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2010 Eastern Michigan Preview - Defense
Eastern Michigan S Martavius Cardwell
Eastern Michigan S Martavius Cardwell
Posted May 6, 2010 2010 Preview - Eastern Michigan Eagle Defense

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2010 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2010 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2010 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart
- Eastern Michigan Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: The Eagles were destroyed against the run last season allowing a nation-worst 3,322 yards and 39 touchdowns, but there’s hope for a turnaround with a young, athletic front seven with plenty of options. The goal is for a regular rotation of several players to keep everyone fresh and to hope every can hold up a bit better after allowing 6.3 yards per carry. The pass defense finished first in the nation, but that was only because games got so out of hand that everyone ran the ball. There’s speed at the corner and experience at safety; the secondary could be one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Martavius Cardwell, 105
Sacks: Martavius Cardwell, 2
Interceptions: Several with 1

Star of the defense: Junior LB Marcus English
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Ryan Leonard
Unsung star on the rise: Senior FS Latarrius Thomas
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Brandon Slater
Top three all-star candidates: 1) English, 2) S Martavius Cardwell, 3) CB Arrington Hicks
Strength of the defense: Corner Speed, Numbers and Options
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Veteran Talent

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The defensive line was able to get into the backfield, but it needs more pressure on the quarterback. That has to start with junior Javon Reese, a 6-1, 247-pound strongside linebacker who happens to play on the line. He has good quickness and a great burst into the backfield, but he only made one sack with nine tackles for loss. He’s decent on the move, making 27 tackles, but his emergence into a consistently disruptive force could be the key to the defense.

Junior Brad Ohrman plays a hybrid of tackle and end, moving back and forth where needed. At 6-4 and 263 pounds, he’s a bit smallish to play on the inside, but he bulked up after starting last year at 244 pounds. The goal is to make him an interior pass rusher, but he wasn’t one last year making 3.5 tackles for loss, no sacks, and 19 tackles after making six sacks two seasons ago. One of the team’s top recruits over the last few years, he has the raw talent to do a lot more.

Bringing the bulk on the inside will be 6-3, 291-pound junior Brandon Slater, who started the last ten games of last season making 31 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. One of the team’s biggest players, he’s a widebody who needs to be the anchor.

6-0, 287-pound senior Ryan Leonard is a plugger in the middle of the line who got one start and ended up making 27 tackles with a sack and 7.5 tackles for loss. The former JUCO transfer made 65 tackles and eight sacks in 2008 for the College of the Sequoias, and now he has the experience to do even more, especially against the run.

Projected Top Reserves Tyler Palsrok is a 6-5, 279-pound veteran who started three games last year and was supposed to be a major force, but he only came up with 12 tackles, no sacks, and half a tackle for loss on the inside. Staying healthy has been a problem, he was never right last season with a leg problem, but he has enough overall experience to be counted on in the rotation with Slater on the inside.

Sophomore Andy Malumba spent most of last year working at linebacker and started two games on the strongside and finishing with 15 tackles. The Canadian was the most valuable player in the Canadian National Championship, and while he’s not huge at 6-1 and 245 pounds, he can move.

Sophomore Devon Davis is only 6-1 and 215 pounds, but he’s a defensive end who plays bigger than his size. He stepped up and made 23 tackles with 1,5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss with an interception as a true freshman, and now he’ll be used even more as a speed rusher with a good motor and excellent quickness.

Watch Out For … even more of a rotation. The line is one of the team’s deepest areas and the coaching staff will take advantage by using a variety of players to move in and out to keep everyone fresh.
Strength: Experience. Three starters return to the line and several of the reserves have starting experience. Even so, this is a relatively young line with only one senior on the two-deep, so there’s reason to be excited for the near future.
Weakness: Stopping the run. Even with a slew of tackles for loss and big plays in the backfield, the line was beaten up and statistically awful finishing last in the nation against the run allowing 277 yards per game.
Outlook: The hope is there for experience to translate into production. There isn’t a sure-thing pass rusher with the loss of Brandon Downs (who made 7.5 sacks last year), but there’s good speed and quickness on the outside and decent size inside to hope for a better year.
Unit Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters: The linebacking corps will see a regular rotation, but the one constant should be junior Marcus English in the middle. The 6-1, 228-pounder isn’t all that big, but he’s tough and a good tackler making 41 tackles and an interception in just six games of action. He was never quite right all season long. It was his job to replace tackling-machine Daniel Holtzclaw, and while he’s more like a big safety than a linebacker, he’s a big hitter who should lead the team if he can stay healthy.

Working on the weakside in place of last year’s leading tackler, Andre Hatchett, will be Neal Howey, a 6-1, 225-pound senior who has been a part of the mix for the last few seasons making 27 tackles and a sack last season. A transfer from Upper Iowa University, he started off his career as a defensive back and worked on the EMU special teams. Now his job will be to make things happen on the outside and be a key player in pass coverage.

6-0, 225-pound Tim Fort stepped in last season for English and started most of the second half of the year in the middle after seeing starting time on the strongside. The senior finished with 43 tackles and three tackles for loss, but he didn’t do enough to get into the backfield. He has a great motor and is a fighter who’ll go all out on every play.

Projected Top Reserves Sophomore Steve Brown was expected to be a part of the mix last year, but he ended up redshirting. Now he has three years remaining to work in the rotation on the strongside, but at 6-0 and 228 pounds he isn’t all that big. The former star high school safety made 181 tackles in two years while leading his team to a Virginia state high school title has excellent range and the versatility to play either side.

