2010 Troy Preview – Defense

Posted Jun 5, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Troy Trojan Defense

Troy Trojans

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell has some work to do. After a dominant 2008, the Troy D was shockingly miserable finishing 104th in the nation overall with college football's third-worst pass defense. Now all the talent is gone including Troy linebacking legends Boris Lee and Bear Woods and pass rushing terrors Cameron Sheffield and Brandon Lang. The tackle situation is so scary that the D might end up moving to a 3-4 to utilize all the quickness at linebacker. There are a ton of young talents in the secondary and the pass rush will be fine with Jonathan Massaquoi and Mario Addison likely to be regulars in the backfield, but overall, the D will be a big wad of clay that needs to be molded.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Bryan Willis, 73
Sacks: Mario Addison, 2.5
Interceptions: Bryan Willis, 4

Star of the defense: Sophomore CB Bryan Willis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior NT Riley Flowers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Jonathan Massaquoi
Best pro prospect: Willis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Willis, 2) SS Barry Valcin, 3) LB Xavier Lamb
Strength of the defense: Quickness, Young Defensive Backs
Weakness of the defense: Tackle, Pass Defense 

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Troy line has to unearth a few pass rushers right away with the biggest problem at left end where first-team All-Sun Belt terror, Brandon Lang, is gone. In steps Jonathan Massaquoi, a 6-2, 227-pound sophomore who redshirted last year after coming up with 11.5 sacks in his one year at Butler County CC. He might be built like a smallish linebacker or a big safety, but he extremely quick off the ball and has tremendous athleticism with a burst into the backfield. The brother of former Georgia star and current Cleveland Brown wide receiver, Mohommed, has the athleticism to make up for the lack of bulk.

Trying to replace the seven sacks of all-star right end Cameron Sheffield will be senior Mario Addison , a 6-2, 244-pound veteran who worked as a key reserve and a top special teamer making 32 tackles with 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. A natural pass rusher, he came up with ten quarterback hurries, fourth best on the team, and he has the experience to step in and produce with two years of JUCO experience to go along with his time in the system last year.

Senior Riley Flowers might be the key to the defense. The 5-11, 280-pound nose tackle isn't all that big, but he's the biggest option for the middle of the line with good quickness for his size. An all-star JUCO transfer, he saw a little bit of time last year and did absolutely nothing. Now he's being asked to become the anchor up front, and while he has the size and the makeup to be fine on the nose, he has to show he can play.

At only 6-0 and 242 pounds, sophomore Tony Davis is a woefully undersized defensive tackle who'll be given every shot to take over one of the inside spots. While he's not big, he's extremely quick with the hope being that he'll grow into the job as an interior pass rusher. He'll be a part of a rotation as he lacks the bulk to hold up against a power running team.

Projected Top Reserves: Considering there's no bulk for the interior, senior Emanuel Dudley needs to literally play a big role. At 6-0 and 286 pounds, he has the build to have the right leverage on the nose, but he didn't do too much last year in his first season with the team after a special JUCO career. He was an all-star who made 91 career tackles with eight tackles for loss in his two years at Northeast Mississippi CC, and now he has to use his quickness to become a factor. He made four tackles in his three games or work.

True freshman John Clark should be a part of the rotation right away. While he has yet to fully fill out his 6-4 and 220-pound frame, he's a pure, active pass rusher with a long frame that's tough to throw over. A good tackler, he should be able to hold up right away in a rotation with Jonathan Massaquoi on the left side.

Watch Out For … the ends to be fine. Massaquoi and Addison have the talent to become deadly pass rushers, and while they might not have the talent of Cameron Sheffield and Brandon Lang, they can fly off the ball and should be camped out in opposing backfields.
Strength: Quickness. The entire front four, including the backups, can move. They're athletic, active, and should be regulars when it comes to hitting the quarterback. While there might not be a ton of experience, there's talent waiting to shine.
Weakness: Defensive tackle. Uh oh. This was supposed to be a problem last year, and while the tackles weren't a total disaster, they were hardly great. Now there's no size whatsoever outside of the Flowers/Dudley combination and there's reason to be worried against anyone who can run up the middle. Things might be so bad that the defense could move to a 3-4.
Outlook: This is easily the team's biggest issue. The pass rush will be fine even without the all-stars of last year, but the run defense could be a major issue against anyone with size. The coaching staff came up with some linemen in the recruiting class, but it's not going to be enough to overcome the concerns and issues.
Unit Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters: Boris Lee was among the most productive linebackers in Sun Belt history with 353 career tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 36 tackles for loss. Gone from the middle, now it'll be up to junior Xavier Lamb to not only come up with the same production, but he needs to also be the same sort of leader. Only 5-9 and 222 pounds, he's not built for the spot but he's tough as nails. A huge hitter for his size, he made 38 tackles in a reserve role and should be among the team's leading playmakers.

