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2008 Troy Preview - Defense
Troy DT Dion Gales
Troy DT Dion Gales
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Troy Trojan Defense

Troy Trojans

Preview 2008 - Defense

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

What you need to know:
The defense bounced back in a big way after a mediocre 2006, but it failed when it had to in the season finale against Florida Atlantic. This year's group will be strong up front and in the middle of the back seven, but will be suspect on the outside. Ends Kenny Mainor and Brandon Lang, along with tackle Dion Gales, lead a scary-good front four that'll be better with the addition of three key JUCO transfers (Rashad Roussell, Tim Lamb and Mario Addison). MLB Boris Lee could be the Sun Belt's best defensive player, and he'll have to play like it as the outside linebackers need to get their feet wet. All-star corners Leodis McKelvin and Elbert Mack are gone, but the safeties, Sherrod Martin, Terence Moore, in a nickel role, and Tavares Williams, will be fantastic.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Boris Lee, 82
Sacks: Kenny Mainor, 5
Interceptions: Boris Lee, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Boris Lee
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DT Steve McLendon
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Cameron Sheffield
Best pro prospect: Lee (as a safety)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lee, 2) FS Sherrod Martin, 3) DE Kenny Mainor
Strength of the defense: Safeties, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, outside linebacker

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: While senior Kenny Mainor didn't have the monster breakout year expected, he wasn't all that bad finishing with 40 tackles, five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in ten games (he was suspended for two games). A regular in the backfield, he's still learning how to close on the quarterback and finish off pressures with sacks. Undersized at 6-4 and 227 pounds, he's quick off the ball and is active at chasing down ball-carriers. If he bulks up a little more and bumps of the sack total a bit, he could be an interesting NFL prospect.

On the other side will be junior Brandon Lang, a 6-4, 238-pound veteran who started out the season with four tackles in three games before getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury. Originally a Georgia Bulldog, he ended up going the prep school route before joining Troy, and he came through big as a freshman making 26 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Extremely promising, he'll be an all-star once he's 100% healthy.

Back as the anchor is 6-5, 285-pound senior Dion Gales, a former JUCO transfer who plugged things up on the nose making 30 tackles with three sacks and eight tackles for loss. While he's best at clogging up the run, he's excellent at generating pressure from the inside with excellent strength and good quickness off the ball.

The one new starter to the mix will be 6-4, 280-pound senior Steve McLendon, a decent reserve so far making 15 tackles with a tackle for loss last season. He has a little bit of starting experience from 2006 and will be more than just serviceable. He's a good athlete, but he's not going to generate too much pressure inside.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming out of spring ball, Lang and Mainor were combining on the left side, and 6-3, 237-pound junior Cameron Sheffield was working on the right. After stepping in when Lang went down, Sheffield had a decent season finishing with 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. At the very least he'll be a part of a rotation, but while he's good, he's not the pass rusher Lang and Mainor are.

JUCO transfer Rashad Roussell will provide a bit of a push for the starting defensive tackle job. At 6-2 and 267 pounds he's not all that big, but he's quick with decent upside.

6-4, 245-pound Mario Addison comes over from the JUCO ranks after making 45 tackles with 21.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year for Northeast Mississippi CC. A phenomenal blur into the backfield, he'll have to fight to get into the rotation on the left side, and he could end up playing on the right.

Adding more size to the mix will be 6-3, 300-pound junior Tim Lamb, who comes from Hargrave Military Academy after initially signing with Auburn. He was wanted out of high school by everyone including Clemson, Miami, Alabama and Nebraska, and now he should be a huge presence on the inside. He's a fantastic pass rusher and could quickly become the anchor inside.

