2008 Ohio Preview - Defense
Ohio DE Jameson Hartke
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Ohio Bobcat Defense
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2006 CFN Ohio
What you need to know:
On experience alone the Ohio defense
should be better after a tremendously disappointing year.
There's enough depth from top to bottom to hold up longer after
dying in way too many second halves of games, and there will be
good competition for spots. There are good pieces to work
around, especially in the secondary where the corner tandem of
Julian Posey and Mark Parson should be terrific. They'll be even
better if end Jameson Hartke and the defensive front can
continue to generate consistent pressure. The linebackers aren't
stars, but they're experienced and solid. Overall, the D has to
be better, and it will be.
Michael Brown, 85
Kris Luchsinger, 5
Interceptions: Michael Brown, Michael Mitchell, Mark Parson,
Star of the defense: Senior CB Mark Parson
Proven run defense, scoring defense
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior NG
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Ernie Hodge
Best pro prospect: Parson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Parson, 2) DE Jameson Hartke,
3) CB Julian Posey
Strength of the defense: Corner, experience
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: Senior Jameson Hartke wasn't
a disappointment last year considering he made 51 tackles with two sacks
and 5.5 tackles for loss, but he wasn't as dominant as expected. At 6-4
and 262 pounds with tremendous quickness, he didn't build on a great
7.5-sack sophomore year as far as a pass rusher, but he was solid as a
run stopper with all the attention paid to keeping him out of the
backfield. He's an all-star who should be in for a big final season with
an improved rest of the line to take the heat off.
On the other side will be junior Conor Reilly to start out, but
he'll have to work to hang on to the spot earned this spring. At 6-3 and
247 pounds, he's not huge, but he's extremely quick with a good burst in
to the backfield making 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and four tackles for
loss. He's a great athlete who could move to linebacker if needed.
6-2, 287-pound sophomore Ernie Hodge should shine in the
full-time starting role after starting out as an end. With good
quickness, he should be a strong interior pass rusher, but he'll have to
hold up consistently against the power running teams. After a great
freshman season with 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks, he was suspended from the
team last year after getting arrested for underage drinking and for
driving under the influence.
On the nose will be 6-4, 283-pound senior Jacob Williamson after
making 16 tackles and a sack as a reserve. He only played nine games
last year, but he's a good, strong veteran who should be good at getting
into the backfield. Not built like an anchor in the middle, he'll have
to prove he can occupy two and three blockers.
Projected Top Reserves: While Reilly will be the
starter out of the gate at one end, it's just a question before pass
rushing star Kris Luchsinger steps in. The 6-4, 250-pound junior
led the team with five sacks to go along with nine tackles for loss, 30
stops, and an interception. Extremely tough, but still a bit raw, his
upside is limitless.
If the Bobcats want to get big, really big, they can plug in 6-4,
330-pound sophomore Marcellis Williamson. He only made one
tackle, but with his size and strength, he'll be needed in the rotation
on the nose behind Jacob Williamson.
6-2, 253-pound sophomore Alex Trouten has yet to hit the field
and make any sort of an impact, but he was one of the spring's best pass
rusher and finished up with two sacks in the spring game. He needs to
provide a burst as a pass rushing specialist and a situational player on
6-3, 254-pound senior Eric
Kenkel missed part of his sophomore season with a broken
hand, and then returned last year to make 13 tackles with just
half a sack. He's decent against the run, but to make an impact
he has to be a steadier pass rusher behind Hartke than he showed
Watch Out For ... the reemergence of Hartke. He
hardly had a bad season by almost any standard, but he didn't
blossom into the superstar many expected him to become. He has
the size, the moves, and the talent to become a top-shelf pass
Strength: Getting into the backfield. The Bobcats bring the heat
from several spots and aren't afraid to get the linebackers
involved, but it's the line that gets things started. There are
excellent role players like Kris Luchsinger who can make big
plays at any time.
