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2010 Utah State Preview - Defense
Utah State LB Bobby Wagner
Utah State LB Bobby Wagner
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 11, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Utah State Aggie Defense


Utah State Aggies

Preview 2010 - Defense


- 2010 Utah State Preview | 2010 Utah State Offense
- 2010 Utah State Defense | 2010 Utah State Depth Chart
- Utah State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Bill Busch had a rough go of it in his first year as the front seven failed to hit the quarterback on a regular basis and the secondary struggled way too much to make big plays. The Aggies finished last in the WAC in total defense (which is really, really hard to do) allowing 455 yards per game, but there’s hope for the press-man coverage scheme to work. This is a tough, quick group that should fly to the ball on a regular basis, but it’s not going to work unless the defensive front is far better. There will be a regular rotation in the front four keeping everyone fresh, while the linebacking corps has two studs in Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher to count on. The secondary has speed and experience, and now it has to stop someone from throwing effectively.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Bobby Wagner, 115
Sacks: Levi Koskan, 3
Interceptions: Rajric Coleman, Bobby Wagner, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Bobby Wagner
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Daniel Gurrola
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Junior Keiaho
Best pro prospect: Wagner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wagner, 2) CB Chris Randle, 3) LB Kyle Gallagher
Strength of the defense: Quickness, Experience
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line needs to be stronger against the run, and the hope will be to get more from senior Nathan Royster, a 6-0, 262-pound veteran who made 15 tackles and two sacks as an undersized inside presence. He’s not going to be a top stat producer, but he’s a strong, physical block who’s active enough to start getting into the backfield on a more regular basis.

Adding more bulk on the inside is 6-1, 282-pound senior Daniel Gurrola, a big former JUCO transfer who stepped in right away and came up with 13 tackles and two tackles for loss in a reserve role. He’ll once again be a key part of the rotation working as one of the team’s biggest tackles. He needs to be a run stopper who uses his strength as an anchor.

The line has to start generating a pass rush, and the hope is for junior Levi Koskan to take the role. The 6-4, 238-pounder came up with 19 tackles with three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role, and now he’ll be turned loose to see if he can use his burst to get to the quarterback on a more regular basis.

6-3, 250-pound junior Quinn Garner is more of a linebacker than an end, but he’ll work on the line as a quick pass rusher. He was active enough to make 28 tackles in a bit of a hybrid role, but he was erased by better tackles and failed to generate a sack and came up with just two tackles for loss. He has to start hitting the quarterback on a regular basis.

Projected Top Reserves: Will former JUCO star Sean Enisi play up to his potential and billing? The 5-11, 286-pound senior will rotate at one tackle spot with Nathan Royster after making 29 tackles with two tackles for loss, but he has to get into the backfield from time to time and he has to hold up better against the run. The bowling ball played on the O line for El Camino JC but moved over to the defensive side right away for the Aggies. He's a natural with tremendous strength and toughness.

6-3, 270-pound senior Casey Davis came over from the JUCO ranks a few years ago and was been a steady part of the rotation early on. He missed all of last year after being demoted, but with his size he needs to be a factor both on the nose at some times, and as a one-gap tackle at others.

Senior Devin Johnson is a 6-2, 232-pound linebacker who came to the Aggies from Citrus College and made 20 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. A good recruit, he has the quickness and athleticism to be a far better pass rusher in the rotation with Quinn Garner.

Will Maxim Dinka-Mba finally produce? The 5-11, 218-pound linebacker will work as an outside end in a rotation with Levi Koskan after making just two tackles with a tackle for loss in a limited role. A safety when he first started his career, he moved up closer and closer to the line and now will be tried out on the line to use his great speed and range to become a regular pass rusher.

Watch Out For … a steady rotation. Being a starter will mean next to nothing for an Aggie line looking to keep all four spots moving with players shuffling in and out.
Strength: Quickness. This isn’t a huge line, but there are a slew of beefed up linebackers who can move and theoretically should be able to get into the backfield.
Weakness: Production. The offense might have made a big change with the new coaching staff, but the defensive front didn’t have the same upgrade with no pass rush whatsoever and too many problems against the run.
Outlook: The line didn’t stop anyone’s ground game and was part of a D that generate a mere 17 sacks and 54 tackles for loss. There will be a steady rotation at all four spots with the hope to keep everyone fresh, but finding a few players who can produce would be nice.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: 6-1, 230-pound Bobby Wagner packed on several pounds of muscle over the last few years, and it helped him become the team’s leading tackler and a First Team All-WAC star making 115 stops with two interceptions and eight tackles for loss. Working as a hybrid defender, the Rover will see time as a pass rushing end and an outside linebacker using his speed, experience, and tremendous tackling ability to be the team’s most disruptive defensive force.

Junior Kyle Gallagher stepped in to the spot starting job early last season and took over by the end. Now the 6-0, 214-pound man in the middle will have the gig all to himself after making 53 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. While not necessarily built for the position, he’s a fearless hitter who gets all over the field and isn’t afraid to try to come up with the big pop.

Taking over on the strongside will be junior Junior Keiaho, a 6-3, 243-pound big hitter who made 36 tackles with three sacks with four quarterback hurries. More of a defensive end playing outside linebacker, he’s a good pass rusher with straight-line burst to the quarterback. Now he has to do more to make big stops against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Rueben Willis is the team’s biggest middle linebacker option at 5-10 and 227 pounds, but he has to get on the field and be more effective. He made eight tackles in a limited role after coming up with 72 stops and seven sacks the year before at El Camino JC, and if nothing else he has to become a niche player who can make a big play happen now and then.

