Preview 2008 -
2008 CFN Middle
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2008 MT Offense
2008 MT Defense |
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What you need to know: Considering the talent on the
defensive front, the Blue Raider D was a slight disappointment.
The biggest issue will be on the ends after losing all-stars
Erik Walden and Tavares Jones, but there's good potential with
Chris McCoy and rising star Jamari Lattimore looking to keep up
the pressure. The back seven should be far better with MLB Danny
Carmichael sure to be one of the team's top tacklers, and FS
Jeremy Kellem and CB Alex Suber good defensive backs to work
around. The key will be the improvement of the tackles and the
run defense. Too many ground games were able to produce, and now
the linebacking corps and the tackles have to be better.
Alex Suber, 59
Lonnie Clemons, 3.5
Interceptions: Jeremy Kellen 3
Star of the defense: Sophomore FS Jeremy Kellem
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Jamari Lattimore
Best pro prospect: Kellem
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kellem, 2) LB Danny
Carmichael, 3) CB Alex Suber
Strength of the defense: Pass defense, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, defensive tackles
Projected Starters: Losing all-star caliber ends in Tavares Jones and Erik Walden
will hurt, but there are decent replacements ready to step in. Junior
Chris McCoy is a 6-4, 263-pound run stopper who made 17 tackles in a
reserve role, with three midseason starts on the right side, and now
needs to become a pass rusher on the left side in place of Jones. He has
the potential to become a tremendous pass rusher, and he has the size.
Now he has to put it all together.
Moving from tackle to end to replace Walden on the right side will be
senior Wes Hofacker, a 6-2, 252-pound plugger who made 21 tackles
and 1.5 sacks as one of the main men in the interior. While he's a tough
veteran, he needs to show the quickness needed to get into the
Starting again on the inside will be 6-1, 285-pound senior Trevor
Jenkins, one of the team's biggest tackle options. While he didn't
have the bust-through season expected, he still managed 33 tackles and a
sack with nine tackles for loss. Quick enough to generate consistent
pressure into the backfield, now he has to be more of an anchor.
With Hofacker moving to the end, the hope is for 6-1, 327-pound
Brandon Perry to get healthy and become a factor. The massive junior
made 4 tackles in the first two games before being lost for the season
with a broken foot. If he's right, he's the big body needed to gum up
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 215-pound sophomore
Jamari Lattimore is a JUCO transfer who should pay off
immediately. While he's build like a safety, he's a big-time pass rusher
who'll be way too fast for any Sun Belt tackle. He won't hold up against
the run, but he'll be a hellacious situational pass rusher.
6-1, 265-pound sophomore
Dwight Smith will see time at tackle could end up getting
the start at one of the tackle spots in place of Perry. Smith is
a blossoming presence who was thrown to the wolves as a true
freshman and made 15 tackles. He's not going to get into the
backfield on a regular basis, but he's strong enough to be a
good run defender.
A pair of promising sophomores, Gary Tucker and
Emmanuel Perez. will be in the hunt for time on the end. The
6-2, 235-pound Perez is a speed rusher who made six stops, but
didn't get to the quarterback, in a limited role, while the 6-2,
245-pound Tucker, who's trying to get back healthy from a
shoulder injury, made nine stops and a sack.
6-4, 265-pound senior Jonathan
Presley is undersized for a noseguard, but his quickness and
toughness make up for it. He was a strong reserve over the last
two years making 13 tackles, but he only made two tackles last
season as he missed most of the year with an Achilles heel
Watch Out For ... McCoy. The line desperately needs a
big-time producer on the end, and McCoy, the most talented
option on the roster, could be it.
Strength: Size. If Perry ends up starting, the
front four will be among the biggest in the Sun belt. There are
smallish options like Lattimore and Perez who'll see time, but
the likely starting foursome will be beefy.
Weakness: Run defense. The Blue Raiders were gouged for 200
yards per game even with constant pressure in the backfield and
the great play from the ends. This was an end dominated team
last year that now has to be stronger at tackle.
Outlook: The line was a killer last season when it
came to getting into the backfield finishing first in the league
in both sacks and tackles for loss, but now with Jones and
Walden gone, a new group has to step up on the outside. McCoy is
a good one with excellent promise, while Lattimore could be a
tremendous specialist. The interior has to be far stronger
against the run. Teams that wanted to run on the inside, did.
That has to stop early on.
Projected Starters: Junior Danny Carmichael led all
linebackers in tackles, but he only made 55 stops with two sacks
and five tackles for loss. At 6-0 and 238 pounds, he has good
size and can make plenty of stops when they come to him, but he
doesn't have big-time range and is more of a plugger on the
Also returning to a starting spot is senior Lonnie Clemons
on the weakside. The 6-1, 226-pounder has plenty of
experience and the ability and potential to be a top tackler,
but he only made 45 tackles and now is coming off a knee injury.
When healthy, he's a great pass rusher making 3.5 sacks with
seven tackles for loss, but he has to do more against the pass.
The new starter to the mix, at least in a full-time role, will
be senior Ivon Hickmon on the strongside. A veteran who
made 21 tackles as a key reserve, the 6-1, 213-pounder came over
from the JUCO ranks and wasn't bad, but he'll need to be
disruptive to hold on to the starting spot after earning it this
Projected Top Reserves: If Clemons' knee isn't
100%, 6-2, 223-pound senior Andrew Harrington will be the
starter. At 6-2 and 223 pounds he's not that small compared to
the other options, and he's very, very fast. With his speed he
should be more of a terror on the outside after making 31
tackles with two sacks and an interception. He could start at
either outside spot.
