2008 UL Monroe Preview - Defense
ULM S Greg James
ULM S Greg James

Posted Apr 30, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Louisiana-Monroe Warhawk Defense

UL Monroe Warhawks

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 UL Monroe Preview | 2008 ULM Offense Preview  
- 2008 ULM Defense Preview | 2008 ULM Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN UL Monroe Preview | 2006 CFN UL Monroe Preview 

What you need to know:
Major strides were made last year, and this could turn out to be the Sun Belt's best defense if two productive corners can be found. The addition of key JUCO transfers, especially tackles Alex Ford and Aaron Williams, will be a big boost for what was the league's top run defense. There are too many good linebackers to get on the field at the same time in the 4-2-5 scheme, so there will be a good rotation at one spot to go along with top-tackler Cardia Jackson. ULM is beyond loaded at safety getting all-star-to-be Josh Thompson back from a chest injury that knocked him out early last year, while Greg James and James Truxillo are top playmakers. The key will be getting to the quarterback meaning ends Alaric Coleman and Aaron Morgan need to be steady pass rushers to help out the green corners.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Cardia Jackson, 79
Sacks: Alaric Coleman, 3.5
Interceptions: Greg James, 5

Star of the defense: Junior LB Cardia Jackson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman CB Nate Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Alex Ford
Best pro prospect: Ford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) S Josh Thompson, 3) S Greg James
Strength of the defense: Safety, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Cornerback, consistent pass rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The call went out to generate more pressure on the quarterback, and the ends came through ... a little bit. Junior Alaric Coleman had a breakout season making 45 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a team-leading 11 tackles for loss flashing excellent quickness as he grew into the full-time role. At 6-3 and 250 pounds he has the bulk to hold up against the run, and now he has to use his experience, athleticism and size to be a more consistent pass rusher.

Returning on the other side is 6-5, 215-pound Aaron Morgan after making 34 tackles, three sacks and eight tackles for loss. He came up with a team-leading five quarterback hurries and was extremely close to come up with several big plays. While he looks like a large wide receiver, he's physical enough to not be erased by the stronger tackles. He's a pass rusher who needs to double his sack total while being a regular in the backfield. Talent-wise, he's on the verge of becoming an All-Sun Belt star.

Ready to make an instant impact is top recruit Alex Ford, a 6-1, 310-pound junior who'll be a major factor against the run after coming in from Pearl River CC where he combined with Thomas Robinson to form one of the nation's best JUCO tackle combinations. He was a major get for the program with Alabama and Kansas State pushing hard to get him. He could quickly turn into the star on the inside.

The real issue on the line will be at nose tackle where All-Sun Belt performer David Cooper has to be replaced. It'll take several players to do it with junior Aaron Williams getting the first look. At 6-0 and 300 pounds, he's a bowling ball of an anchor with the strength to hold up after coming in from the JUCO ranks

Projected Top Reserves: There will be a regular rotation at both tackle spots, especially on the nose. Aaron Williams might have the most experience, but that doesn't mean redshirt freshman Brandon McCray and junior Thomas Robinson are out of the hunt for the starting job. The 278-pound McCray was a star high school offensive lineman, but he saw time on both sides of the ball. He has the quickness to be a dangerous interior pass rusher, while the 6-0, 285-pound Robinson should be ready to shine after coming over from Pearl River CC. He's a tough interior presence who should be great in the rotation.

6-2, 305-pound Kendall Mouton is a good starting tackle who had to fight to get an extra year of eligibility. He could be starting again, but he'll mostly be part of a rotation. While he's very big and has 12 games of starting experience after coming over from the JUCO ranks, he has to do far more against the run and has to use his big body to clog thing up. He had a good year making 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, but he can do far more.

Also pushing for time inside will be the three-man combination of Alex Ford, Aaron Moore and DeMarcus Carmouche. The 293-pound Carmouche, a senior has been a decent reserve, but the senior hasn't lived up to his potential. He has the size, the quickness and the strength, but he only has 22 tackles in his last two seasons.

Moore is a 5-10, 275-pound junior who has the body type and the base to be tough to move. Leverage isn't a problem.

On the end, senior Travis Eickman, at 6-3, 230 pounds, is a smaller, quick option behind Coleman. He has the speed and the potential to be a regular pass rusher, but he's not Coleman. At the very least he's a good backup making 19 tackles and two tackles for loss last season.