6-4, 222-pound senior Jerome Barbour made nine tackles in just six games of experience , and now he appears to be prime and ready to be a big part of the strongside rotation. He had a great spring making several big stops and looking like a possible starting option when needed.

JUCO transfer Gavin Jones came in as a top safety prospect and was moved to middle linebacker. Even at just 6-2 and 191 pounds, he’s a physical player making 90 tackles with 20 broken up passes in his two years at Snow College. Used for his mobility and range, he’ll be an interesting option in the rotation.

Watch Out For … more plays in the backfield. The line isn’t likely to get the job done on a consistent basis, so the speedy linebackers will sell out more to make things happen behind the line.
Strength: Quickness. By design this is a fast corps with defensive backs being used as smallish linebackers with the idea to get as many people around the ball as possible. It’s not a small group, either, with excellent size on the outside.
Weakness: Playmakers. Wagner is a fantastic linebacker and the team’s top defensive player, but it wasn’t only the line’s fault for all the problems against the run. There are too many plays made down the field and not enough game-changing stops to get the defense off the field.
Outlook: The potential is there for this to be among the team’s most improved units. Wagner is a sure-thing all-star and Gallagher is a fantastic option in the middle. Now it’ll be time to fill in the roster gaps and find the right roles for the right players, and to fill in the holes on the line after being run over last year.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Secondary

Projected Starters: Senior Chris Randle went from being a decent spot starter to one of the team’s best all-around playmakers finishing fourth on the team with 53 tackles to go along with one interception and seven tackles for loss. He’s a thin 5-11 and 187 pounds, but he’s tough for his size and he has become the type of defender who quarterbacks will stay away from. He’ll give up too many big plays, but he has the speed and experience to be a decent No. 1 corner.

Working on the other side will be former running back Curtis Marsh, a 6-1, 193-pound senior who was a top offensive prospect when he came to Logan and has tried to find a role on the defensive side over the last few years. He’s a fantastic athlete and was able to see time as a nickel and dime back, but he’s still raw in pass coverage making a pick with five broken up passes to go along with his 32 stops.

Senior Rajric Coleman went from being a decent corner prospect to the team’s top free safety making 74 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up passes. The former JUCO transfer has decent 6-1, 194-pound size and excellent speed, and he has all-star potential on his stats along. He should once again be one of the team’s top three tacklers.

There will be a steady rotation at strong safety with senior Joey Schrader getting the first look after making nine tackles with a broken up pass. He helped Snow College to a NJCAA National Championship making 116 tackles with two interceptions, and he has the potential to do far more and be a top stat-sheet filler.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Quinton Byrd stepped on the field as a true freshman and made eight tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. A corner by trade, the 5-11, 182-pounder will see plenty of action as a nickel back with excellent speed and the range to become a top pickoff artist with the room to roam to the ball. He’ll be a broken up pass machine.

Junior Walter McClenton will be a steady part of the strong safety rotation if he doesn’t take over the job outright. He wasn’t been able to get his career going after suffering an injury early on, but he turned into a key part of the rotation last year as a top backup and a starter against Fresno State finishing with 33 tackles and an interception in seven games before getting hurt. He’s not big at 5-11 and 193 pounds, but he’s ultra-aggressive.

Watch Out For … Randle to take things to another level. He’s an all-star talent who’ll finally get some recognition if the defense starts to do more. He’s not a rock at corner, but he’ll win more than his share of battles.
Strength: Experience. Because of the rotation last year, everyone knows what they’re doing with Marsh ready to take on a bigger role at one corner and the Schrader/McClenton combination about to shine at strong safety.
Weakness: Stopping the pass. To be fair, there wasn’t any semblance of a pass rush to help the cause, but the secondary got ripped up by anyone who can throw allowing 240 yards or more in eight games.
Outlook: There’s experience, speed, athleticism and good tackling ability … now the secondary needs to stop someone from effectively throwing the forward pass. This is one of the best groups of defensive backs the program has had in a while, but there needs to be more of a pass rush to help the cause. The mediocre quarterbacks will have problems against this group, but the good ones will go ballistic.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: After losing the gig last year to the bigger-legged Chris Ulinski, who hit 13-of-21 field goals with 5-of-8 coming from beyond 40 yards, senior Peter Caldwell gets to be the main man again. The one-time star recruit hit 10-of-12 field goals as a sophomore, but he didn’t show much in the way of range. He’ll be solid back in his familiar role. He’ll also handle the punting duties again after averaging 42.2 yards per kick with 27 put inside the 20. He had a few too many touchbacks (11), but he was extremely effective.

RB Kerwynn Williams will use his sub-4.4 speed to once again star on kickoff returns after averaging 25.1 yards per try.

WR Stanley Morrison is a top pass catcher and now needs to do more as a punt returner after averaging eight yards per try. He’s too shifty and too fast to not do more.

Watch Out For … even more from the return game. Williams turned into a whale of a kickoff returner, and Morrison is far too good to not start to generate more pop.
Strength: Speed. There’s no shortage of returners with a slew of 4.4 and better runners who can break off big returns. Williams and Morrison are set, but Josh Flores is a dangerous punt return option and Michael Smith can add some wheels on kickoff returns.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The Aggies weren’t miserable on kickoffs allowing 21.8 yards per try, but the punt return team struggled allowing 9.7 yards per try.
Outlook: Caldwell is one of the best all-around kickers in the WAC and will be fine as the placekicker again. Williams and Morrison are dangerous, but the coverage teams have to be far better.
Unit Rating: 7.5

- 2010 Utah State Preview | 2010 Utah State Offense
- 2010 Utah State Defense | 2010 Utah State Depth Chart
- Utah State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006