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2008 North Texas Preview - Defense
North Texas DB Craig Robertson
North Texas DB Craig Robertson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - North Texas Eagle Defense

North Texas Mean Green

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN North Texas Preview | 2008 North Texas Offense
- 2008 North Texas Defense | 2008 North Texas Depth Chart
-
2007 CFN North Texas Preview | 2006 CFN North Texas Preview

What you need to know:
A humongous disappointment last year considering all the returning veterans, the nation's worst scoring defense, and 113th ranked D in total yards, will undergo a bit of a personnel overhaul. Transfers, like Greg Garden from Navy and JUCO stars Adryan Adams and Justin Edwards will help the secondary, while several new faces will help out Craig Robertson in the linebacking corps. Generating more of a pass rush is a must with former linebackers Sam Owusu-Hemeng and Marquis Sykes working on the end. The tackles that were banged up throughout the spring need to heal up in a hurry.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Joseph Miller & Craig Robertson, 48
Sacks: Joseph Miller, 3.5
Interceptions: Craig Robertson, 5

Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Craig Robertson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DEs Sam Owusu-Hemeng & Marquis Sykes
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Greg Garden
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Antoine Bush
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robertson, 2) Bush, 3) Garden
Strength of the defense: Quickness, cornerback options
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, pass defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Step one is to generate more pressure on the passer meaning sophomore Marquis Sykes and 6-1, 240-pound Sam Owusu-Hemeng will have the spotlight on from the end.

The 6-3, 253-pound Sykes is a former linebacker who saw a little bit of work last year as a redshirt freshman and now will try to bring some quickness up front. He's a good athlete with good upside at the end, and the line doesn't sacrifice any size by moving him up.

Owusu-Hemeng, a sophomore, made five tackles last season at linebacker and will work in a combination on one side. He has good speed, and the hope is that he'll create a bit of flash and dash in the backfield.

The tackles are a bit more set than the ends with senior Isaac Thomas, a 5-11, 289-pound plugger, returning after making 28 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He got got hurt and ended up missing all of spring ball, and while he's not irreplaceable, he's a decent veteran who needs to provide some stability in the middle.

6-3, 275-pound senior Joseph Miller made 48 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and six tackles for loss as the team's most productive tackle. A true inside presence who can play on the nose, he's a strong, quick inside presence who's a good one to work around. He might not be a true anchor who can stuff and clog everything, but he's a reliable veteran.

Projected Top Reserves: Working with Owusu-Heming at one end will be Kyle Russo, a 6-3, 245-pound redshirt freshman who comes from head coach Todd Dodge's old stomping grounds at Southlake High. He was a big-time high school tackler and a major pass rusher registering 21 sacks his senior season.

Senior Jonathan Stewart will move around where needed. He was thrown into the mix early on in his career and ended up making six tackles in seven games. While he's only 6-2 and 260 pounds, he's tough enough to handle himself well on the inside, and just quick enough to be considered for an end spot. First he has to come back healthy after missing all of spring ball.

Hoping to be back in the mix at some point is 6-5, 240-pound junior Eddrick Gilmore, one of the team's most productive linemen last year, after missing all of 2006 with academic problems, making 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss with five broken up passes in nine games. He left the team for personal reasons and isn't being counted on for the season. Even so, there's hope he'll be back this fall to add his physical play and experience to a line that needs it.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to do something, anything to get more pressure. The line has to start doing something to get a push into the backfield after registering just 14 sacks and 63 tackles for loss. The use of the linebackers as ends might be the jump start needed.
Strength: The ability to work at solving the problem. Many coaching staffs, especially relatively new ones, will throw in their system and stick with it no matter what the personnel. The UNT coaches are actively working and tweaking to make sure that last year's disaster doesn't happen again.
Weakness
:
Take your pick. This was one of the worst lines in America in every phase possible and now it's relying on brand new, unproven ends and a few hurt tackles.
Outlook: After a complete and utter disaster, the UNT line will try to generate some production by adding some new blood to the mix on the outside while hoping for the tandem of Miller, Stewart and Thomas can hold up inside. The line has to find one thing it can do well, and it probably won't be stopping the run.
Rating: 4

Linebackers

Projected Starters: Looking to replace second leading tackler Maurice Holman at one of the outside spots will be sophomore A.J. Penson, a 6-2, 220-pound rising prospect who made made 12 tackles in a limited backup role. Originally projected as a middle man when he came to UNT, he has the toughness to handle himself against the run.

Taking over the full-time job at the other outside spot will be 6-0, 210-pound sophomore Craig Robertson after starting the final seven games of the year. A nice surprise, he came up with 48 tackles, three tackles for loss and a team-leading five interceptions. One of the team's best all-around athletes, he's fantastic handling backs in pass coverage and could be used far more to get into the backfield.

Working in the middle in place of Derek Mendoza, who made 66 tackles, will be veteran Tobe Nwigwe, a 6-4, 240-pound junior who made ten tackles in a backup role before dealing with off-the-field issues stemming from a charge of criminal trespassing. A starter two years ago making 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, he has excellent speed to go along with his size, and now he's back in the lineup.

Projected Top Reserves: While Penson is a good prospect on the outside, he'll have to battle with junior Steve Warren to keep the job. The 6-1, 215-pound Warren started out his career in the secondary as one of the team's better backup safety options making 46 tackles as a true freshman and 14 in 2006, but he misses all of last year hurt and now will try to come back and be a factor in the linebacking corps. He has the speed to become a force.

6-1, 220-pound senior Colt Mahan appeared to be on the verge of becoming a playmaker after finishing fourth on the team in tackles in 2006 with 53 stops, but he was mostly a special teamer last season making just 15 stops on the year and only season mop-up duty on defense. Able to play inside or out, he'll move where needed, but he'll start out working in the middle behind Nwigwe.

