2009 Nevada Preview - Defense
Nevada DE Dontay Moch
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Defense
Nevada Wolf Pack
Preview 2009 - Defense
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2009 Nevada Defense
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What you need to know:
It was a strange year for
a Nevada defense that’s working all off-season to vastly
improve. The pass rush was among the best in the nation. Ends
Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch are fantastic, and the linebackers
are aggressive and great at getting into the backfield. The
plays behind the line helped the overall stats against the run,
but the Pack could be powered on. And then there’s the pass
defense. Nevada was ripped apart by just about everyone,
finishing dead-last in the nation in pass defense. Two good
starters, CB Antoine Thompson and SS Jonathan Amaya are back,
and it’ll be an open casting call for the other two spots.
Tackles: Jonathan Amaya,
Dontay Moch, 11.5
Interceptions: Jonathan Amaya, 4
Star of the defense:
Junior DE Kevin
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore LB Brandon Marshall
star on the rise: Sophomore LB James-Michael
Best pro prospect: Basped
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Basped,
2) DE Dontay Moch, 3) SS Jonathan Amaya
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, tackling
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense,
pass defense, pass defense
The only starter lost up front is
Mundrae Clifton, a solid tackle who helped clog up the middle.
Getting the first shot at taking over the job is senior
Chris Slack, a 6-5,
270-pound end who has been used as a slightly undersized tackle.
He was tough against the run and wasn’t bad at getting into the
backfield in his limited time, making ten tackles and two
tackles for loss.
The star up front is 6-6, 240-pound
pass rushing terror Kevin Basped. The All-WAC senior took over the job two years ago,
and now he’s stronger and expected to blow up into a national
star. Along with a solid 50 tackles, he came up with 10.5 sacks
and 18.5 tackles for loss showing a blast off the ball and great
closing quickness when he got a bead in the backfield. He’s a
hard worker who’ll only get better.
Benefitting on the
other side of Basped is
Dontay Moch, a 6-1, 245-pound junior who earned all-star
recognition after making 50 tackles with a team-leading 11.5
sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. While he’s not just a backfield
terror, he needs to get better against the run. He’s a willing
tackler, and now he has to be more consistent. The key to his
game is speed. He was able to beef up last year without losing a
Returning on the inside is
Nate Agaiava, a 6-2,
285-pound senior who was a brick wall against the run. While
he’s not going to get into the backfield on a regular basis,
he’s an anchor who lets everyone else work around him. The stats
are never going to be impressive, he only came up with ten
tackles, but he’s a strong plugger who can play on the nose or
at either tackle spot.
Projected Top Reserves: Working behind Basped at
one end spot will be junior
Ryan Coulson after a
ten tackle season. He’s a 6-3, 255-pound pass rusher who was
able to come up with a sack against Idaho, but wasn’t used too
often in the rotation. With his added experience, he’s expected
to do even more.
In the rotation with Colson, and
possible working behind Moch, will be sophomore end
Brett Roy, a 6-4,
260-pound active defender who made 11 tackles and a tackle for
loss. He’s an aggressive athlete who should grow more and more
into an all-around end who’ll deserve more time.
275-pound Michael Andrews
was a top JUCO transfer who was expected to step in and play
right away, but the sophomore didn’t get on the field in his
first season. A
leader and potentially a top force in the backfield and against
the run, he was recruiting by several mid-level schools, like
San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico State, along with
Cincinnati, but the Wolf Pack snagged him and now are hoping to
have a three-year anchor.
Also pushing for tackle time
will be Zack Madonick,
a 6-1, 285-pound sophomore who made three tackles in a reserve
role. He’s a plugger who can play either tackle spot and could
be put at the nose when needed.
Watch Out For
... Nate Agaiava. He’s a strong, tough inside presence
who’ll see plenty of one-on-one blocking with all the attention
paid to the ends. The Wolf Pack had one of the nation’s best
defensive fronts against the run, and Agaiava will keep up the
Strength: The ends. Basped and
Moch can’t be stopped. These two are pin-the-ears-back pass
rushers who camp out in opposing backfields. While they need to
do a bit more against the run, especially Moch, they’re
excellent outside playmakers who’ll keep opposing offensive
coordinators up at nights. Adding even more to the mix is top
recruit, Josh Banks, who’d be a starter for most WAC teams.