Watch Out For ... the new guys. There's a chance Roussell, Addison and Lamb will all be in the starting lineup at the same time this year. The projected starting foursome the Trojans have in place is solid, but the new guys should make the line something special.
Strength: Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Mainor, Sheffield, Gales and Lang, when healthy, will all camp out in opposing backfields. It'll be a complete and utter shock if the Trojans don't lead the Sun Belt in sacks.
Weakness: Run defense. For such a tremendous amount of talent up front, it didn't do much of anything against the run allowing 195 yards per game. The experience has to translate into more production.
Outlook: While there might not be a Demarcus Ware or Osi Umenyiora up front, there are several all-star candidates, a few fringe pro prospects, and more on the way. This should be the Sun Belt's best line when it comes to getting into the backfield, but Gales, McLendon, Roussell and Lamb have to form a brick wall against the run.
Rating: 6.5

Linebackers


Projected Starters: If junior Boris Lee isn't the best defensive player in the Sun Belt, he's in the top three. The 6-0, 212-pound junior made 82 tackles, two interceptions and a tackle for loss as the man in the middle of the Trojan defense. A great all-around playmaker who's all over the field against both the run and the pass, the first-team All-Sun Belt performer is a disruptive force who does a little of everything for the defense. He's always, always around the ball.

Working on the strongside is senior David McDowell, a former JUCO transfer who originally started out working in the middle and now will get his chance to shine on the outside. Extremely productive at the JUCO level, he's 6-1, 259-pounds, and fast. While he only made 15 tackles last season, he should be one of the team's leading producers this year.

Stepping in for Marcus Richardson on the weakside will be senior Bear Woods, a 6-0, 216-pound veteran who made 21 tackles and a sack with two broken up passes. Built like a safety, he covers like one with the speed to be used in the backfield more. He'll have to prove he can hold up against the run on a regular basis.

Projected Top Reserves: It'll be up to three redshirt freshmen to provide the depth. 6-0, 215-pound Donnell Golden will backup McDowell on the strongside, 5-9, 224-pound Xavier Lamb will work in the middle, and 6-1, 208-pound Lennie Richardson will be on the weakside. Call this an audition year for these three as the two outside spots will be open next year around Lee.

Golden is a phenomenal athlete having spent most of his high school career at running back while setting Georgia track records in the 400-meter dash. Lamb is a mauler who might be a big short, but is built to become a major-league hitter in the middle. Richardson is a fantastic athlete who might be better suited for the secondary or a nickelback role, but he should be decent early on behind Woods.

Watch Out For ... McDowell. Fine, so it was at the JUCO level, but McDowell made 120 tackles, three sacks, and 12 tackles for loss and two interceptions in one year at Butler CC. He'll produce at this level, too.
Strength: Lee. He has such good range and such strong instincts that he'll make up for the problems on the outside. He's great at cleaning up everyone else's mess.
Weakness: Everyone other than Lee. McDowell will be good and Woods will be fine, but it's not a plus to be counting on three redshirt freshmen to provide the depth.
Outlook: The linebackers were supposed to be an issue last year, and outside of Lee, they were, so it's not a total loss to replace almost everyone. This will be a decent group as the season goes on, and Lee will do almost everything by himself at times, but the corps needs to be better against the run and more disruptive overall.
Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Forget about replacing the talent of corners Leodis McKelvin and Elbert Mack. It can't be done. Ready to fill the enormous shoes are sophomores Chris Bowens and Trevor Ford, and while they're not Mack and McKelvin, they're not bad.

Bowens was considered the star of the future going into last year, but he wasn't able to see much playing time behind McKelvin, a first round draft pick. At 6-0 and 185 pounds, Bowens has good size to go along with his decent speed, but he only made six tackles and a tackle for loss in a limited role. It might take a year, but he'll be strong.

The 6-0, 182-pound Ford originally signed with Florida State and was expected to push hard for a starting spot last year after walking on to the team. He made 13 tackles for for the Seminoles and came up with five stops last year for the Trojans. Now he's about to become a major factor. One of the fastest players in the Sun Belt, he'll be tough to beat deep.

