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2009 Bowling Green Preview - Defense
Bowling Green FS Jahmal Brown
Bowling Green FS Jahmal Brown
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 8, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Bowling Green Falcon Defense

Bowling Green Falcons

Preview 200
9 - Defense

- 2009 Bowling Green Preview | 2009 BGSU Offense
- 2009 BGSU Defense | 2009 BGSU Depth Chart
- 2008 BGSU Preview | 2007 BGSU Preview | 2006 BGSU Preview 

What you need to know:
The defense came up with a whale of a season finishing second in the MAC while doing a great job of keeping the team in games throughout the season. The pass defense was solid, the run defense was good enough to get by, and the secondary was fantastic. Now there needs to be some major retooling, especially up front. The line needs to be completely overhauled with four new starters entering the mix, while the smallish linebacking corps will have to pick up even more of the slack. The strength of the D, and the team, is at safety with P.J. Mahone and Jahmal Brown forming a sure-hitting duo. There's almost no depth anywhere across the board, so the plan is for several true freshmen, especially on the line, to see time early on.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: P.J. Mahone, 95
Sacks: Andrew Johnson, 3
Interceptions: P.J. Mahone, 3

Star of the defense: Senior SS P.J. Mahone
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Darius Smith
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NT Andrew Johnson
Best pro prospect: Mahone
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mahone, 2) FS Jahmel Brown, 3) LB Jerett Sanderson
Strength of the defense: Safeties, Quickness
Weakness of the defense: Line, Depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Step one will be to try to find a pass rusher to replace Diyral Briggs, who came up with 9.5 sacks in an All-MAC campaign. In steps Darius Smith after seeing a little time in six games making just two tackles on the season, but he's a speedster who might turn out to be a specialist. Only 6-3 and 223 pounds, he's a linebacker-sized end who'll have problems against the run, but he can move. 

Back on the other side is Angelo Magnone after serving the last few years as a spot starter and a key backup. The 6-3, 235-pound junior came up with 27 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss, and while he's not a speedster, he's quick off the ball and is good at generating pressure. He has enough experience to grow into a key factor for a line that desperately needs playmakers.

6-3, 257-pound sophomore Andrew Johnson is an undersized nose tackle, but he'll have to hold up after starter Michael Ream got booted off the team. He got a start last year against Ohio and finished with 15 tackles, but his game is all about being quick on the snap. Not only does he have good instincts and the smarts to time his burst, he has the athleticism to make things happen behind the line with three sacks and four tackles for loss in his limited time. He'll get beaten on, but he'll make his share of big plays.

Bringing some desperately needed size to the smallish line is Nick Torresso, a 6-3, 290-pound tackle who could play on the nose if needed. He was supposed to be a starter going into last year, but he only made nine tackles as a reserve and didn't do anything to get into the backfield. Stats don't really matter with him; his job will be to clog things up and to serve as an anchor for everyone else to work around.

Projected Top Reserves: Upgrading the talent level is Dylan Farrington, one of the team's top recruits. The 6-5, 220-pounder could've gone to a much bigger school, but he'll be used as an ultra-athletic pass rusher right away on the outside. He has room on his frame to beef up, but with his speed and quickness he should be able to be an instant factor.

Along with Farrington, the jewel of the 2009 recruiting class, 6-5, 246-pound pass rusher Jairus Campbell will see time right away on the outside. An all-state performer last year in Ohio, he has a good combination of skills and needs to be a playmaker from day one.

Also being thrown into the mix will be Chris Jones, a 6-2, 275-pound tackle who has the strength to play right away and the quickness to eventually be a good interior pass rusher. The true freshman is a leader and the type of player who could eventually be the anchor, but for now, the coaching staff would be happy if he's able to produce when he gets on campus.

Sophomore Kevin Alvarado is a promising tackle who'll become a key defender on the inside at both tackle and on the nose. The 6-2, 263-pounder isn't all that big, but he's very smart, very quick, and he has a little bit of experience making 16 tackles as a freshman. He'll start out the year working behind Torresso.

