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2008 Miami University Preview - Defense
Miami LB Joey Hudson
Miami LB Joey Hudson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 2, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Miami (OH) Redhawk Defense

Miami RedHawks

Preview 2008 - Defense


- 2008 CFN Miami Preview | 2008 Miami Offense
- 2008 Miami Defense | 2008 Miami Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Miami Preview | 2006 CFN Miami Preview 

What you need to know: If this isn't the MAC's best defense, it'll be a close second with almost everyone returning. Nine regular starters and two with starting experience are back led by the dynamic linebacking trio of Clayton Mullins, Joey Hudson and Caleb Bostic. Mullins is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year while Hudson and Bostic could be first-team all-stars. The defensive line has size and is great at getting into the backfield, but it needs to be a bit tighter against the run. The safety tandem of Robbie Wilson and Jordan Gafford is excellent, while the corners are just good enough to keep the MU pass defense among the best in the league. The big key will be stopping the spread offense, which it didn't do last year against Minnesota, Cincinnati or Central Michigan.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Clayton Mullins, 143
Sacks: Joe Coniglio, 6.5
Interceptions: Joey Hudson, Jeff Thompson, Robbie Wilson, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Clayton Mullins
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior NT Martin Channels
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Sean Redwine
Best pro prospect: Senior SS Robbie Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mullins, 2) Wilson, 3) LB Caleb Bostic
Strength of the defense: Overall experience, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, picking off passes

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The tackles were the concern last year but they came through fine. 6-0, 320-pound junior Martin Channels has tremendous size on the inside, and while he's used mainly to clog things up so everyone else can shine, he made several plays himself with two sack and 5.5 tackles for loss to go along with 22 tackles. With his size he'll be a force to deal with once again on the nose.

Next to Channels will once again be 6-4, 274-pound sophomore Sean Redwine after making 21 tackles and a sack as a backup who got two starts in the middle of the year. The former tight end is more of a big, athletic end than a true tackle, but he's physical. While he'll be part of a rotation, he'll be the main man from the start and should be a dangerous threat to consistently get into the backfield.

Senior Joe Coniglio returns to his end spot after earning all-star honors with 40 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Tackle-strong in a 6-2, 253-pound frame, he's a great all-around defender who upped his game big time after a mediocre sophomore season. The former linebacker has a burst off the ball and will be the one everyone has to gameplan for.

The other end spot is going to be open, but 6-4, 261-pound junior Travis Craven started eight games last year and had some strong moments with with 21 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. While not just a pass rushing specialist, he has the best skills and the most potential to grow into a consistent presence in the backfield. With all the attention paid to Coniglio, Craven will have plenty of chances to shine.

Projected Top Reserves: Able to provide even more bulk on the inside is 6-0, 335-pound sophomore Alex Stewart, who bulked up in a big way over the last year and can play either tackle spot. He has a little bit of starting time getting the call four times last season on the nose making 21 tackles and a sack, and now he'll start out playing behind Redwine at left tackle.

Working on the nose behind Martin Channels will be 6-3, 272-pound junior Mark Paun, who filled in from time to time and finished with three tackles in a limited role. With good quickness he should be an occasional factor in the backfield even though his job will be to hold up in the middle.

Able to see time at either end spot is sophomore Jordan Stevens, a promising all-around defender who made 22 tackles and two sacks. At 6-4 and 258 pounds, he's a big player against the run with just enough athleticism to be a good pass rusher from time to time.

Looking to make more of an impact on the end is 6-2, 239-pound sophomore Morris Council after making ten tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in his spare time in the rotation. A speed rusher, he'll be the understudy behind Coniglio before likely taking over the starting spot next year.

