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2009 Arkansas State Preview - Defense
Arkansas State DE Alex Carrington
Arkansas State DE Alex Carrington
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 16, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves Defense


Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Arkansas State Preview | 2009 ASU Offense
-
2009 ASU Defense | 2009 ASU Depth Chart
- 2008 ASU Preview |
2007 ASU Preview | 2006 ASU Preview

What you need to know:
ASU had the best defense in the Sun Belt two years ago, and it was fantastic last season finishing behind Troy in most major categories and leading the league in run defense. With eight returning starters and plenty of experience, it'll be a shock if this isn't one of the top two defenses in the league again. The pass rush, led by All-America caliber end Alex Carrington, will be unstoppable at times, while the active line should come up with regular plays behind the line. The linebackers lose Ben Owens, but there's a ton of experience and lots of athleticism. The secondary is small, but everyone can hit and everyone can move.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: M.D. Jennings, 67
Sacks: Alex Carrington, 10.5
Interceptions: M.D. Jennings, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DE Alex Carrington
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Stanley Wakwe
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Demario Davis
Best pro prospect: Carrington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carrington, 2) SS M.D. Jennings, 3) CB Daylan Walker
Strength of the defense: Experience, Pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Back seven size, Sure-thing 2nd end on the other side of Carrington

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line needed to start generating more of a pass rush going into last season, and Alex Carrington came through big-time with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss to go along with 53 tackles and an interception. At 6-5 and 284 pounds, he has tremendous size for the outside, to go along with a fantastic burst, and will get plenty of long looks from the NFL scouts. While he was great over the first part of the year, he only came up with one sack over the final five games once teams started to gameplan more for him.

Back at one tackle is Khari Mays, a veteran who started in all 12 games last season but didn't do too much but take up space making just 15 tackles with two sacks and three tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 288 pounds, he's not huge, but he's a veteran who'll occupy blockers and allow everyone else to work.

At the other tackle spot is Bryan Hall, a 6-1, 284-pound junior who should be the team's best inside presence. He made 39 tackles and was tough against the run, but he was brightest as an inside pass rusher with six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He beefed up over the last few years but has kept his quickness. Now he should be in the mix for all-star honors.

Trying to replace Brian Flagg on the other side of Alex Carrington is 6-1, 246-pound senior Stanley Wakwe. The former transfer from Arkansas Tech has seen plenty of action as a reserve making 14 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss last year, after making 23 stops in 2007. He's quick and has good size, and he'll get plenty of chances to make big plays with everyone worrying about Carrington.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Stanley Wakwe for a starting end job is Timothy Starson, a promising 6-5, 240-pound redshirt freshman with good size and tremendous upside. He could still use some developing, but he's a good athlete who'll be tough against the run as well as a decent pass rusher.

6-3, 261-pound sophomore Dorvus Woods will play behind Khari Mays inside, and while he's a backup, he had a more productive year than the starter making 14 tackles with a sack and five tackles for loss. He's not nearly as big as Woods, and he'll struggle if he has to play in a full-time role, but he's a solid player in the rotation.

Greg McCall is a 5-11, 297-pound sophomore who's built like a bowling ball but gets great leverage inside. In his limited time, he made seven tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss, and he'll do more in the rotation behind Bryan Hall.

Watch Out For ... Wakwe. Carrington will come into the season with a ton of fanfare and national attention, and teams will notice. Wakwe has to take advantage and get to quarterbacks on a regular basis to force blockers to start looking his way.
Strength: Pass rush. A weakness became a major strength in just one year. It wasn't just Carrington as the Red Wolves got backfield production from all four spots. Expect more of the same.
Weakness: Consistency. Teams started to stiffen by the end of the year against the ASU front four. There were just two sacks over the final three games and 16 tackles for loss after coming up with two or more sacks in eight of the first nine games.
Outlook: After two awful seasons when it came to getting into the backfield, ASU was terrific in both sacks and tackles for loss. Expect more of the same with three starters returning, while the run defense should be solid with so much activity up front. This won't be the league's best front four, but it won't be far behind Troy's.
Rating: 6


Linebackers

Projected Starters: The linebacking corps is deep and good, but it's missing its best player, Ben Owens. Looking to take over for the team's leading tackler is Michael Adams, a 6-1, 245-pound sophomore who made seven tackles in a reserve role. A fantastic combination of skills, Adams has sideline-to-sideline range to go along with his excellent size. He was a high school sprinter.

Back on the outside is Darius Glover after a 54-tackle season. At 6-1 and 220 pounds, the junior isn't all that big for the strongside, but he's bigger than he was last season and he has the speed to potentially do more to get into the backfield after recording just one sack and 3.5 sacks.

After spending most of his career in the middle, 6-0, 246-pound senior Greg Hardy will start on the weakside. With his size (he bulked up in a big way), he's built more for the strongside, and he hasn't done anything yet to show he can shine against the pass in his new spot. However, he's experienced, making 17 tackles last year, and versatile enough to play anywhere in the linebacking corps.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Javon McKinnon will start somewhere. He started last season on the weakside and will, at the very least, be an equal part of the rotation with Greg Hardy. At 6-0 and 236 pounds and with great speed, he has all the skills needed for the job. However, he didn't do much in pass coverage while he made 24 tackles.

Sophomore Demario Davis had a tremendous spring and will push extremely hard for the starting job on the strongside. At 6-3 and 231 pounds, the high school wide receiver is big and extremely athletic. Now he has to show his skills off more on the field after making 17 tackles and a sack.

