2009 Fresno State Preview - Defense
Fresno State LB Ben Jacobs
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Fresno State Bulldog Defense
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What you need to know:
was a disastrous season for the defense, and the on-field
problems were minor by comparison. The loss of coordinator
Dan Brown to a battle with cancer meant that several things
had to change in the coaching staff as well as to the
personnel. The Bulldogs got worse against the run as the
season went on, and didn't get much of anything from the
line when it came to getting into the backfield. The
linebacking corps has Ben Jacobs back, but everyone else has
to be more physical and do more against the pass. The
secondary is experienced, but mediocre, while the line has
big-time upside and could be the strength of the team with a
little bit of time. First and foremost, the defense has to
start making more big plays, has to force more turnovers,
and has to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
Tackles: Ben Jacobs,
Chris Carter, 3.5
Interceptions: Marvin Haynes, 2
Star of the defense:
Junior LB Ben Jacobs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior SS
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Logan Harrell
Best pro prospect: Jacobs
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jacobs, 2) DE Chris
Carter, 3) CB A.J. Jefferson
Strength of the defense: Speed, Line potential
Weakness of the defense:
Interceptions, Run defense
After seeing time at weakside
linebacker along with his work late in the season on the end, junior
Chris Carter will be a full-time lineman and he should
be a breakout star. the 6-2, 230-pounder was second on the team with 88
tackles and made 3.5 sacks with 6.5 tackles for loss. He has too much
speed to not do more as a pass rusher, and now he'll be turned lose into
the backfield on a regular basis.
Taking over on the other side
will be Kenny Borg after suffering a bad knee injury.
The star recruit of a few years ago appears to be back to 100% after
missing all of last season, and while he needs time and reps, he's not
starting from scratch after making nine tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2007.
The 6-3, 245-pound redshirt sophomore is a very quick, very active pass
rusher with tremendous upside.
6-3, 285-pound sophomore
Chase McEntee might not be huge, but he's strong enough to be
an anchor on the nose. Not built like a nose tackle, he's still able to
hold his own and has the quickness to get into the backfield from time
to time. He made five tackles and a tackle for loss last year.
Starting at defensive tackle will be Logan Harrell
after making 14 tackles as a key reserve. The 6-2, 275-pound sophomore
is extremely quick off the ball and dominated the Bulldogs O line
throughout the offseason. Fast enough to be a big end if needed, he'll
move around where needed and in a variety of alignments.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Wilson
Ramos has been a key spot starter throughout the last few
years, making 27 tackles in 2007 and 15 last year despite missing half
the season hurt. Big for an end, he's perfect for a 3-4 alignment but
will start out working in a rotation with Harrell on the inside once he
gets healthy from his leg injury.
Junior Chris Lewis,
a former Miami Hurricane, should be a dangerous playmaker on the outside
after kicking his work habits up a few notches. The 6-3, 260-pound
junior has all the tools and he could be an All-WAC performer if he puts
it all together, but he has to get the motor running full time after
making just five tackles last season.
While 6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman Matt Akers got
that way by design to get faster and to become a more dangerous pass
rushing option. He might not hold up well against the run if he's a
full-time end, but he'll see action in a rotation with Carter on the
Junior Mark Roberts will try to get
back and be a steady backup this fall after missing time this offseason
getting healthy. The 6-4, 270-pound senior brings good size on the nose
and decent experience after making 24 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Can Cornell Banks get to class? The 6-3,
300-pound junior was a key spot starter throughout this year making 32
tackles and three tackles for loss. He's ideal for the nose with good
quickness to go along with his size, but he was suspended this spring
with academic issues.
Watch Out For ... Carter. He was a great tackler last
season wherever he was put, and now he should be a backfield terror.
He's too quick for any tackle in the WAC.
Strength: Youth and upside. This might be a
retooling bunch, but it's full of talent. Outside of Ramos, there aren't
any seniors in the mix and this could be a special line as the year goes
on. There's size, speed, and versatility to play around with.
Weakness: Proven production. The line got
progressively worse as last season went on, and while there are some
decent stat totals returning among the new starters, there isn't a lot
of production that translated to wins. The Bulldogs have to find
something it can do well up front.
Outlook: This was supposed to be one of the
strengths of the team going into last year, but injuries and
ineffectiveness made it a glaring weakness as FSU finished last in the
WAC in tackles for loss, 96th in the nation in sacks and 108th against
the run. That won't happen again. Carter and Borg should dominate on the
outside, while McEntee and Harrell appear to be ready to shine with
bigger roles to play.
Returning to his spot in the middle,
maybe, is Ben Jacobs, a 6-3, 240-pound junior who can
play on the strongside if another option is found for the inside. He led
the team with 113 tackles as one of the few defenders who came up with
plays throughout last year. Not just good against the run, he also broke
up five passes to go along with a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss. He has
too much speed and too much talent to not be an All-WAC performer if he
Can Nico Herron finally come
through with a decent year? While he has all the tools to play inside or
out, seeing time in the middle this offseason before settling back in
his strongside spot, he was beaten up to often and didn't do enough
against the pass. The 6-3, 240-pound junior is fast, has range, and came
up 65 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss last season. Now he has to do
more at the point of attack.
Working on the weakside again after
taking over in the middle of last year is Kyle Knox, a
6-1, 215-pound sophomore who made 43 tackles with 2.5 sacks and eight
tackles for loss. While he's not all that big, he has great range and
nice quickness on the weakside. With his athleticism he needs to start
doing more in pass coverage and he has to show he can get into the
backfield on a regular basis.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 200-pound sophomore
Shawn Plummer got in a little bit of work last year and
made 25 tackles on the outside. While he's always moving and he has the
speed needed to play on the weakside, he hasn't shown he can do much in
pass coverage. At the very least he's a willing tackler who'll throw his
Working in the middle behind Jacobs will be 5-11, 210-pound
sophomore Eric Brown after sitting out last year hurt.