Watch Out For ... the sophomores. This is a veteran line with three returning starters, and although the top backups are second year players, they have a little bit of playing time. Stevens and Council could start without much of a hiccup, while Stewart is a promising tackle who could be the one the line revolves around in the near future.
Strength: Pass rush. An issue two years ago, it's now the biggest strength after generating 32 sacks. The linebackers had something to do with it, but the attacking play of all four line spots, led by Coniglio on the end, was strong. This year's line should be even better at getting into the backfield.
Weakness
:
Consistent run defense. Overall the was good on paper against the run, but against teams that could move on the ground, especially those with a spread attack like Central Michigan and Minnesota, it got blown by.
Outlook: The line was night-and-day better after a disastrous 2006 with the pass rush helping set the tone for the entire defense and the interior much stronger than it had been in years. Now the line has the potential to be dominant with three starters returning, a fourth with starting experience, and plenty of good backups. It's a big enough front four to be stronger against the run, while there's enough athleticism on the outside to form one of the MAC's most fearsome pass rushes.
Rating: 6


Linebackers

Projected Starters: The Miami linebacking corps is loaded, and senior Clayton Mullins is the best of the all-star trio. The reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year made a whopping 143 tackles with four sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss from his spot on the weakside after making 91 stops two years ago. Even though he bulked up over the last few years, going from a 209-pound prospect to a tight, quick 241-pound playmaker, he has gotten even better against the pass breaking up six last season. The ultimate student, he's never out of position and he's always doing something to make plays.

Even though senior Joey Hudson suffered a knee injury early on, he gutted it out finishing third on the team with 99 tackles. All over the place in the middle, he was terrific against the run and managed to come up with two sacks, eight tackles for loss and two interceptions. At a good-sized 6-2 and 240 pounds, he's a big presence as the quarterback of the defense, and there's not a tougher leader in the MAC. Mullins is the team's best player, but this is Hudson's defense.

Also returning on the strongside will be 6-3, 235-pound junior Caleb Bostic, who's built a little more like a weakside linebacker but is great at stuffing the run and handling even the most physical tight ends. The key will be his health after trying to get over a foot problem this off-season, and considering his game is mostly about speed and quickness, he needs to be 100%. He was second on the team with 103 tackles with a sack and 11 tackles for loss, and now he's expected to blow up and become even more of a star. He knows what he's doing and he should be more disruptive in the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Hudson in the middle is 5-11, 230-pound senior Chris Shula, a hard-nosed tackler who can play any position in the corps and has been a key special teamer. Best suited for the middle, he'll find a place off the bench somewhere after making 54 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss.

Sophomore Ryan Kennedy made nine tackles and a sack in a limited role thanks to knee problems, but he's expected to grow into a bigger role behind Bostic on the strongside. While only 6-1 and 218 pounds, he's a good tackler with excellent athleticism.

6-1, 216-pound sophomore David Davis will see a little time on the weakside after spending last year on special teams. He could be the one weak link in the chain if injuries hit the starters early on, but he'll get more work on defense this season to get him more ready for next year. Undersized compared to Mullins, he's fast enough to create his own niche.

Watch Out For ... Bostic. Mullins might be a near-lock for MAC Defensive Player of the Year and Hudson is the one the rest of the defense works around, but Bostic could be the one who makes a great linebacking corps something phenomenal. He already came up with 103 tackles last season, but he could be just scratching the surface of how good he could become.
Strength: The starting three. There are major BCS schools who'd love to have Miami's starting trio. These three could play for just about anyone.
Weakness
:
Spread offenses. The RedHawk linebacking corps made a ton of tackles against everyone, but most of the stops were way too far down the field against offenses with strong running quarterbacks. There's far too much talent and experience to not be a brick wall this year.
Outlook: This could be the best unit in the MAC for any position. It's not a crazy stretch to think all three starters, Mullins, Bostic and Hudson, could fill the top three MAC all-star linebacker spots. There's size, experience, toughness, and a whole bunch of talent. The only downside is a massive drop-off between the ones and the twos. Shula is a nice player who'll fill in where needed, but Kennedy and Davis need time, work, and a bit more bulk on the outside.
Rating: 8


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Three of the four starters from last year's rock-solid pass defense are back. The only replacement is at corner where junior Wendell Brunson will take over for Jerrid Gaines, who was a good tackler and a decent cover man. Brunson got a little starting work in when Gaines was banged up and finished with 18 tackles with an interception. While he's not the athlete that Gaines was, he shou
ld be more than effective with a bigger role.

Returning to his starting spot at the other corner is 5-10, 185-pound junior Jeff Thompson, who was sixth on the team in tackles with 58 to go along with two interceptions and three broken up passes. While he's not flashy, he's a good, sound defender who has worked his way into the starting role and isn't going to let it go for another few years. He hits like a safety and covers like a corner.