Junior Jameson Jordan has been a regular in the rotation over the last few years making 25 tackles as a freshman and 14 last year. He looks like a pass rusher, he has 6-5, 235-pound size to do more against the run, and he has experience, but he hasn't been able to break out.

Watch Out For ... Alex Ford. The JUCO superstar will probably push veteran Kendall Mouton aside at tackle. Ford is the real deal and could instantly upgrade an already good run defense.
Strength: Experience. Not only are there productive starters coming back, but there are a slew of backup options. There's way too much depth to not be far, far better in all phases, especially on the inside.
Hanging out in the backfield. Considering the beef and talent in the middle and the speed and quickness on the outside, there's no reason the Warhawks should only generate 61 tackles for loss again. There should be more sacks, and there probably will be, but in the Sun Belt against all the good running teams, dropping runners behind the line is a must.
Outlook: There hasn't been a pass rush in a few years, but that should change with Alaric Coleman and Aaron Morgan two veterans with the potential to combine for double-digit sacks. The strength will be on the inside with a tremendous rotation of big options who'll make the Sun Belt's best run defense better. The tackle situation was fine before, and now it's fantastic with the addition of JUCO transfers Alex Ford and Thomas Robinson.
Rating: 5


Projected Starters: Junior Cardia Jackson has been a playmaker from day one coming up with a team-leading 79 tackles last season after making 58 as a freshman. A 6-2, 228-pound guided missile, he was terrific against the run and started to do more to get into the backfield with nine tackles for loss. An All-Sun Belt performer, he'll be the team leader on the inside again and the one the run defense funnels into.

Junior Josh Thomas is more like a safety at 6-1 and 195 pounds, but he's physical enough to be a regular at one of the linebacker spots. The former walk-on was fourth on the team with 61 tackles and five tackles for loss, and while he proved to be more than just a special teamer, at his size he needs to be part of a rotation. 

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 250-pound redshirt freshman Ken Dorsey was a top recruit last year and was expected to make a huge impact right away, but he suffered a broken leg after making six tackles and a tackle for loss in the season opener against Tulsa. He has the speed to be a pass rusher and the size to potentially push Josh Thomas out of a starting spot.

Sophomore Theo Smith was one of the team's top recruits two years ago, and while he's not big at 5-11 and 200 pounds, he has excellent speed and was fantastic in his first season making 29 tackles as a key reserve. He has the talent to eventually grow into a big-time playmaker in the backfield as well as against the run, but at his size he might not be an every down defender.

6-1, 200-pound senior Jeremy Moll was supposed to be a key starter last season, but he only made eight tackles in eight games. While he has experience, he has to stay healthy and he has to find a niche with the expected emergence of Dorsey as a star.

Watch Out For ... Dorsey and Moll. The linebacking corps got the most attention in the 2007 recruiting class, and Moll came through with a nice season while Dorsey looked like a potential star before breaking his leg. Those two might be backups early on, but that could quickly change.
Strength: Options. With the defense only using two true linebackers in the 4-2-5 scheme, building depth isn't a problem. ULM has five good linebacker options and could go to a true 4-3 if it wants to. Considering there isn't a lot of size, having a steady rotation is a must.
Bulk. Dorsey is 250 pounds and Cardia Jackson is 228, but the linebackers are mostly safety sized. Considering the secondary is asked to make several plays against the run, a little more size would be nice out of whatever linebacking twosome is on the field.
Outlook: If Ken Dorsey and Theo Smith progress as expected, the linebacking corps will be one of the team's strengths. Jackson is an all-star who'll lead the team in tackles, and be a fringe candidate for Sun Belt Player of the Year, while Josh Thomas is a good, but limited veteran.
Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The defense should immediately be better in the back seven with the return of junior Josh Thompson after missing most of last season with a pectoral injury suffered in the third game of the year. Even in his limited time he made 22 tackles and was well on his way to an All-Sun Belt season. The 6-2, 215-pound Rover has tremendous range and big-time hitting ability, but most importantly, he's the leader of the secondary.

Also returning as safety is 6-1, 195-pound junior Greg James after finishing second on the team with 77 tackles and tied for the team lead with five interceptions. With the speed of a corner, he could move if absolutely needed, but he's too effective at safety to not use his range and tackling ability to change spots. He's terrific when the ball is in the air.