Watch Out For ... Nwigwe. As long as he keeps his nose clean and the focus on the field, he should become a major force on the inside. He has the tools to be an All-Sun Belt performer, but he hasn't been able to grow into a big-time player yet.
Strength: Relative experience. Considering all three starters are gone off of last years corps, at least the one that started the season, the situation isn't all that bad. Robertson is a returning starter and Nwigwe and Penson has seen time. Even the reserves are experienced.
Weakness
:
Production. Can this year's group actually play? Last year's supposedly strong trio couldn't, and now there has to be far more done against the run and more havoc created in the backfield.
Outlook: The Mean Green was supposed to have a major strength at linebacker last year and the group, even with big stats from Maurice Holman and Derek Mendoza, stunk. This year's corps has good athleticism and plenty of promise, but it has to do more than last year's lineup did against the run and could stand to get into the backfield a bit more. Moving some of the linebackers, like Sam Owusu-Hemeng and Marquis Sykes to end won't hurt the depth as much as expected.
Rating: 4

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The Mean Green needs better corner play out of returning starters Antoine Bush and Latif Nurudeen. The 6-1, 200-pound Nurudeen, a senior, made 30 tackles with a tackle for loss, but he failed to pick off a pass and only had one break-up after stepping into the starting lineup when Dominique Green was booted off the team. The Baylor transfer has the skills to be a shut-down defender, and now he actually has to do it.

Bush, a 5-11, 170-pound junior, made 42 tackles with an interception and six broken up passes. He's one of the team's faster defenders with 4.6 speed, and he's the one of the team's better open field tacklers. While he doesn't have the size of Nurudeen, Bush is physical.

Looking to replace Aaron Weathers at one safety spot will be 5-10, 186-pound Kylee Hill, a JUCO transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M who made 61 tackles in seven games. While he's not all that big, he has decent range and isn't afraid to get his nose dirty.

Stepping into the full-time job at the other safety spot will be 6-2, 180-pound junior Kartay Agbottah, a good hitting spot-starter who finished with 47 tackles and an interception in 11 games.
He played a mix of safety and linebacker before giving way late in the year. He's one of the few returning starters and needs to be steady from the start.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for a starting safety job is 5-11, 187-pound sophomore Greg Garden, a transfer from Navy who sat out last season. A good high school linebacker and decent running back, he has good quickness and toughness. Now he has to show he can be consistent enough to earn steady playing time.

6-1, 213-pound Germaine Dawson has stepped in at times at linebacker and safety to contribute where needed. He made 12 tackles last year after making 54 stops at linebacker in 2006, and now he'll push Hill for time. Stopping the run won't be a problem, but he needs to do more against the pass.

Junior Justin Edwards made 271 tackles and 12 interceptions as a top high school player in Dallas, but he ended up going the JUCO route making 120 tackles at free safety for Eastern Arizona JC last year. The 6-1, 185-pound might demand a starting spot when he steps off the bus.

6-1, 185-pound JUCO transfer Adryan Adams will make a huge push for one of the starting corner jobs. Considered one of the top JUCO defensive backs in the country by most of the top services, he has size, speed, and tackling ability to become a key player in the rotation behind Nurudeen.

Watch Out For ... Garden. The former Navy Midshipman will be an instant factor at strong safety and should push Hill to a backup job sooner than later. Garden has all the ability to be a rock in the secondary for the next three years.
Strength: Corner experience. If nothing else, Bush and Nurudeen were part of the mix last year, and Adams is a great prospect to get into the mix sooner than later.
Weakness
:
Interceptions. The Mean Green defensive backs came up with four in 2006 and just three last year. The starting corners have to do far more to make opposing quarterback nervous.
Outlook: Granted, the D line didn't help the cause with no pass rush generated, but it's not like the secondary did its part to shut things down. How bad was the secondary? It allowed 257 yards per game, 95th in the nation, and in the statistical mix was the 108 yards from Navy, 114 from UL Lafayette and 123 from Western Kentucky. The transfers could make a night-and-day difference, but it could take a little while before they're comfortable. Expect plenty of changes before the start of the season.
Rating: 4

Special Teams

Projected Starters: It'll be up to JUCO transfer Jeremy Knott from NE Oklahoma A&M to take over for the decent, but limited, Thomas Moreland, who hit eight of 15 field goals as a true freshman. Knott has a bigger leg and far more range, bur he has to be consistent.

Senior Truman Spencer is a big punter and a big weapon cranking out a 73-yarder on the way to a 41.6-yard average. He didn't get much help from his coverage team, but he was good at putting it inside the 20, doing it 12 times, and should be one of the team's better all-star prospects.

The kick return game was lousy averaging a mere 18.4 yards per try, while the Mean Green averaged just eight yards per punt return. All that's about to change as speedy transfer Jamel Jackson should add far more pop in both areas. He was terrific in spring ball and will bring the spark that's been missing.


Watch Out For ... Jackson. He scored on a return in his first scrimmage. Considering UNT was 113th in the nation in kickoff returns and 75th in punt returns, he'll be a breath of fresh air.
Strength: Spencer's leg. For a defense that has so many issues, forcing teams to crank out long drives is a must. Spencer will help the cause.
Weakness
:
Coverage teams. UNT gave up 22.4 yards per kickoff return and 10.4 yards per punt return. The team can't lose in the return game. It's not good enough to not be stronger here.
Outlook: The special teams were a problem last season, but Jackson provides an instant upgrade as a returner and Knott should be far better than Moreland. Spencer will be one of the best in the Sun Belt.
Rating: 6