He missed all of spring ball as well, but with sideline-to-sideline
range and good toughness, he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps.
Watch Out For ... Jacobs to move around where needed.
The linebacking corps is full of good middle linebackers but there
aren't many who can play like Jacobs. While the junior will be a star in
the middle, he could see time on the strongside if Herron struggles
Strength: Quickness. Considering there's a little
bit of size, there's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around.
Everyone can get to the ball and everyone can move.
Weakness: Pass coverage. For all the speed and
quickness there isn't nearly enough happening against the pass. There
wasn't nearly enough done against the run, either.
Outlook: There isn't much in the way of depth, and
the outside defenders have to do far more around Jacobs. There's enough
speed to be turned loose and enough potential for plays to be made just
by being active, but this group has to be far more physical and some
surprise options have to emerge early on.
A superstar kick returner
who averaged 29.3 yards per try last season, senior A.J.
Jefferson should be the team's best cover-corner. The 6-0,
190-pounder has no problems staying with any receiver, with next-level
speed and cut-on-a-dime quickness, but he has to be more consistent. He
made 31 tackles before getting hurt late in the year, and he only broke
up two passes and failed to pick off a pass. With two years of
experience at the position and with his skills, there's no reason he
can't do far more.
Back on the other side after serving as a
spot-starter is Desia Dunn, a 5-9, 190-pound junior who
had some good moments making 43 tackles with four broken up passes and a
pick. The walk-on doesn't have the size or the all-around skills to keep
from getting picked on, but he's always around the ball and has a great
motor. While he has enough experience to be a regular at one spot, he'll
have to produce early on or he'll be quickly turned into a key reserve.
Moses Harris was third on the team with 75 tackles
with a sack and five broken up passes, but he didn't come up with any
picks from his strong safety spot. The 5-11, 205-pound senior has all
the skills to be a pro prospect if he can come up with a whale of a
final year. A starter for the last two years, he has to be a leader and
more of a playmaker.
First Lorne Bell has to get
over his hamstring injury, and then he has to start producing at either
safety spot. The 5-10, 200-pound junior will start out at free safety if
he can win back the starting job this fall after getting the nod for the
final three games of last year. He made 41 tackles but failed to do much
of anything when the ball was in the air.
Projected Top Reserves: With Bell out this spring,
redshirt freshman Phillip Thomas was able to show what
he could do. The 6-0, 205-pound redshirt freshman will make a big push
for the starting free safety job and could push Bell to a nickel role.
If he's not the starter, he'll be the first man off the bench and will
be starting sooner than later.
6-1, 205-pound senior
Marvin Haynes was the starting free safety two years ago making
65 tackles, but he was reduced to a reserve role last year making 25
tackles with two picks after suffering a slew of ticky-tack injuries.
Even though he's fine, he wasn't able to push Harris for the starting
strong safety job and isn't likely to be moved back to free safety.
The hope before last year was for Damion Owens to
become the main man at corner after making 42 tackles with a pick, but
he ended up making 35 tackles with a pick for a 68-yard score, the only
touchdown, against Boise State. While he has never lived up to his
potential, he'll have one last shot to produce as the backup behind
Watch Out For ... movement to try to find the right
safety combination. after struggling to do much of anything right last
year, the safeties will need to produce early on or the coaching staff
will do some shuffling. Harris and Bell are decent options, but Thomas
could quickly be the main man.
Strength: Looking the part. There's plenty of
speed and decent size for all four spots. The raw skills are there to do
far more if there's any semblance of a pass rush to help the cause.
Weakness: Interceptions. For whatever reason, over
the last several years the Bulldogs don't pick off passes. The secondary
came up with six interceptions in two years, and last year made five.
the secondary has to be better at ball-hawking.
Outlook: With all the returning experience and
with backup options good enough to push the projected starters, the
secondary can't help but be better after a disastrous year. There needs
to be more from the defensive front to make quarterbacks hurry, but the
DBs, particularly the safeties, have to do their part.
Sophomore Kevin Goessling
turned around a struggling kicking game hitting 15-of-22 field
goals and showing off an impressive leg with a 58-yarder against Utah
State. The left-footer wasn't consistent early on, but he rallied to
connect on seven of his last eight attempts.
The punting game
was better than the net average might appear. Sophomore Robert
Malone averaged 42.8 yards per kick and showed off an
impressive leg while putting 20 kicks inside the 20. Now he has to do a
better job of working with the coverage team to keep the returns to a
CB A.J. Jefferson is one of the
nation's top kickoff returners averaging 29.3 yards per try after
averaging 35.8 yards per attempt two years ago. He's a weapon that teams
will have to avoid at all costs. Rashad Evans and
Chastin West form a special punt return tandem. Evans
averaged 13.2 yards per try, while West averaged 16.4 yards per attempt.
Watch Out For ... teams to do everything possible to
avoid the Fresno State return men. The Bulldogs have a special return
game with game-breaking ability in all areas. The offense will benefit
from great field position from conservative teams afraid of getting
Strength: The return game and big legs. The return
game is the best in America, while Goessling and Malone have cannons for
legs. There won't be any problems bombing away, and the returners will
be the team's biggest strength..
Weakness: Punt coverage. Fresno State was tenth in
the nation in punt returns averaging 14 yards per try. The coverage team
also allowed 14 yards per attempt.
Outlook: If the coverage teams can be just a
little bit better, the special teams will be the best in the WAC.
Everyone is back after a breakthrough year, and there's no reason to
think there will be a step back.