2008 UL Monroe Preview - Defense
ULM S Greg James
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Louisiana-Monroe Warhawk Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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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.
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
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
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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
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
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.
Weakness: 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.
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
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. ULM can't give up 23.3 yards per
kickoff return again. With a blaster like Jabour, there should be more
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.