Weakness: Stopping the run. The Bobcat front four was shockingly
mediocre against the run last season allowing 186 yards per
game. Now the interior has to replace Landon Cohen.
Outlook: A disappointment last season, the line
has the potential to quietly bounce back with a good veteran in
Hartke to start out with and the return of Hodge to add a
playmaker to the middle. There are several good young players,
like sophomores Stafford Galling and Dak Notestine,
to provide potentially strong depth. This will grow into a
strength as the year goes on.
Projected Starters: Senior Michael Brown will
move where needed. The team's second leading tackler made 85
stops last season with 1.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and two
interceptions, and while he's better suited to the strongside,
he could end up starting in the middle to replace Taj Henry. At
6-3 and 230 pounds, he has nice size and good mobility, showing
no ill-effects from a broken leg suffered in 2006, and now he's
one of the team's leaders.
Working on the weakside, once he's back healthy, will be 6-0,
220-pound senior Jordan Meyers. However, he has had
injury issues throughout his career, hurt mostly by a broken leg
two years ago. He made 44 tackles with three sacks last season,
but he didn't do much against the pass. He's fine in pass
coverage, but nothing special.
If Brown is on the strongside, sophomore Noah Keller will
be an undersized option in the middle. At 6-0 and 220 pounds, he
has to use his speed and quickness to make plays. He has the
athleticism to play any of the three spots, and he showed good
promise last year on the inside making 37 tackles with 1.5
Projected Top Reserves: A former safety and a star
high school running back, junior Lee Renfro converted to
linebacker early last year and he became a major playmaker with
56 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a team-leading 12.5 tackles for loss.
It looks like he's shot out of a cannon when he's sent into the
backfield, and he'll play a huge role whether or not Meyers is
6-1, 221-pound junior Chris Hall was a good backup on the
strongside making 14 tackles with a sack despite suffering a
broken hand. The former safety can play on the weakside if
needed and is a reliable veteran who won't make many mistakes.
He could end up starting if Brown moves to the middle.
Former JUCO transfer Errik Ejike was looking like a major
player with nine tackles in the first few games of the season,
and then he injured his foot and was out for the season. He's
still trying to get back and healthy, but the 6-1, 204-pound
senior will be a disruptive force on the outside when he
Watch Out For ... the linebackers to be night and
day better than last year. Brown might not be a superstar, but
he's a good one to revolve a veteran group around. There are
enough good veterans and there's enough talent to improve on
last year's mediocre campaign.
Strength: Experience. Five of the team's top linebackers are
back, with only Taj Henly gone, and if Ejike is back and
healthy, this could potentially be a dominant unit.
Weakness: Health history. Meyers and Ejike have been banged up,
and the corps, as a whole wore down late in games thanks to a
variety of bumps and bruises. Now the group has to use its depth
to keep everyone fresh.
Outlook: After a transition year, the linebackers
will be experienced and good with so many veterans providing
several different options. Brown can play in the middle or on
the strongside, and everything else will revolve around him.
Overall, there's a nice mix of speed, toughness, and
athleticism. The second team, whatever that will end up being,
will be good enough to start at a MAC level.
Projected Starters: The tandem of corners Mark Parson
and Julian Posey will be among the best in the MAC.
Posey, a sophomore, is has excellent
speed and a nose for the ball making 54 tackles with two
interceptions and six broken up passes. At 5-11 and 183 pounds,
he has decent size and is as tough a tackler as any of the
safeties. While Posey is a solid veteran, Parson will be the one
who handles the top targets.