Watch Out For ... the freshmen. The line desperately needs bodies, and the recruiting class will bring in a few with Farrington certain to be a part of the end rotation along with Campbell. The interior desperately needs help, and Jones could provide it.

Strength
:
Desperation. This actually might not be a bad thing. The line is such a concern that there's no pressure on anyone up front to produce; no one's expecting much. The chances will be there for the freshmen to grow into the roles, while the returning veterans have a chance to go all out to show what they can do.
Weakness
:
Depth. Forget about it. All four starters have to be replaced, and with the loss of Michael Ream, the line doesn't have any sure-things to work around. As far as the depth, it's all up to the recruiting class.
Outlook: Last year's line was supposed to be a major strength, and while it was fine, it was hardly special outside of Briggs. This year's front four simple has to survive. A pass rush has to be manufactured from somewhere, while there isn't enough size to hold up against power running teams. This could be the team's biggest weakness by far, but the growing pains and the lumps taken should pay off next year when everyone is back.
Rating: 5


Linebackers

Projected Starters: As the only returning starter on the defensive front seven, Jerett Sanderson has to be fantastic. The former safety ended up starting every game last year on the outside and made 68 tackles with two interceptions. While he was fine, he didn't use his speed enough to become a disruptive force. At 6-0 and 189 pounds on the strongside, he's not all that big, but he's plenty tough. He's a fantastic athlete who should be doing a lot more.

Taking over in the middle for John Haneline, the team's second-leading tackler, is Cody Basler, a nice veteran who made 42 tackles with two tackles for loss and a pick as a reserve. While the 6-2, 238-pound senior is best in the middle, he could move to the strongside if needed. A tough tackler, he has good range and doesn't miss many stops. He might not be Haneline, but he should put up nice stats.

6-0, 221-pound senior James Schneider is back on the weakside after suffering a broken hand last year. He only made six tackles in his limited time, but the former JUCO transfer has the speed and the ability to do far more and become one of the team's leading tacklers. He has the potential to be the team's breakout defensive player.

Projected Top Reserves: On the way is Dwayne Woods, the team's top linebacker recruit who made 132 tackles last year for his high school in Cincinnati. The 6-1, 220-pounder is a huge hitter who doesn't miss stops and could be used as a pass rusher on the outside. He'll end up being a disruptive force.

The team's most experienced backup linebacker is Eugene Fells, a 6-1, 215-pound junior who made eight tackles in limited action. While he's not all that big, he's tough and should be able to hold his own in the middle. His game is about his range, but he hasn't been able to show it off yet.

While redshirt freshman Anthony Stover is built like a safety, the 6-2, 200-pounder is a big hitter in practices and showed nice range in practices. While he's not going to push Schneider out of the weakside job, he'll see plenty of action in the rotation and will be groomed for the starting job next year.

Watch Out For ... Basler in the middle. He has been a nice reserve over the last few years and has shown enough to be a starter. Now he'll get his chance in the middle where he should be one of the team's top three tacklers. He's a good pass rusher and great instincts against the pass.

Strength:
Veterans. Considering the front four is all but starting from scratch, the three senior starters at linebacker should provide a steadying force. There might not be any all-stars, but Sanderson, Basler, and Schneider have been around the block.
Weakness
:
Size. The idea has been to get athletic, quick linebackers who can get all over the field. However, it comes at a price. Basler is 238 pounds, but the rest of the linebacker prospects are safety-sized, at best.
Outlook: This group won't overpower anyone and it's not going to hold up well against the better running teams, but it's an athletic bunch that gets around the ball in a hurry. There needs to be more big plays and this has to be a more disruptive group, but it should be fine as is.
Rating: 5.5


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Senior P.J. Mahone started out his career at linebacker, but he flourished once he moved to the defensive backfield. He followed up a 90-tackle sophomore season by leading the team with 95 stops with three interceptions and seven broken up passes in what should've been an All-MAC season. A huge hitter at strong safety, the 5-11, 201 pounder plays even bigger than his size and is a tone-setter for the secondary.

