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2009 Temple Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 29, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Temple Owl Defense

Temple Owls

Preview 2009 - Defense


- 2009 Temple Preview | 2009 Temple Offense
- 2009 Temple Defense |
2009 Temple Depth Chart
- 2008 Temple Preview | 2007 Temple Preview | 2006 Temple Preview


What you need to know: All things considered, last year’s defense was a major disappointment with 11 starters returning to a D that was the best in the MAC. After finishing 81st in the nation last year, the defense has work to do to be more productive in all areas. Nine starters are back, along with a ton of backup experience, led a rock-solid middle with Andre Neblett on the nose, Alex Joseph at middle linebacker, and the safety combination of Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett all possible all-stars. The corners are suspect, but there are plenty of options to choose from. More is needed from the pass rush with Adiran Robinson, Brian Sanford and Junior Galette all needing to crank things up a bit.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jaiquawn Jarrett, 88
Sacks: Junior Galette, 7.5
Interceptions: Dominique Harris, Jaiquawn Jarrett, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DT Andre Neblitt
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Anthony Ferla
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Adrian Robinson
Best pro prospect: Neblitt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Neblitt, 2) LB Alex Joseph, 3) FS Jaiquawn Jarrett
Strength of the defense: Experience, defensive line
Weakness of the defense: Cornerback, production

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The anchor of the veteran defense will once again be 6-2, 295-pound senior Andre Neblett, an All-MAC star who made 36 tackles, a sack, and 7.5 tackles for loss on the nose. A good interior pass rusher, he was double and triple teamed throughout last season after coming up with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2007. He’s the consistent rock in the middle who started every game until the season finale when he was out hurt.

Stepping in to the starting tackle role vacated by Terrance Knighton will be Elisha Joseph, a 6-3, 275-pound spot starter who saw time on special teams and move around between both tackle spots. He finished with 20 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, and while he’s not huge, he can handle himself well on the inside.

Senior Brian Sanford is the only player on the defensive front who started every game, making 31 tackles, two sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. The former high school hurdler started out his career as an outside linebacker and bulked up to 279 pounds on his 6-2 frame. Now has to be more effective at getting into the backfield.

Adrian Robinson started the last three games of the season at right end and will return to the starting spot. The 6-2, 248-pound sophomore finished with 20 tackles but only came up with half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. One of the team’s top prospects last year, the true sophomore should be on the verge of blowing up.
 
Projected Top Reserves: Part of a consistent rotation on one end will be senior Junior Galette, the team's best pass rusher who came up with 7.5 sacks, ten tackles for loss and 46 tackles in just eight games before missing the final four games of the year for undisclosed reasons. When he’s on, he’s a difference making terror who can change games by himself.

Sophomore Morris Blueford was expected to shine after making 21 tackles and two interceptions as a true freshman, but he redshirted last season and was a star on the scout team. At 6-4 and 255 pounds he has decent size and great athleticism. Used as an outside linebacker early on, he’ll be a true defensive end this year.

6-6, 261-pound Morkeith Brown is a good-sized end with decent quickness playing behind Brian Sanford at one end. He spent most of his time on special teams and finished with eight tackles with a tackle for loss. The 24-year-old sophomore joined the army out of high school.

Adding size on the inside will be 6-5, 290-pound Muhammad Wilkerson, a big presence who saw a little bit of time but didn’t make a tackle in his true freshman season. He’s a good athlete for his size and will be a bit part of the rotation at tackle behind Elisha Joseph.

Watch Out For ... more being done in the backfield. The line was improved over past seasons, but it still wasn’t nearly strong enough considering the returning experience. Now, there should be more of a pass rush from all four spots.
Strength: Experience and depth. This was a veteran group going into last year, and now it’s a truly experienced line with only one spot needing to be filled. There are decent backup options at all four positions.
Weakness
:
Production. This is a good-sized line that gets shoved around way too often against the run. Considering there’s so much experience returning, finishing 89th in the nation in sacks and 87th against the run isn’t going to cut it.
Outlook: The defensive line didn’t play up to its talent level or experience last season, but it was still an improved front from past seasons. Andre Neblett is a big-time talent to build around, while the pass rush is an issue now that Junior Galette, the team's top pass rusher, is out of the mix for undisclosed reasons. There’s experience and size, but now there has to be more production.
Rating: 5

Linebackers


Projected Starters: Senior Alex Joseph is on the verge of becoming an All-MAC star after following up a 66 tackle 2007 with an 87 stop 2008 with 3.5 tackle for loss and four broken up passes. He bulked up over the last year to get up to 243 pounds, and now he should be even tougher in the middle. Speed isn’t an issue and he’s great at getting to the ball. Now he has to be an even bigger playmaker as the leader of the defensive back seven.

Junior Amara Kamara started every game as a true freshman making 71 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and held down the outside job again last year making 67 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss. He has hit the weights hard and has gotten up to 232 pounds on his 6-2 frame, and now he’s not just a bulked up safety. He runs a 4.58 40 and can hit.  

John Haley only started in three games, but he finished fourth on the team with 68 tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 227 pounds he’s not all that big, but the cousin of former NFL star Charles Haley is an excellent athlete and a good factor in the backfield.
 
Projected Top Reserves: While Elijah Joseph will technically be a backup behind John Haley on the outside, he can be considered another starter after making 54 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in nine starts last season. The 6-1, 235-pounder can play either outside position and will move in and out of the rotation on a regular basis.

6-3, 230-pound junior Jordan Martin has been a reliable backup on the weakside and will now return to the middle to play behind Alex Joseph. Martin made 11 tackles in his limited work, but he has the potential to do far more as a pass rusher if he’s moved back outside. The transfer from Valparaiso has the quickness to play any of the three linebacker spots.