The 5-10, 188-pound Parson has broken up a whopping 23 passes
over the last two yards and made 48 tackles with two picks last
season. He's a next-level prospect with NFL speed and
excellent open field tackling ability. He has the quickness to
stay with any speed receiver and holds up against the bigger
Senior Michael Mitchell might not receive too many
post-season accolades, but he's as rock solid as any safety in
the MAC. The 6-1, 217-pound strong safety finished third on the
team with 74 tackles with two interceptions and four tackles for
loss. He's a tackling machine who has been a fantastic last line
of defense against the run. He hits as well as any of the Bobcat
Junior Steven Jackson steps in to replace leading tackler
Todd Koenig at free safety after making 25 tackles with three
broken up passes in a reserve role. At 6-2 and 196 pounds, he
has good size and is a nice hitter, but now he'll have to prove
he can make big plays when the ball is in the air. He made 23
tackles as a true freshman, before hurting his knee, and even
though he has been banged up this off-season, he should be the
starter on opening day.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing hard for the free
safety job will be sophomore Donovan Fletcher after a big
spring. He didn't see the field last season, but he was a
totally different player this off-season showing great range and
enough skill to potentially start. He'll most likely be a key
backup and a nickel back, but he'll play a role.
5-8, 170-pound Idris Lawrence has a little starting
experience and has been a decent veteran making 27 tackles last
season behind Posey, but he's not all that big and he hasn't
been able to pick off a pass. However, he's extremely quick and
is good enough to see meaningful action here and there.
Working behind Parson at corner is junior Thad Turner, a
rail-thin 6-0, 166-pounder who made eight tackles and picked off
a pass. The former receiver still needs polish as a defensive
back, and he isn't going to be a bit hitter, but he can move.
Watch Out For ... Fletcher. He has yet to see live
action, but he did enough this spring to warrant serious
consideration for a starting job at free safety. He should be a
playmaker when the ball is in the air.
Strength: Cornerback. This is a strong year for MAC defensive
backs, and Posey and Parson can hang with any of them. Ohio
always seems to get good corner play, and these two are no
Weakness: Shutting air attacks down. The Bobcats didn't
allow a 300-yard passing day, but only four teams threw for
fewer than 242 yards. It's not like Wyoming, Kent State, Buffalo
and Temple, the four teams that struggled, were Hawaii. Even
though Ohio will pick off its share of passes, any quarterback
with pulse will be able to throw for 250 yards.
Outlook: This could be the best secondary Ohio has
had in a long time. Parson and Posey are excellent, and Mitchell
is a good leader at strong safety. The free safety job will be
fine once Jackson settles in. A few more interceptions would be
nice, there was a stretch of six games in seven without a pick,
but for the most part, this was, and is, a good enough pass
defense to win MAC games with.
Projected Starters: Senior Barrett Way and
freshman Matthew Weller are dead even in the fight to replace PK
Michael Braunstein, who nailed 20 of 24 field goals last season. Way, a
transfer from VMI where he hit 29 of 37 field goals, will likely end up
getting the job.
Sophomore Matt Schulte struggled big-time with a mere 37.6-yard
average with ten kicks put inside the 20. He was far more consistent
this spring and should turn things around. He has a good leg, and now he
has to use it on a more regular basis.
Taylor Price and LaVon Brazill will handle the kick return
duties, but they have huge shoes to fill after Joshua Abrams and Chris
Garrett led the way to a 25.1-yard average. Junior Chris Garrett
will once again handle the punt returns, but he has to be far better
after averaging a mere 4.3 yards per try.
Watch Out For ... an improve Schulte. Even with
all the problems, Ohio's net punting numbers weren't all that bad
finishing 53rd in the country. Now Schulte needs to be more consistent.
Strength: Coverage units. Excellent over the last few seasons,
the kick coverage has been fine while the punt team has allowed a paltry
4.2 yards per try.
Weakness: Punt returns. Garrett is too fast and too explosive to
struggle so much again. Ohio was 116th in the nation as Garrett never
Outlook: The special teams are fine. The kicking
game will sort itself out with Way a solid option to nail everything
inside the 40. Schulte will be a bigger banger, but he doesn't have to
air it out to be an effective punter. The kickoff return team will be
fine with Price and Brazill taking over, and now there needs to be more
from the punt return unit.