6-0, 232-pound sophomore Matt Boyd got a little bit of time in ten games making five tackles, mostly on special teams. He’s one of the team’s biggest linebackers and could be a major factor in the middle if Marcus English can’t stay healthy. He’s very smart, very strong, and athletic enough to grow into an interesting defender.

Senior Nate Paopao is only 6-0 and 213 pounds, but he can move on the weakside. The senior only made a tackle in his nine games of appearances. He’ll get his chance in his final year, and while he’s not all that big, he’s quick.

Watch Out For … a seven-man rotation. Throw in Garrett Gronwoski, a safety by trade, into the mix, and the Eagles are going to use several players to try to find some production.
Strength: Willing tacklers. This isn’t a big group and it’s not all that experienced or talented, but there isn’t a problem when it comes to bodies being thrown around. This will be an aggressive corps.
Weakness: Run stuffers. English and Fort will hit, and Howey can play almost anywhere, but there are way too many tackles made down the field. Get a hat on these linebackers and they stay blocked.
Outlook: EMU will try to make up for a lack of talent with swarms of players, a rotation, and the hope to find a combination that can stay healthy and can clean up all the things the mediocre line can’t get to. English and Fort have to be 100-tackle playmakers, even if it they’re part of a regular substitution pattern.
Unit Rating: 4


Projected Starters: The secondary gets a huge jolt of talent with the addition of senior Latarrius Thomas, a transfer from Louisville who’s finally eligible to play. The 6-2, 210-pounder was a regular starter for the Cardinals making 43 tackles, and he has the size and range to be one of the team’s stars at free safety.

Senior Ryan Downard is back after getting knocked out early last year with a broken arm. In just four games he made 14 tackles with an interception after leading the team with six picks in 2007. A favorite of the former coaching staff, he has the potential to be one of the team’s leading tacklers and a possible all-star pick. At 6-1 and 198 pounds, he has decent size and great range.

Senior Arrington Hicks is the team’s top corner starting every game but one last season making 32 tackles. However, he only broke up two passes and didn’t pick off a pass. The 5-9, 170-pounder isn’t all that big, but he’s a willing, tough tackler and has some of the best wheels on the team. The former Florida high school track star was one of the state’s best hurdlers, but he has to be better when the ball is in the air.

Marcell Rose started the final three games of last year at the Field Corner spot and finished with 20 tackles and an interception, but he needs to do more. The 5-9, 185-pound junior got some nibbles from Notre Dame, South Carolina, and other BCS schools as a wide receiver, and his excellent athleticism has been used on defense at EMU. However, he has been a bit of a disappointment so far and has to be more of a playmaker.

Projected Top Reserves Junior Martavius Cardwell will find a spot somewhere. Arguably the team’s best defensive back last year, he finished second on the team making 105 tackles with two sacks and an interception, with a team-leading two forced fumbles, starting 11 times at free safety, but he’ll have to fight to push Latarrius Thomas aside. He’ll be a whale of a nickel and dime defender with great range and speed, and he’s a fearless, effective tackler.

Ja’Ron GIllespie started four games last season as a fifth defensive back and finished with 18 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. The 5-11, 174-pound sophomore is one of the team’s bigger corners, and while he’s not a blazer, he’s plenty fast with the upside to be used in a variety of ways.

Watch Out For … Thomas. The team needed more size and more talent in the secondary, and it gets it with the Louisville transfer. That he can potentially knock out Cardwell from the starting free safety spot shows how good he’s expected to be.
Strength: Corner speed. Rose and Hicks can move as well as any corners in the MAC. They might not be all that big and they don’t make enough plays, but they can fly.
Weakness: Giving up the big play. Opposing quarterbacks averaged eight yards per pass and 14.2 yards per completion. Whenever anyone wanted to complete a pass on third down, it wasn’t a problem.
Outlook: The good news: EMU was No. 1 in the nation in pass defense last year allowing 151 yards per game. The bad news: that was only because the run defense gave up yards in chunks and no one needed to throw the ball all that much. There’s speed, athleticism, and good potential at all four spots in the secondary, and there could be times when the Eagles go to five DBs just to get all the athleticism on the field. Considering there’s no pass rush to help the cause, this could be a better secondary than it might seem.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Thomas Baertschi is expected to handle all the kicking duties after the Eagles lost punter Zach Johnson, a weapon who averaged 40.4 yards per boot, an Joe Caruthers, a decent, but limited placekicker who hit 10-of-17 field goals and 8-of-11 inside the 40. Bartschi is a transfer from Rhode Island and has a solid, but not huge leg.

The punt return game was lousy last year averaging just 4.9 yards per try, and it’ll be an open audition all season long to try to find the right option, but wide receiver Corey Welch should be a decent kickoff returner after averaging 21.4 yards per try.

Watch Out For … at least four different players get a shot at returning punts. It would be nice if one guy could stand out and produce, but EMU will likely go with a rotation to try to find the right player.
Strength: Kickoff returns. EMU 95th in the nation in kickoff returns last season, but Welch is dangerous and there’s more than enough speed and quickness to hope for a few big returns.
Weakness: Anything to count on. Baertschi is hardly a sure-thing handling all the kicking duties, there isn’t a No. 1 punt returner, and the coverage teams were abysmal last year.
Outlook: There’s a ton of work to do and a lot of concern for a team that gave up 9.8 yards per punt return, 21.3 yards per kickoff return, and was last in the MAC in punt returns and awful at returning kickoffs. Throw in the uncertainty of Baertschi, and EMU has a lot to worry about in an area it can’t be lousy in.
Unit Rating: 4

- 2010 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2010 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2010 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2010 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart
- Eastern Michigan Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006