Watch Out For ... A good rotation on the outside. Elijah Joseph can start if needed while sophomore Quinten White is a 210-pound speedster who could be used as a pass rushing specialist. Kamara and Haley should have strong years in the starting spots.
Strength: Options. Like most places on the Temple team, there’s depth and experience to spare. The starting threesome is solid and there are several decent prospects waiting in the wings.
Weakness
:
Pass rush. There's speed and quickness at all three spots, but it hasn’t transferred into big plays over the last few years. There needs to be a more disruptive element to the linebacking corps after being merely adequate last season.
Outlook: The young corps of a few years ago should be through the growing pains and could turn out to be the team’s biggest strength. Alex Joseph, Amara Kamara and John Haley have all bulked up and should form one of the MAC’s most productive trios. Elijah Joseph is as experienced a backup linebacker as there is in the league.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs


Projected Starters: Leading the strong secondary is free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a playmaking junior who has held down the starting spot for the last two seasons. He made 61 tackles as a true freshman and followed it up by leading the team with 88 stops, three interceptions, and three recovered fumbles. While he’s only 6-2 and 195 pounds, he can move.

Also back is senior strong safety Dominique Harris, the team’s leading tackler two years ago. He made 66 stops with three interceptions last year and will be the leader of the secondary with his tone-setting play and experience. At 6-3 and 215 pounds he has good size and the speed to play either safety spot.  

The team's top corner will be senior Anthony Ferla if he can be healthy. The 5-10, 190-pounder plays bigger than his size and is a good tackler making 45 stops in 2007. However, he was out all of last year and saw time on the scout team. With excellent speed, he can stay with most MAC receivers. Now he has to start coming up with more big plays.

On the other side will be sophomore Marlin Terrell, a 5-10, 187-pound rising prospect who made seven tackles as a true freshman. He’ll need a while to grow into the starting job, but he could quickly become the team’s best all-around corner with his quickness and open-field tackling ability.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 188-pound junior Jamal Schulters started every game at corner last year and will get a long look at a nickelback and again as a corner. He finished third on the team with 71 tackles to go along with a team-leading seven broken up passes and three interceptions. After originally signing with Kansas State two years ago, Schulters switched over to Temple and was an instant producer. Now he has to work his way back into the starting rotation.

Senior Wilbert Brinson hadn’t done much over his career and then he turned into a key backup and spot starter at corner making 28 tackles and breaking up a pass. Mostly a special teamer, he has the 6-0, 199-pound size and the experience to see more time in a rotation with Jaiquan Jarrett at free safety and the speed to play corner again.

Originally considered as a top receiver prospect, junior Marquise Liverpool moved to running back and finished third on the team with 126 yards and a touchdown. The 5-11, 190-pound athlete will now switch to defensive back where he’ll use his tremendous speed in some capacity. Originally a Boston College Eagle, the 23-year-old was a big get for Temple after spending time in the Seattle Mariner farm system. Now the team has to find a spot for him.
 
Watch Out For ... more picks. The pass rush should be better and the secondary shouldn’t have to spend so much time tackling. After coming up with 11 interceptions last year, the secondary should get far more considering the experience and the help from the defensive front.
Strength: Safety. Jaiquawn Jarrett and Dominique Harris will form one of the MAC’s best safety tandems. With Wilbert Brinson able to step in and Kevin Kroboth a special teams star who picked off a key pass last year, the Owls should be set here.
Weakness
:
Corners. There are plenty of players to rotate in and out, but the Owls need more production from the outside. The hope will be for Anthony Ferla to be ready to roll as a No. 1 corner, but someone has to start scaring opposing receivers.
Outlook: The MAC's best pass defense of two years ago fell off the map last year having problems giving up yards in bits and pieces. There weren’t too many big plays allowed, one Hail Mary from Buffalo aside, but teams were able to pick apart the corners on short to midrange passes. There’s plenty of experience and lots of good players returning to hope for an improvement.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The Owls led the nation in kickoff returns last year, but Travis Shelton and his 31.3-yard average is gone. RB Kee-are Griffin and James Nixon ill get the first shot to replace him. Nixon averaged 26 yards on his two tries last season. Sophomore Joe Jones will handle the punt return duties, taking over for Delano Green, after getting two tries last year and gaining 13 yards.

Junior Jeff Wathne is back as the punter, but he needs help from the coverage teams. He averaged 40.4 yards per kick and put 19 inside the 20, but the team struggled in coverage allowing 11.2 yards per return. He has a big leg and needs to air it out even more.

Senior PK Jake Brownell has been fine, but nothing special hitting 8-of-14 kicks after nailing 13-of-21 two years ago. He doesn’t have a consistently big leg and tops out at around 45 yards out. He’ll be pushed a bit by Brandon McManus, but it’ll take a lot to knock out the veteran.
 
Watch Out For ... Brownell to be pushed a little bit for the placekicker job. McManus has a bigger leg and might be used for the bombs. However, he has to be more consistent from midrange.
Strength: The coaching staff. Head coach Al Golden has made special teams his priority, and it showed last year as there was a night-and-day improvement. These won’t be the best special teams in the MAC, but they won’t be bad.
Weakness
:
Punt coverage. This has been a problem over the last several years. Punter Jeff Wathne wasn't great, but it wasn't like he got a lot of help. The Owls gave up a whopping 11.2 yards per punt return and two scores two years ago and allowed 11.2 yards per return again, but without any scores, last year.
Outlook: The special teams should be solid with two decent, but unspectacular kickers in place and the potential for a good return game. The kickoff coverage team is fine, but there needs to be a major improvement with the punt return coverage.
Rating: 6.5