2010 CFN Louisiana Preview - Defense
Louisiana LB Grant Fleming
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Defense
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The Cajuns haven't had much of a defense for several years, and it's mystifying. This year, there's depth, size, and experience across the board, there are some decent all-star prospects, and there's plenty of upside. So is this going to finally be the year when it all comes together? Probably not. Defensive coordinator Kevin Fouquier's concept of TNT (tackles ‘n' turnovers) is nice in theory, but there's no sure-thing pass rush and that lack of pressure is a killer on the back seven. The secondary has the talent to come up with a nice year, but it needs help against quarterbacks who always get ten days to throw. The linebacking corps should be strong and the line is big and with several options, but it's time for the D to start producing after allowing 404 yards and 30.33 point per game.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Grant Fleming
Tackles: Grant Fleming, 89
Sacks: Tyrell Gaddies, 2.5
Interceptions: Dwight Bentley, Maurice Rolle, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Jordan Tapp
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Nate Douglas
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Dwight Bentley
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Fleming, 2) LB Daylon McCoy, 3) Bentley
Strength of the defense: Cornerbacks, Depth
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Run Defense
Projected Starters: The line needs to find a steady pass rusher with the hope being that senior Terrell Richardson can grow into the role. The 6-5, 260-pounder went from being a key part of the rotation to a full-time starter, but he didn't do much making just 19 tackles and failing to come up with a sack. He's not a playmaker of any kind, but he's a big body who should be decent against the run.
Getting the call on the other side will be junior Nate Douglas, a promising end who missed all of last year and now will try to make an impact as a pass rusher. At 6-2 and 242 pounds, he's built like a linebacker and he showed good promise as a redshirt freshman making three sacks, but he was suffering a problem with seizures and now he's ready to resume his career. The time off made him fired up to get back on the field, and now he should be more motivated than ever to come up with a big season.
5-11, 280-pound Derreck Dean isn't an interior pass rusher, but he's a fireplug who sits in the inside of a line and doesn't move much. He made 33 tackles and came up with 2.5 tackles for loss, and now he'll be the team's top run stopper that everyone else will work around.
Senior Jordan Topp was a JUCO transfer who was supposed to make a big impact right away, and he was fine making 22 tackles with two tackles for loss and three tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 301 pounds he has great size and he's good at finding his way around the ball. Experienced, with time logged in at San Diego Mesa Junior College before joining the team, he's like having a starter in the middle of the line.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Sharrick Moore isn't a big option for the inside, but he's a veteran with starting experience getting the call seven times last year. At 6-2 and 250 pounds, his role as a tackle is to get into the backfield, and he only came up with eight tackles and three tackles for loss with no sacks. He'll work in a rotation with Derreck Dean, and if he's not in the backfield, he's not much help.
JUCO transfer Bernard Smith was considered more of a strongside linebacker at NE Mississippi CC, but he'll be put on the end. He got past a knee injury and now is ready to produce on the end in a rotation with Nate Douglas, and after a good spring he might take over the starting role with a little bit of time. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he's not all that big, but he can move.
Junior Tyrell Gaddies will be a vital part of the end rotation once he gets his academics in order. At 6-3 and 264 pounds, he's a big outside defender who saw time in every game last year making 22 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. With phenomenal quickness, the one-time star high school hurdler has the athleticism to go along with the size to become an all-star pass rusher.
Jermaine Rogers got three starts and was a key part in the tackle rotation in every game. At 6-5 and 287 pounds he has good size and made 19 tackles, but he didn't get into the backfield and he wasn't disruptive. He has been a cog in the system and has seen plenty of action, but he has too much experience and is too big to not be a bigger factor.
Watch Out For … the return of Douglas. After a tough year off, he appears to be jacked up to become a top end now that he's healthy. He might be the team's best pass rusher and might be a key player for the improvement of the defense.
Strength: A rotation. The Cajuns have a great two deep of veterans with mostly juniors and seniors across the board. There's good size on the ends and some decent experience from top to bottom.
Weakness: Pass rush. There hasn't been one in a few years and last season was a total disaster making 16 sacks and finishing 113th in the nation in tackles for loss.
Outlook: There's experience, options, and size, and now there has to be production. Last year's line was mediocre against the run, didn't hit the quarterback, and was completely and totally underwhelming. This year's front four has to be far better for the team to have any shot of hanging around the Sun Belt title chase.
Unit Rating: 4
Projected Starters: The loss of leading tackler and all-star Antwyne Zanders from the middle would be a problem if senior Grant Fleming wasn't moving spots. The 6-4, 232-pound former strongside defender was second on the team with 89 tackles with an interception, and he should be just fine in the middle. He might not be Zanders when it comes to getting into the backfield, but he's fast, tough, and ultra-productive.
With Fleming moving spots, junior Devon Lewis-Buchanan will step in on the outside after making 24 tackles as a key reserve. At 6-2 and 206 pounds, he's built more like a safety and he moves extremely well, and now he has to make more big plays and be more disruptive. If needed, he could move to the weakside and would be fine with more space to roam.
Senior Daylon McCoy has a few knee problems and only played in nine games, but he was still fifth on the team with 55 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. At 6-0 and 215 pounds he's not big, but he holds up well after moving over from strong safety. Very mobile with defensive back speed, he has the potential to make more game-changing plays.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Richard Brooks only saw time in four games before suffering a knee injury, but he wasn't bad in his limited time making ten tackles with a tackle for loss. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he's a decent-sized defender in the middle who was going to be groomed for the job until he got hurt. If he's great, Grant Fleming could move back over to the strongside.