Senior Robbie Wilson could be the MAC's best all-around defensive back. At 6-0 and 204 pounds with phenomenal speed and a nose for the ball, he's one of the nation's most active strong safeties (called the Apache at MU) finishing with 75 tackles, two interceptions, and a team-leading seven broken up passes. He's worked hard to improve where needed. Playing the pass was an issue going into last year, and he turned into a ball-hawker. Getting bigger and stronger was key before this year, and he bulked up a bit. He likely projects as a possible free safety at the next level, and there'll be a place for him.

6-0, 206-pound junior Jordan Gafford is back at free safety after finishing fourth on the team with 89 tackles, an interception and two tackles for loss. He's a big hitter and can move with great range and excellent potential. While he had some big shoes to fill replacing all-star Joey Card, he did a great job and will now be in the mix of All-MAC honors of his own.

Projected Top Reserves: Working with Wendell Brunson at the open corner spot is sophomore Brandon Stephens, a good-looking prospect with terrific speed and great potential. He made 14 tackles as a reserve last year and will see plenty of work somewhere in the secondary.

Looking for playing time somewhere among the safeties, most likely at strong safety, is Peris Edwards, a speedy sophomore who worked his way on the field enough to make 17 tackles as a reserve. He'll battle with sophomore DeAndre Gilmore, a 6-1, 215-pound hitter, for playing time. Gilmore made seven tackles with a sack last season.

Watch Out For ... Wendell Brunson to blossom. A good talent with a little experience, he has the skills to turn into an All-MAC producer if teams test him on a regular basis. While he's not a special athlete, he's good enough to hold up if everyone stays away from Jeff Thompson on the other side.
Strength: Safeties. Robbie Wilson is special and Jordan Gafford is a steady, strong playmaker who could turn in a first-team All-MAC season. These two are great against the run and will be phenomenal when the ball is in the air.
Weakness
:
Deep reserves. There are six backups with just enough playing time to not be starting from scratch, but there will be a big drop-off early on if any of the four starters go down. MU can rotate the corners, but there's no replacement for the star power at safety.
Outlook: The pass defense has been statistically phenomenal over the last few years, but that's partly because everyone ran the ball. This group put in a good season with the MAC's second best pass defense, and now it should be even more effective with a tremendous safety tandem and two good corners. There's depth, but it needs to be developed a bit more and interceptions are a bit of an issue after coming up with just eight of the team's 11 picks. That's nitpicking; the pass defense will be solid.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The placekicking turned out to better once senior Nathan Parseghian took over, but it wasn't great as he went from just being a kickoff specialist to hitting 13 of 20 attempts. Inconsistent from inside the 40, at least he hit two of three deep shots and made five field goals in the loss to Ohio. Junior Trevor Cook had a great freshman season hitting 10 of 13 shots, but he missed five of his ten attempts last year and showed no mid-to-deep leg.

Senior punter Jake Richardson is among the best in America averaging 45 yards per kick as he worked better with the coverage team than he did two years ago and helped the team net 37.3 yards per attempt. He put 17 inside the 20 and forced eight fair catches, but he also put ten in the end zone. With a great leg, and plenty of experience, he should be in for another big season.

The return game was fine, but nothing special. Jamal Rogers and Chris Givens will handle the kickoff returns, with Rogers leading the way last year averaging 22.6 yards per try, while receiver Eugene Harris will deal with the punt returns again after averaging a pedestrian 9.3 yards per attempt.

Watch Out For ... a battle for the kicking job. Nathan Parseghian left the door open with his inconsistency, and if Trevor Cook can show just a little more deep leg, he'll get another shot.
Strength: Richardson. He might not be he the best in the MAC, considering it's a loaded year for punters, but he'll average well over 40 yards per kick and should be a weapon once he's back from a leg injury that kept him down this off-season.
Weakness
: Field goal consistency and kick coverage. MU's kickers missed 12 of 30 attempts, and considering seven games were decided by seven points or fewer, that could be a problem if there as many close games this season. Teams averaged a whopping 23.3 yards per kickoff return on the RedHawks.
Outlook: Everyone is back at every spot with a kicking battle to be underway all season long while Jake Richardson has to be the punter he was last year. There's potential for big pop in the return game, and now it has to happen on a more regular basis.
Rating: 6.5