State Golden Flashes
Preview 2009 - Defense
2009 Kent State
2009 Kent State
2009 Kent State
2009 Kent State
What you need to know: The D was a
major disappointment allowing close to 400 yards a game and not
doing any one thing well. There could be a major turnaround in a
big hurry with seven returning starters and some new faces to
the mix, particularly CB Josh Pleasant and DE Zach Williams,
that could become stars. Safety should be the team's strength,
led by all-star Brian Lainhart, but there needs to be more from
the corners that didn't do nearly enough when the ball was in
the air. To be fair, there wasn't enough help from a pass rush,
and the call has gone out for more consistency from DE Kevin
Hogan and the rest of the line to produce. While there's good
size in the linebacking corps, it could be the team's biggest
question mark needing some career backups to come through.
Brian Lainhart, 106
Kevin Hogan, 5
Interceptions: Brian Lainhart, 6
Star of the defense: Junior
FS Brian Lainhart
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Josh Pleasant
Best pro prospect: Pleasant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lainhart, 2) LB Cobrani
Mixon, 3) DE Kevin Hogan
Strength of the defense: Experience, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Linebackers, Proven production
The line needs more from the pass rush,
and the call has gone out from the coaching staff to Kevin Hogan
to be more of a playmaker. the 6-3, 228-pound senior started
every game but the opener at the Buck position, a hybrid of end and
linebacker, and while he led the way with five sacks with 43 tackles and
8.5 tackles for loss, he has the speed and potential to do far more.
He's solid against the run, but his job will be to generate pressure.
Back on the nose is Sam Frist, a 6-4, 281-pound
senior who made 38 tackles with a team-leading 10.5 tackles for loss.
While he's a bit tall for a nose tackle, he's a good athlete with good
quickness. He bulked up after suffering a knee injury a few years ago,
and the hope is that he'll be stronger against the run.
Aaron Hull spent some time on the nose early in his
career and was an every-game starter at the other tackle spot last year.
At 6-0 and 291 pounds, he's built like a nose tackle and isn't bad
against the run making 34 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for
loss. While he was fine, he has to do more against the better teams.
6-3, 255-pound junior
Zach Williams is the new
starter on the line, but he might turn out to be the best after
a fantastic spring. A potentially strong pass rusher, he came
over from Citrus College in Los Angeles last year and did a
whole bunch of nothing making just three tackles, but the light
has gone on and he should be a major threat in the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves:
While Kevin Hogan will likely regain his
starting spot at the Buck position, junior Monte Simmons
is the No. 1 on the depth chart after spring ball. He
got a starting call against Akron last year and was a key backup
making 34 tackles with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. The
6-3, 233-pounder is a pure speed rusher with All-MAC upside, but
he has to be stronger against the run.
When the line
needs more size on the inside it'll go with Ishmaa'ily
Kitchen, a 6-3, 301-pound sophomore who made 17 tackles
with a tackle for loss in his work as a backup. He's a pure run
stuffer who won't do too much to get into the backfield, but he
has excellent upside working behind Hull at tackle.
Looking to be a part of the rotation right away on the end is
Ryan Jude, a linebacker-sized 6-2 and 255-pound
pass rusher who's active and dangerous behind Williams. He's a
good hitter with a nice first step, and he should turn into a
reliable backup as the season goes on.
Watch Out For ... Williams. The line needs someone to
emerge as the type of pass rusher who makes defensive
coordinators worry, and Williams could be it. He didn't do
anything last year, but he has the makeup and the potential to
be exactly what the line needs.
Strength: Potential to make plays in the the
backfield. The defense was tremendous two years ago when it came
to making things happen behind the line leading the league in
tackles for loss. The production tailed off a bit last year, but
it should pick back up with a renewed emphasis and being
Weakness: Run defense. This group wasn't even close last year
giving up more than 200 yards in every game but three. While no
one gouged the KSU run D, most teams were able to do what they
Outlook: A disappointment last year, the Golden
Flash line could take a major step forward with three returning
starters and a good looking end in Williams. There are decent
backups, lots of quickness, and decent size inside. It's all
there, and now everyone has to produce.
Leading tackler Derek Burrell
is gone from the weakside after leading the team with 119
tackles. In steps Dorian Wood, a 6-1, 232-pound
junior who was a good backup last year making 20 tackles with
most of his production coming in garbage time against Miami
University. He's a good open field tackler with excellent
quickness and good size. He should shine with the new
Michigan transfer Cobrani Mixon
will get the start once again in the middle after
started nine times last year and finishing third on the team
with 73 tackles and two sacks. The 6-1, 230-pound junior
redshirted at Michigan after he tried to come back from a torn
ACL, and then came over to Kent State where he sat out a year
before coming up with a big year that was hampered by a broken
foot. If he can stay healthy, he'll be the team's leading
6-2, 235-pound senior Anthony Mirando
will take over the full-time job on the strongside
after getting three starts in the middle of last year and
finishing with 27 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. He's a good
hitter who finds ways to get around the ball and make plays,
with two recovered fumbles, and now he gets to use his
athleticism and experience in a bigger role. He could play on
the weakside if needed.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Will
Johnson will move over from safety where he only made
five tackles as a little used back. He came up with a nice
freshman year making 27 tackles highlighted by a ten-stop day
against Northern Illinois, and now he'll move over to strongside
linebacker where the 6-0, 198-pounder will be an undersized,
Is Byron Tyson about to
breakout and shine on the weakside? The 5-11, 207-pound
sophomore was a key special teamer last year, finishing with
five tackles, but he's a do-it-all prospect with the wheels to
get into the backfield and tough hitting ability. He'll be on
the special teams again, but he could turn into a major factor.