Veteran backups inside. This group makes plays by being
active, but there hasn’t been enough of a rotation. That should
change a bit this year with more tackle options who have been
around the system long enough to do more. However, there aren’t
a lot of players with on-field experience.
The defensive front was fantastic throughout last year
finishing eighth in the nation in tackles for loss, tenth in
sacks, and sixth against the run. This is a big group that’s
ultra-active on the outside and tough enough on the inside to
get by. There needs to be a bit more from the backups this year
and Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch have to stay healthy.
Mike Bethea had a
nice season on the weakside, or the Wolf position, making 29
tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, and now he’ll move to the
middle to take over for Joshua Mauga. The 6-3, 245-pound Bethea
has nice size and good instincts for the inside, and now he’ll
have to stay healthy after missing time with a foot problem.
With Bethea’s move, sophomore
Brandon Marshall will
slide into the weakside job after seeing time in every game as a
redshirt freshman. The 6-1, 230-pounder made 33 tackles and was
good at getting into the backfield with 8.5 tackles for loss.
He’s decent against the pass and can move just well enough to
hang with most running backs in pass patterns. Another one of
Nevada’s great hybrid playmakers who’s more like a safety but
gets into the backfield like a defensive end.
to the strongside will be
James-Michael Johnson after making 49 stops. A tremendous
pass rusher with impeccable timing into the backfield, he came
up with 12.5 tackles for loss. He got better and better as his
redshirt freshman year went on, and now he’s expected to become
one of the leaders of the defensive front. While the sophomore
is a bit undersized at 6-2 and 220 pounds, he’s tough.
Projected Top Reserves: The key experiment on the
defense is the move of
Kevin Grimes from safety to linebacker. The 6-0, 190-pound
junior was a good special teamer and a nice tackler with 45
stops in nickel situations and as a backup strong safety, but he
struggled in pass coverage. He’s a tough, physical hitter who’ll
rotate in at one of the outside jobs.
Pushing for time on
the weakside will be junior
Adam Liranzo after a solid 23 tackle season on the strongside. At
6-4 and 220 pounds, he’s a rangy playmaker who held up well
against the run and has the athleticism to be used more in space
and against the pass. He can also get into the backfield with
three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
sophomore Joe Easter
is versatile enough to play on the strongside or work in the
middle. He got on the field right away as a true freshman and
played like a star of the future both at linebacker and on
special teams. He only made nine tackles, but he showed promise
with good quickness for his size.
is a 5-11, 220-pound try-hard player who came up with 14 tackles
and an interception return for a touchdown. An undersized middle
linebacker, he can start if absolutely needed and could move to
the strongside from time to time.
For ... James-Michael Johnson to be even more of a
statistical star. He was just starting to figure everything out
at the end of last year, and now that he’ll be allowed to do
even more from his weakside spot, he should be even more
unstoppable into the backfield.
rushing ability. With a good variety of options and athletes,
there’s a good rotation to keep everyone fresh. Nevada doesn’t
run a wild and crazy jailbreak defense, but its linebackers are
great at being aggressive.
defense. This group is great against the run and fantastic at
making plays behind the line, but they did next to nothing to
help the struggling secondary on short to midrange passes.
Outlook: The Nevada linebacking corps will be all
about having strength in numbers. There’s a good group of young
athletes with experience that should only get better as the
season goes on. While there isn’t an NFL-caliber thumper like
Josh Mauga to work around, there’s enough active, aggressive
talent to be solid.
There are two sure things in the 2009 Nevada secondary, and
it’ll be a battle for the other jobs. Senior strong safety
Jonathan Amaya is
back after tying for the team lead with 68 tackles to go along
with a team-leading four interceptions. At 6-2 and 190 pounds,
he has good size and nice tackling ability, but he struggled in
pass coverage throughout the year and turned out to be far
better in run support. Now that he’s more than a year removed
from a knee injury, he should be even better. One of the team's
most versatile players, he can play any spot in the secondary,
but is best suited for free safety and can be used as a kick and
The other secured spot is at one of the
corners with senior
Antoine Thompson returning after leading the team with eight
broken up passes. The former JUCO star has 6-1, 195-pound size
and a ton of talent. ACC schools like Virginia Tech, Maryland
and Virginia all made a push for him, and now he has to show off
his potential next-level skills by being more of a lockdown
Trying to hold on to the corner spot he took over
late last season is sophomore
Isaiah Frey, a 6-0,
190-pound tackler who played in every game and made 23 tackles
with three broken up passes. He was shaky in pass coverage and
still needs work, but he has enough experience to get a long
Gone is Uche Anyanwu at free safety, who tied for
the team lead in tackles. First up in the rotation will be
Mo Harvey, a 6-3,
210-pound senior who made 22 tackles and came up with three
interceptions. He made 20 picks in his two years at Reedley
College and now has to be more of a ball hawker for a secondary
that needs to make more big plays.
