2008 Ohio Preview - Defense
Ohio DE Jameson Hartke
Ohio DE Jameson Hartke
Posted May 9, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Ohio Bobcat Defense

Ohio Bobcats

Preview 200
8 - Defense

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- 2008 Ohio Defense | 2008 Depth Chart
2007 CFN Ohio Preview
| 2006 CFN Ohio Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Michael Brown, 85
Sacks: Kris Luchsinger, 5
Interceptions: Michael Brown, Michael Mitchell, Mark Parson, 2

Star of the defense: Senior CB Mark Parson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior NG Jacob Williamson
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:
Proven run defense, scoring defense

Defensive Line

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 the outside.

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 last year.

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 rusher.
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.
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.
Rating: 6


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 sacks.

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 healthy.

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 returns.

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.
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.
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.
Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

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 ones.

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 linebackers.

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.
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 exception.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

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.
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.
Punt returns. Garrett is too fast and too explosive to struggle so much again. Ohio was 116th in the nation as Garrett never broke free.
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.
Rating: 6