Watch Out For ... Mixon to come up with a big year.
He hasn't always been healthy throughout his career, with
redshirt seasons and a knee injury the problem before last
season, when he had foot issues. If he can stay healthy, he'll
clean up everything and upgrade the run defense in a big way.
Strength: Size. This is a good-sized group that
averages over 230 pounds per starter. This might not be the most
athletic corps in the MAC, but it should be able to hold up
against the power running teams.
Weakness: Talent. It's not like there haven't been
openings in the past for players to step up and see time, but
most of the key new factors to the mix have been career backups.
Is Mirando ready to produce? Is Mixon really as good as his prep
hype? There's a lot of proving to do.
Outlook: This is the team's biggest area of
rebuilding from a group that didn't do enough last year with a
veteran group that should've been a rock. While this won't be a
weakness, it's not a sure-thing unit and it'll have to show it
can do something at a high level. The tackling and effort will
be there, and the big plays have to follow.
The one new starter to the mix,
sophomore Josh Pleasant, could be the team's
best defensive back. A major recruit for the program and an
absolute steal, the 5-10, 178-pounder had a decent true freshman
season making 22 tackles with an interception, and he was used a
bit as a kick returner. Extremely quick and a tremendous
all-around athlete, he had a great offseason and should be an
All-MAC star sooner than later.
Starting at the other
corner spot once again will be Danny Sadler, a
5-10, 190-pound senior who has been a serviceable corner
throughout his career, but he hasn't been special. He made 43
tackles, but he didn't do much against the pass with just two
broken up passes. The speed and experience are there, but he
could quickly be a reserve again, like he was through most of
the second half of last year, if he doesn't come up big early
Junior Brian Lainhart was on his way
to a huge 2007, but he had problems with neck and shoulder
injuries. He was healthy last year and finished second on the
team with 106 tackles with a team-leading six interceptions and
five broken up passes. At 6-1 and 207 pounds, he's a
decent-sized free safety who's always all over the field and
he's a huge hitter. A second-team All-MAC pick last year, he'll
be the leader and star in the defensive back seven.
205-pound junior strong safety Dan Hartman is
back after starting for most of the second half of last year and
finishing with 42 tackles. Mostly part of a rotation so far, he
should play a bigger role now to utilize his good athleticism
and big hitting ability. While he needs to be more consistent
and he has to do more against the pass, he's versatile and he
could do far more now that he's experienced.
Projected Top Reserves:
Senior Kirk Belgrave was a
spot starter last year at both corner spots making 40 tackles
with an interception. He had problems with a shoulder injury and
was out this spring recovering, but he's expected to be back and
healthy by the start of the year and should push for a starting
spot and be used as a nickel and dime back. At 6-1 and 197
pounds he's big, and he's a tremendous athlete who'll be all
over the field.
Chris Gilbert spent his
first year as a backup wide receiver and special teamer, and now
he'll move over to corner where he should make an easy
transition. One of the team's fastest players, staying with the
faster receivers won't be a problem, and at 6-0 and 198 pounds,
he has decent size.
The team's best backup safety will
once again be senior Adam Richey. A major
hitter, the 5-11, 191-pound senior came up with 38 stops last
season with an interception. The former Kentucky transfer was a
star special teamer in two years for the Wildcats, and now he'll
do more for the KSU defensive backfield.
Watch Out For ...
Pleasant. Lainhart is the signature star of the secondary, but
that could quickly change as Pleasant has the shut-down ability
to quickly become an All-MAC corner.
Strength: Experience. Three starters are back and
Pleasant should be an upgrade at the fourth spot. There are good
backup prospects and lots of different options to play around
Weakness: Proven playmaking corners. Interceptions have been a
problem for the last few years, especially at corner. KSU came
up with ten last season with Lainhart, a safety, making six. The
corners have to find ways to come up with big plays.
Outlook: There wasn't much of a pass rush and the
secondary suffered. However, it's not like the DBs came up big
when they had chances, getting picked apart by anyone who could
throw a forward pass. That should all change this year as more
experience should translate into more production, but there need
to be more interceptions and more stops on third downs.
Senior Nate Reed was a
major weapon two years ago, hitting 18-of-24 field goals, but he
struggled a bit last year connecting on 8-of-13 attempts missing two
inside the 30. While he'll be pushed for the job this year, when it
comes down to crunch time, he'll be the main option.
improve the punting game is sophomore Matt Rinehart who
averaged 40 yards per kick and put 18 inside the 20, but the team netted
just 33.75 yards per try. He doesn't have a deep leg and he could use
more help from the coverage team, but he also has to start hanging it up
a bit more.
Watch Out For ... Freddy Cortez. The true freshman
was a Florida high school all-star with a huge leg, but he wasn't
consistent on field goals hitting just 13-of-22. Even so, he's expected
to come in and provide a push for Reed.
Strength: Rinehart. KSU might not have netted
yards on punts, but Rinehart was good at pinning it deep and didn't dip
under the 40-yard average.
Weakness: The return game. It was a disaster. KSU was 115th in
the nation in punt returns averaging a mere 4.1 yards per try and was
116th in kickoff returns averaging 18.1 yards per attempt. This is a
major emphasis this offseason.
Outlook: The kicking game isn't as awful as it's
made out to be, but it could stand to be better. Everything else needs a
major upgrade with bad coverage teams, worse return games, and not
enough overall production. KSU isn't good enough to lose the special