Arkansas State Red
Preview 2009 - Defense
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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.