Reserves: How quickly can
Cory Smith be ready? The star JUCO recruit has 6-2, 180-pound size
and impressive quickness. He was almost an Oregon State Beaver
except for a problem with his academics and in his transcript,
but it was cleared up in time for him to become a member of the
Wolf Pack secondary. He’s an immediate playmaker for a secondary
that could use a stronger option than Isaiah Frey at one of the
The other key incoming recruit is
Duke Williams, a
fast, athletic safety who was heavily courted by a few Pac 10
schools along with BYU. At 6-1, 175 pounds, he’s a wiry
defensive back with great range and tremendous upside.
Junior Doyle Miller
was a spot starter at corner last season making seven tackles
with two broken up passes. The 5-11, 185-pounder will push for
the No. 2 corner job on the other side of Antoine Thompson, but
he’ll most likely be a backup and a nickelback.
Watch Out For ... The new guys … but that’s what the
Pack were hoping for last season. The secondary got a slew of
fresh faces last year and it didn’t matter. This year, players
like Khalid Wooten,
Ahmad Wood, and Mose Denton are just a few of the prospects auditioning for jobs.
Strength: Size. If nothing else, this group can
tackle. It’s a good-sized group of defensive backs with nice,
tall corner prospects. There might not be a 225-pound bricklayer
at safety, but there isn’t anyone who’ll be picked on by bigger
Weakness: Production. The Pack
finished dead last in the nation in pass defense, getting picked
apart by everyone. With only two players certain to start, CB
Antoine Thompson and SS Jonathon Amaya, it’ll be an open casting
call for anyone who can remotely cover a receiver.
Outlook: The call went out to provide an instant upgrade
for the secondary last year. The result? A nation’s-worst 312
yards allowed per game and 31 touchdown passes with two or more
allowed in the last 11 games. Oddly enough, one of the season’s
best performances was against Texas Tech early on, but the
secondary did nothing the rest of the way. The defensive backs
can tackle, but they have to prove they can cover. Fortunately,
there aren’t many passing teams early on the schedule.
was one of the
nation’s better kickers over the last few seasons and hit
50-of-64 career field goals. He won’t be easily replaced, but
sophomore Nick Rhodes
was a good recruit who can punt as well as kick.
was also a punter, averaging 40.5 yards per kick taking over for
Brad Langley. The
junior averaged 44 yards per kick with 10 put inside the 20. He
has a nice leg, and while the overall net average wasn’t great,
Langley was fine until he suffered an Achilles heel injury.
Antoine Thompson struggled to do much as a punt returner,
averaging a paltry 4.9 yards per return, while receiver
Chris Wellington will
get the first look on kickoff returns taking over for Brian
Fludd, who averaged 22.1 yards per try.
For ... the special teams will be an issue throughout
the off-season. Brett Jaekle was a great all-around kicker last
year and he’ll be sorely missed, and now the special teams have
to find something they do well.
Langley was a solid punter, but he has to come back healthy.
That’s not a given. Considering how miserable it was in 2007,
the punting game could be the main positive focus even if it
takes him a while to get back in the mix.
Kick coverage. Out of all the issues, including a pathetic
kickoff return game, the Wolf Pack has the biggest issue with
its kickoff coverage. Nevada allowed a whopping 26.1 yards per
return last year.
Outlook: Brett Jaekle was
fantastic, and now he’s gone meaning the Nevada special teams
have nothing to count on. Everything needs work from the kicking
game to the return game to the coverage teams. This was a
disaster at times throughout 2008, and there’s nothing to
suggest things will be immediately better in 2009.