Also returning is Jahmal Brown at free safety after he finished third on the team with 83 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. The 5-10, 192-pound senior has been a tough, reliable veteran for the last few seasons, but he's not enough of a big-play performer against the pass. He's good in coverage and he's a great open field tackler, but he doesn't take the ball away.

Taking over and potentially being the team's shut-down corner is senior Roger Williams after making 11 tackles with a tackle for loss as a reserve. The 5-9, 184-pound former running back is tremendously quick, and now it appears the light has gone on after a strong offseason. He still might not be consistent, but he'll have his moments.

5-8, 165-pound junior Robert Lorenzi is trying to get healthy after suffering a broken leg. The former JUCO transfer isn't all that big and he isn't going to hit anyone, but he's extremely quick and he can turn and fire with nice deep speed. He'll be picked on by the bigger targets and will have to prove he can make a big play here and there to not get picked on.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Keith Morgan got his feet wet as a true freshman making 12 tackles as a backup safety. The 6-0, 195-pounder is versatile enough to play either safety spot, but he's a good hitter and is better at strong safety. He needs to do something against the pass to earn more playing time.

5-11, 190-pound junior Calvin Marshall has the speed and quickness of a corner, and just enough toughness to be a free safety. He made 12 tackles in his first two seasons, and now the Florida native will see time in nickel and dime packages when he's not working behind Brown at free safety.

Watch Out For ... the corners to rise up and be fine. Losing both starters isn't a plus, but Williams is a nice veteran and Lorenzi has good potential and excellent quickness. There won't be a strong pass rush to help them out, and the numbers might not be anything great, but they'll be fine with a little bit of time.

Strength:
The safeties. Mahone and Brown might be the strength of the team with their tone-setting hitting ability and the range. They'll combine for close to 200 tackles and they'll each be in the mix for all-star honors.
Weakness
:
Corner size. This wasn't a huge problem last year, but there could be problems against the bigger, more physical MAC receivers. Lorenzi is a wisp, while Williams isn't all that big at 5-9. Run support isn't going to be vital from these two, but they'll have to hold their own when the ball is in the air.
Outlook: The pass defense numbers look solid because everyone spent so much time pounding away on the awful run defense over the last few years, but there will be a drop-off overall after losing both starting corners and without much in the way of developed depth. The pass rush isn't going to be consistent, but the secondary will have to be.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Taking over the placekicking duties from Sinisa Vrvillo will likely be Jerry Phillips, a 6-1, 195-pound redshirt freshman with a decent leg. He's not Vrvillo and he'll have to prove himself early on from inside the 40, but he'll also get a few chances from deep. 

Senior Nick Iovinelli came over from the JUCO ranks and struggled in 2007. He bounced back to average 40.4 yards per kick last year with a 79-yarder, but he only put 12 inside the 20 and didn't do enough to hang the ball up in the air. He improved enough to earn third-team All-MAC honors and should be a plus this year.

The return game improved, but now it'll be an open casting call for the jobs. Roger Williams struggled averaging a horrible 14.3 yards per kickoff return on nine attempts, while it'll take until the final fall practice to find a punt returner to replace Corey Partridge and his 9.1 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... a battle for the kicking job. Philips is fine, but he's not an elite prospect. He has to be great early on to hang on to the gig, but he'll be pushed hard considering the kicker should be the difference between a bowl season and another year of being an also-ran.

Strength:
Iovinelli. After struggling mightily when he first showed up, he bailed the team out time and again last year and should be in for a nice senior season. He needs to average around 41 yards per punt, and he should.
Weakness
:
Placekicking. Bowling Green lost two games last year by three points each and lost another close one to Buffalo in overtime. It Phillips isn't a sure-thing, forget about a winning season.
Outlook: The special teams improved by leaps and bounds after a disastrous few seasons. This isn't going to be a major plus with big questions in the kicking game and among the returners, but the coverage teams should be strong and Iovinelli is a good one.
Rating: 6