The star of the secondary will be senior Sherrod Martin, an all-star free safety who was out of the limelight taken be the corners last year. Shoulder problems gave him problems two years ago, but he was finally healthy for most of last year and made 52 tackles with three sacks and nine tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 193 pounds he has good size and unlimited range, but he has to stay healthy and he has to make more plays when the ball is in the air.

Moving over to strong safety will be senior Tavares Williams, a free safety by trade who'll move over with Martin moving back into his job, and now the 6-0, 221-pounder should be an even bigger factor against the run after finishing third on the team with 60 tackles with two tackles for loss. A fantastic all-around athlete, he has all-star potential.

While not technically a starting position, Troy likes to keep a nickelback on the field to roam and make plays like a fourth linebacker at times or a third safety. Martin filled the job last year, and this season it'll be linebacker Terence Moore taking over the job. The 6-2, 216-pound senior was second on the team with 64 tackles to go along with an interception, and now he should be even more dangerous with more room to roam. He could step in and play either safety spot or move to weakside linebacker if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 190-pound junior Michael Ricks, arguably, was the team's top recruit coming in from NE Mississippi CC after an all-star two-year career at safety. Fast enough to play corner if needed, he'll push Bowens for a spot, but he's a natural free safety who might have to wait in the wings playing behind Martin.

Also pushing for a starting job will be 6-0, 200-pound JUCO transfer Jorrick Calvin. A physical, tough corner, he'll play behind Bowens to start out but could quickly be shifted to the other side. A good recruit, he'll be on the field in some capacity early on.

Watch Out For ... the drop-off to not be that major. No, the secondary won't just go on as is without McKelvin and Mack, but it'll be productive thanks to the fantastic safeties and the good prospects on the outside.
Strength: Safety. If you throw Moore into the safety mix, the the Trojans have three of the better safeties in the league. If Ricks becomes a safety and not a corner, the talent level goes up that much more.
Weakness: Corner experience. For good and bad, McKelvin and Mack were too good and too durable to ever come off the field, and the depth wasn't exactly developed. No, Troy isn't starting from scratch, but there will be some growing pains.
Outlook: The coaching staff has liked to go into a nickel defense as much as possible to get all the good defensive backs on the field, and there should be more of the same this year. Even without McKelvin and Mack, the secondary will be a strength with so many good safeties and so many promising athletes at corner.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Gone is do-it-all kicker/punter Greg Whibbs, who was great on field goals, hitting 16 of 18, and phenomenal at directional punting putting 19 inside the 20. Now it'll be up to redshirt freshman Wil Goggans to take over at punter A high school all star, he has a big leg and should be able to air it out more consistently than Whibbs.

The plackekicking issues is a bit tougher to nail down as redshirt freshman Michael Taylor will likely be the main option early on, even though he didn't grab the job by the horns in a battle with junior Sam Glusman, who had off the field issues with the law this off-season.

Replacing Leodis McKelvin as a kick and punt returner will be tough. All the star corner did was average 23.2 yards per kickoff return and a ridiculous 17.4 yards per punt return with three scores. WR Jerrel Jernigan will handle the return duties after averaging 11.5 yards on the two punt returns he got last year.

Watch Out For ... Jernigan to be solid. He's not going to be McKelvin, but the strong Trojan return game shouldn't take too big a tumble.
Strength: Uhhhhhhhh, hope? There isn't a sure-thing to count on as the entire special teams are undergoing an overhaul.
Weakness: Coverage teams. Along with all the uncertainty in the kicking game, the big issue could be the coverage units that allowed 23.9 yards per kickoff return and 10.5 yards per punt return. They were great in the past and need to bounce back quickly.
Outlook: The Sun Belt's best special teams will be starting from scratch. The kickers aren't going to be Whibbs, and Jernigan isn't going to be as good as McKelvin, but they all have to be consistent, while the coverage teams have to go back to being effective.
Rating: 5