Junior Cam Robinson has mostly been a special teamer, but
he has running back quickness and cutting ability with a big
hitting punch. He'll work behind Carmichael in the middle after
making 13 tackles as a reserve, but he could end up playing on
Coming in soon from the JUCO ranks is 6-1, 215-pound Jamari
Lattimore, a promising outside presence who should push hard
for time on the strongside behind Harrington. He has the speed
to become a good pass rusher.
Watch Out For ... more tackles. Last year's group was
just trying to figure out what was going on. There weren't many
big plays made, and now the corps should be in on more stops
against the run.
Strength: Options. Last year the linebackers were
starting from scratch, but now there are two returning starters
and plenty of veterans ready to shine.
Weakness: Production. While Carmichael wasn't bad, there weren't
enough plays made against the run. Getting into the backfield
isn't an issue, but if the decent-sized, for the Sun Belt, corps
can't hold up against good ground games, the defense won't be
Outlook: A big problem should turn into a plus
going into the year. Outside of Carmichael there aren't any
all-stars, but there are several solid options to play around
with and some promising talents to rotate in and out of the mix.
This should be a better corps than last year's.
Projected Starters: Saety Damon Nickson
didn't have the season expected, so his loss isn't a killer.
Ready to step in and become a factor at strong safety is senior
Anthony Glover, a former linebacker who has 6-2,
213-pound size and excellent range. Able to play either safety
spot, he made 46 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss, but he
didn't do enough against the pass. A big hitter, he'll be an
Returning at free safety will be Jeremy Kellem, a
promising young playmaker who came up with 42 tackles and a
team-leading three interceptions as a true freshman. The 5-10,
183-pounder can do a little of everything well able to make
plays all over the field, and now he should shine with the
Junior Alex Suber, one of the team's top playmakers,
returns at right corner where he finished second on the team
with 59 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss, an interception and
five broken up passes. A great hitter for his 5-9 and 165-pound
size, the former running back was tested early and often, and he
came through big-time.
Starting on the other side in place of All-Sun Belt start
Bradley Robinson will be sophomore Rod Issac, a 5-11,
180-pound sure-tackler who made 31 stops as a true freshman with
an interception. He'll have some major competition to deal with
from the JUCO transfers, but at the very least he'll be a major
factor in the rotation.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for the starting
right corner job will be junior Marcus Udell, a top JUCO
transfer who originally signed with Alabama. A ball-hawker with
good 6-0, 190-pound size, he'll start out on the left side
rotating with Issac, but he'll be s starter sooner than later.
Former JUCO transfer Ted Riley worked behind Suber last
year and will be a key nickelback and reserve corner once again.
Riley stepped in and made 23 tackles with a tackle for loss, but
he has to show he can do more with the ball in the air.
Sophomore Kevin Brown was a decent special teamer and
decent reserve making eight tackles, and now the 6-1, 192-pound
strong safety is expected to do far more behind Glover. A foot
injury kept him from making a bigger impact, but when he's
healthy he'll be good.
Watch Out For ...Udell. Listed as a backup coming out
of the spring, he could be a quick answer to any concerns at
second corner. Issac is a decent option, but Udell has bigger
Strength: Interceptions. Other defensive players
helped out, but the secondary was strong at picking off passes
as the Blue Raiders finished with 18, with 13 coming in the
final five games. 11 different players came up with
interceptions; this is a good group at finishing plays.
Weakness: Consistency. The secondary will be able to shut down
mediocre passing games, but the good ones should be able to come
up with 250 to 300 yards without a problem. The production will
depend on the pass rush.
Outlook: The secondary will get all the help it
can ask for from the defensive front that'll get into the
backfield early and often, but if there isn't a lot of pressure,
there will be a few problems. Everyone can tackle and there
won't be a true weak link to pick on consistently, but outside
of possibly Kellum, there isn't a shut-down playmaker. Suber is
good, but he can be beaten. Even so, this will be one of the
league's best pass defenses.
Projected Starters: Freshman Alan
Gendreau will try to solve the placekicking woes. Senior Matt
King was awful hitting just two of seven tries, and while punter
David DeFatta is serviceable from short-range, hitting four of six
attempts, Gendreau has to be the main man.
Junior David DeFatta
was a top high school punter averaging 42.3 yards per kick and he showed
why he was a good recruit last season averaging 40.9 yards per kick with
an impressive 28 dropped inside the 20. He has a big leg with good
accuracy, but to nitpick, he put seven in the end zone.
had a so-so year and has the speed and ability to be far better. He
averaged a mere 4.8 yards per punt return and a respectable 20.1 yards
per kickoff return.
Watch Out For ... Gendreau. DeFatta isn't a bad
backup plan, but the big-legged Gendreau should be the kicker for the
next four years. He won't hit everything, but he'll do enough to get and
keep the gig.
Strength: DeFatta pinning teams deep. He can blast
the team out of jams and is great at putting the ball inside the 20. He
led the Sun Belt with 28, and he should be even better now that he has
Weakness: Punt returns. This was supposed to be a strength last
season, but more than 7.2 yards per try is a must.
Outlook: The special teams are fine, and they
should be better. The placekicking can't be worse with Gendreau, and at
least there will be more long attempts. DeFatta is a weapon, and Gee has
the skills to become a major factor. The coverage teams are decent,
especially on punts.