return game. It's been so bad over the last few years and the plan is to place more emphasis on improving it this fall. It needs a lot of work.
Strength: Edmiston. For a team that needs every point it can get to keep up in shootouts, Edmiston can't be forgotten about. He needs more than 13 field goal attempts.
Weakness
:
Everything other than Edmiston. The kick coverage team was fine and Edmiston is an All-Sun Belt performer. Everything else about the special teams has been awful and needs a big improvement.
Outlook: The kicking game should be fine. Edmiston is a star and Ortego can pin teams deep even if he can't blast it. Now the coverage teams and the return units have to be far better. ULL's special teams can't be among the worst in the Sun Belt again.
Rating:
4.5