ULM uses a third safety with James Truxillo likely to get the first chance at the job. A starter at Rover last year when Josh Thompson went out, the junior finished third on the team with 68 tackles, two interceptions and three tackles for loss. While he might not have the range or hitting ability of other Warhawk defensive backs, he has good size at 6-1 and 190 pounds and decent enough skills to put up big numbers.

There will be an on-going battle at corner, but 5-10, 175-pound redshirt freshman Nate Brown appears to be a lock at one spot. The former wide receiver has has the speed and he should be able to come up with his share of picks, but it might take a while before he can prove to be a lock-down No. 1 cover corner.

Is Tay Ogletree ready to start at corner? The former running back is lightning-fast and isn't going to be run past by any Sun Belt receiver, but he's green and will be picked on from the start. Along with the speed is excellent 6-0, 195-pound size, so if the team can live through the growing pains, it should have a good playmaker for the next three years. 

Projected Top Reserves: Combining with Tay Ogletree at the weak corner spot is JUCO transfer Otis Stamps, a
5-10, 175-pound pure athlete who could quickly become the No. 1 corner the team desperately needs. The junior was an all-star at Hinds CC and is a great ball-hawker, but he needs to establish himself right away.

Working with James Truxillo at the third safety spot will be sophomore Troy Giddens, a 6-0, 210-pound speedster with the talent and experience to play corner if needed. Originally an LSU Tiger, he could've gone anywhere but ended up having to go the JUCO route before joining ULM. He has 4.32 speed and good open-field tackling ability.

Looking to find time somewhere is senior Chance Payne, who could be used more like an extra linebacker than a safety. The former quarterback is 6-2 and 230 pounds, and now he's a decent backup making 14 tackles and an interception last year.

Watch Out For ... the safeties to help out the corners. Considering all the concerns on the outside, putting Troy Giddens' next-level wheels at corner or even giving Greg James time against top receivers might have to be done at some point.
Strength: Safeties. The Warhawks are loaded with talented safeties and will have to find a way to get them all on the field. James, Giddens, James Truxillo, and the now-healthy Josh Thompson all have to play.
Corners. Speed isn't an issue, but polish will be. Nate Brown, Tay Ogletree and Otis Stamps will have problems early on. They're just not seasoned.
Outlook: Last year, corner was a plus and safety was an issue. This season it's the other way around thanks to the return of Josh Thompson from injury at Rover and the expected emergence of Troy Giddens as a major factor. There's speed everywhere and everyone can tackle, but there needs to be more production against the more efficient passing teams. This was the Sun Belt's worst pass defense last year allowing 261 yards per game. There's no excuse for that in a league that has trouble throwing the ball.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: In a major surprise, junior punter Scott Love took over for Kevin Payne and made the situation better. ULM led the Sun Belt, and was 19th in the nation, in punting netting 37.51 yards per kick and Love averaging 42.1 yards with a whopping 23 kicks put inside the 20. He has a big leg and was terrifically accurate.

Placekicking will be in the spotlight with Cole Wilson, who hit ten of 15 attempts, gone. Redshirt freshman Radi Jabour, who missed his one attempt from 53 yards, will take over. He has a gigantic leg, but he has to be consistent inside the 40.

The return game could use some punch overall, but the main returners are strong. RB Frank Goodin average 22 yards per kickoff return, and Darrell McNeal averaged 7.8 yards per punt return.

Watch Out For ... Jabour to hit some big shots. He might not have the best field goal percentage, but he'll blast away for a few long bombs.
Strength: Love. A tremendous find, he was better than ULM could've ever asked for after a miserable 2007 spring session. He has the potential to be a Ray Guy Award finalist before he's done.
Kickoff coverage. ULM can't give up 23.3 yards per kickoff return again. With a blaster like Jabour, there should be more touchbacks.
Outlook: The key will be consistency on short range field goals. The return game will be decent, Love is a special punter, and the coverage units have the speed to be better. All eyes will be on Jabour. He'll be the difference one way or another in at least two Sun Belt games.
Rating: 6


Related Stories
2008 UL Monroe Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 30, 2008
2008 ULM Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 30, 2008
2008 UL Monroe Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 30, 2008

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