A pair of redshirt freshmen, Brandon Nash and Andrew Herbert will be the key backups on the outside. Nash is a 5-11, 202-pound speedster who had a terrific spring and showed he can be a big-time tackling machine with a little bit of time. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, Herbert is a tall, decent-sized athlete who can work in a variety of ways and will see time on the weakside.
Watch Out For … Brooks. The key will be if he can get over his health issues and be just good enough to give the coaching staff more options. If he's good, the starting threesome should be terrific at times.
Strength: Fleming and McCoy. These are two very good, very sound defenders who know what they're doing and should be able to clean up several messes. They'll have to be terrific with all the uncertainty around them.
Weakness: Antwyne Zanders. All he did was make 265 tackles in the last three years as a guided missile in the middle. Fleming should put up great numbers, but Zanders is a heart-and-soul type who can't just be instantly replaced.
Outlook: There's plenty of speed, plenty of good prospects, and decent experience with Fleming and McCoy to hope for a strong year, but it's hard to be better without Zanders. There has to be more big plays in the backfield and being stronger against the run would be nice, but the ULL linebackers haven't been all that great for the last several years and likely won't be special this season.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: The Cajuns have to get more production out of the corners, but that's hard since there's no pass rush to help the cause. The hope is for junior Dwight Bentley to go from good to great and be the lock-down defender the secondary needs. At 5-11 and 173 pounds, he's a tall, thin player who stepped up his play finishing fourth on the team with 58 tackles with three interceptions and five broken up passes. He spent too much time helping against the run and not enough time preventing receivers from getting deep.
Back on the other side will be senior Orkeys Auriene, a 5-10, 175-pound veteran who's a decent tackler for his size but he's not all that physical. He has been the most productive stat-sheet filler against the pass with three interceptions and 12 broken up passes over the last two years. He has good speed and is a willing tackler, making 45 stops, and he should be consistent and decent once again.
Junior Lance Kelley is a big 6-3, 196-pound veteran with terrific sub-4.5 speed. He only made four starts and saw time in 11 games making 32 tackles with two interceptions, and now with his time logged in he should be a top tackler at strong safety and has the potential to come up with an all-star year. He has the tools to be excellent.
Taking over at free safety will be senior Maurice Rolle, Jr., a 6-1 192-pounder who made 33 tackles and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. A big hitter with the range of a corner, he isn't afraid to throw his body around, for good and for bad. He has had shoulder problems, but he has also been tough enough to play through his bumps and bruises.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Melvin White is a rising corner coming off a nice spring. While he only made seven tackles and broke up just one pass last season, but he'll be a major factor as the main nickel option. At 6-3 and 181 pounds he's big with great range, and he'll also use his skills on the right side working behind Dwight Bentley.
5-10, 175-pound Lionel Stokes is a thin speedster who was a nice get for the program. The JUCO star made 96 tackles in just nine games at Copiah-Lincoln CC and will add great range and instant depth at corner behind Orkeys Auriene. If nothing else, he'll see time in nickel and dime situations.
Le'Marcus Gibson is a 6-0, 205-pound hitter who originally was going to Hawaii but tore up his knee, went the JUCO route, and now should be ready to go after missing all of last year. He's a big-time tackling prospect who should become a major factor in the rotation at strong safety along with Lance Kelley.
Watch Out For … the JUCO transfers. Gibson would've been something special and would've been an instant starter at Hawaii if he hadn't hurt his knee. He walked on at ULL and should find a role in a hurry. Stokes is too quick and too experienced to not find a role immediately.
Strength: Starters. The corners really are decent, even if the stats don't show it, while there should be a good fight for the starting foursome with good options to play around with in Stokes, White, and Gibson.
Weakness: Pass rush. ULL was miserable last year against the pass allowing 222 yards per game and 21 touchdowns, but it wasn't all the fault of the secondary. The front seven was among the worst in America at getting to the quarterback and passers were able to take their time and do whatever they wanted to.
Outlook: The talent will be better than the production. There's experience, speed, and depth, but after allowing 200 yards or more in seven games, there's room for improvement. There will be plenty of picks, but there must be more third down stops.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Veteran kicker Tyler Albrecht is back after coming up with a decent 8-of-11 season including an impressive 4-of-6 shots from beyond 40 yards. Oddly enough, he didn't get any attempts from between 30-and-39 yards out, but he has a nice, booming leg and will get his chances from anywhere from 50 yards and in.
The punting game was a strength and should be again with the return of first-team, All-Sun Belt senior Spencer Ortego. He helped the Cajuns lead the Sun Belt averaging 40.6 yards per kick with 15 put inside the 20 and with 15 fair catches. He's consistent, accurate, and he should be a star again.
The return game will be on the hunt for someone who can produce. Orkeys Auriene is the top returning punt returner after averaging nine yards per return on six tries, and
Marlin Miller is the top returning kickoff returner averaging 19.1 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Albrecht to be used more. He showed enough to get more chances with his good leg to be used more and more from midrange and deep.
Strength: Ortega. For a team with no defensive production, having a punter who can pin teams deep is a godsend. Ortega is one of the most valuable players on the team.
Weakness: The return game. ULL finished 118th in the nation in kickoff returns averaging just 18.06 yards per try, and was okay on punt returns averaging nine yards per try. However, the defense was so bad that there were only 16 punt returns all season long.
Outlook: The kicking game is excellent and the coverage teams are fine. If the return game, specifically the kickoff return game, can be better, there's a chance the Cajun special teams could be among the best in the Sun Belt.
Unit Rating: 7
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2010 Louisiana Defense |
Louisiana Depth Chart
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