Fighting for the starting job in the middle is Nathan Herrold, a 6-2, 234-pound redshirt freshman who made a whopping 379 tackles in his high school career and has unlimited range. He hasn't missed much in practice and has made the depth-chart decision for the coaching staff a hard one going into the fall.

Watch Out For ... the backups coming out of spring ball. Don't get used to the depth chart with McKinnon, Davis, and Herrold a strong enough trio to potentially be the starters. At the very least, they'll see plenty of action.
Strength: Depth. With backups as good as the starters, if not more talented, there are plenty of options to play around with.
Weakness: No Ben Owens. While there are plenty of promising prospects and playmakers, losing Owens is huge. His team-leading 87 tackles were just a part of what he brought to the Sun Belt's best run defense.
Outlook: This was a veteran linebacking corps last year, and now, even without Ben Owens, it's a very deep, very experienced group that should be flying all over the place. It's also a lot bigger a corps than last year when it looked like a group of safeties playing linebacker. Toughness won't be a problem and holding up against the run won't be an issue. Now there needs to be more production against the pass and a few more plays in the backfield.
Rating: 6


Secondary

Projected Starters: The recent tradition of great ASU safeties, highlighted by Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns, continued with the emergence of M.D. Jennings last year. The 6-0, 172-pound junior isn't all that big, but he's a great tackler who finished second on the team with 67 stops to go along with three interceptions and five broken up passes. He'll be back at his strong safety spot but could easily move over to free safety if needed.

6-2, 213-pound senior Evan Van Dolah is a big free safety with tremendous speed and next-level athleticism. His skills translated to the field with 52 tackles with an interception and four broken up passes. With his year of starting experience, he could end up being used more to get into the backfield and get his speed moving to make more big plays.

Senior Daylan Walker is back at his starting spot at right corner after finishing third on the team with 65 tackles. He was better than his stats as a cover-corner with an interception and five broken up passes, and he led the Red Wolves in solo tackles. While he's not big at 5-9 and 177 yards, he's tough.

If it's not Paul Stephens at left corner, it'll be Cordarious Mingo, a JUCO superstar who was a first team NJCAA All-American recruited by LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, and other BCS schools. He made 21 tackles with a pick last season for ASU, and now, with his 5-11, 182-pound size and great range, he's expected to be a star.

Projected Top Reserves:
The one possible new starter to the mix was going to be Paul Stephens at left corner. The 5-9, 166-pound senior came over from Blinn JC in Texas to be a part-time backup making ten tackles with an interception, and he showed off enough in early practices to take over a starting job and be a bigger part of the special teams and the return game after averaging 26.6 yards per try. However, he was dismissed from the team after a shooting incident.

Looking to get more work at safety will be Walter Moody, a good JUCO transfer recruit last year who made just two tackles in his limited role. Able to play anywhere in the secondary, and will start out at corner behind Daylan Walker, Moody is a big hitter for his 5-11, 178-pound size and should be dangerous if he ever gets the ball in his hands.


Watch Out For ... Mingo. He was supposed to be the star of the secondary last year, considering he possibly could've been a major factor for LSU had he decided to go to Baton Rouge. It didn't happen, and he'll have to fight to get the starting job, but he has all the skills.
Strength: Tackling. There might not be any tone-setting hitters, but everyone wraps up and everyone can come up with key stop. When a corner can tackle like Walker, and with Jennings able to do a little of everything, run support isn't a problem.
Weakness: Size. It wasn't an issue last season, but considering how much the ASU DBs have to tackle, injuries could turn into a storyline because of the lack of size. This is a small, feisty secondary that isn't afraid to do what's needed. Can they all hold up for a second year in a row?
Outlook: The pass defense has been a strength of the defense for the last three years, but this time, it was for a different reason. The secondary really was that good in 2006 and 2007, but last year the DBs got help from a phenomenal pass rush. Getting into the backfield won't be a problem for the line this year, so the veteran secondary should benefit once again.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior PK Josh Arauco came up with a monster season nailing 17-of-20 field goals on his way to All-Sun Belt honors and a finalist spot in the Lou Groza Award voting. He doesn't have the biggest range, with his leg topping out at around 45 yards, but he'll nail almost everything in close. Two of his missed came in the same game, and three of his final five kicks were missed, but he's still going to be a weapon.

The punting was atrocious. Brett Shrable averaged just 38.2 yards per boot, and in comes Ryan Wilbourn. The 5-10, 157-pound sophomore is a rail-thin kicker, but he has a strong leg and will handle the kickoff duties as well as the punting job.

The return game was mediocre, but there's good promise with WR Brandon Thompkins returning after averaging 19.7 yards per kickoff attempt. He averaged 21.7 yards per return two years ago and 18.6 yards per punt return. CB Daylan Walker will handle the punt returns after averaging nine yards per try on his three attempts.

Watch Out For ... the return game to improve. It wasn't miserable last year, but it wasn't as good as it should've been. Thompkins and Walker are too good to not add more.
Strength: Arauco. The end of last year year is concerning, but he's a good one who'll make his share of game-changing kicks. He's an elite kicker, but ...
Weakness: Range. Forget about anything from Arauco from 50 yards out, while Wilbourn will be more of a directional punter than a blaster.
Outlook: The special teams have improved over the last few years, but they could be more consistent and more dangerous. The return game has the speed to get more gamebreaking plays, while the punting can't be any worse.
Rating: 7