While Lee might have been the team's best linebacker, Bear Woods led the team in tackles. Now it'll be up to Donnell Golden to shine on the weakside after getting two starts last year and finishing with 37 tackles with a sack. At 6-0 and 236 pounds, the junior has good size and has the speed and quickness to be a statistical superstar. A phenomenal athlete, he spent most of his high school career at running back while setting Georgia track records in the 400-meter dash.

Senior Daniel Sheffield started 12 games last year on the strongside finishing with 54 tackles with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, and now he needs to be a steadying veteran presence. At 6-3 and 206 pounds, he's built like a safety and needs to be able to hold up after hurting his shoulder. Extremely athletic and very tough for his size, he's average in pass coverage and is a far better fit at outside linebacker. He doesn't miss a tackle and is a big hitter.

Projected Top Reserves: A star special teamer in his true freshman season, sophomore Kanorris Davis will get a chance to find a spot in the rotation on the strongside. The 5-11, 215-pounder made 21 tackles and a sack with two tackles for loss, and he showed a big hitting ability against Arkansas State forcing two fumbles and forcing three on the year. A great all-around prospect, he could be the team's new linebacking star when he gets a chance.

Sophomore Jacoby Thomas only made two tackles as a reserve and a special teamer, but he has the size and the upside to potentially shine on the weakside. At 6-0 and 234 pounds, he's a compact hitter who was a nice recruit for the program with good quickness and wrap-up tackling skills (at least in practices), he should be solid.

Watch Out For … Lamb to blow up in the middle. If he can keep himself from getting banged up and hurt, he should be fantastic in the middle with great range and hitting ability. He might not be Boris Lee, but he'll make a ton of plays.
Strength: Quickness. Sacrificing size for speed and quickness, the linebackers have limitless range and the potential to be used more in pass coverage and blitzing. They'll be all over the field.
Weakness: Run defense. The linebackers will make a ton of tackles and put up big stats, but most of the plays happen too far down the field. This isn't a physical enough group to hold up for too long with a smallish line in front.
Outlook: You don't lose Bear Woods and Boris Lee and get better. The starting threesome will come up with a ton of tackles and will be fine, but the reserves are question marks and there's a mega-void in leadership with the departure of the two staples. Troy always gets production out of the position, but there's going to be an adjustment period.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: The secondary was a disaster last year, and now the hope is for a major improvement with KeJuan Phillips coming back from academic issues. At 5-9 and 176 pounds, the sophomore is stronger than his size might indicate with excellent quickness and upside. He only made three tackles in 2008, but he got a pick in his little bit of time. He'll grow into a decent starter at one corner.

Back on the other side is 5-9, 180-pound sophomore Bryan Willis , one of the few bright spots from last year's nightmare finishing tied for third on the team with 73 tackles with a team-leading four interceptions and 12 broken up passes. A great open field tackler with 60 unassisted stops, he's great in run support but has to do more when the ball is in the air.

Barry Valcin, a former JUCO transfer started out his career signing with Baylor, changing to LSU, and ending up at Troy. With BCS-level skill, he was decent getting the start at corner for most of the year making 51 tackles with an interception and five broken up passes, but he should be a far better fit at strong safety. At 5-11 and 184 pounds, he has decent size and good range and tackling ability. However, he struggles too much in pass coverage on the outside.

5-11, 199-pound senior Willard Ross was a key spot starter throughout last year making 26 tackles, but he didn't do anything against the pass. The former JUCO transfer started out his career as a running back before moving over to the defensive side. Now he'll step in and take over for Chris Bowens at free safety.

Projected Top Reserves: Veteran Bryant McKissic got the start in the GMAC Bowl after spending the year as a part of the safety rotation making 20 tackles with an interception. Mostly a special teamer so far over the course of his career, the 6-1, 212-pounder is one of the team's biggest defensive backs and now will work in a rotation with Barry Valcin.

After getting offers from Cincinnati and Rutgers, top recruit Dionte Ponder will get a look right away at corner. The 5-10, 170-pounder was a decent high school receiver as well as a tough tackling defensive back, and he should eventually grow into a pure cover-corner who could be used in nickel and dime packages.

JUCO transfer LaDarrius Madden will be a part of the free safety mix after making 19 tackles and taking two of his three picks for scores for NE Mississippi CC last year. A playmaking 6-0 and 220 pounds, he's a bigger option than Willard Ross and will almost certainly be the starter next year.

Watch Out For … Ponder. If the secondary has the problems it had last year, there will be some changes throughout the year. The true freshman will find a spot somewhere.
Strength: Young prospects. With Phillips, Willis, Ponder, and Madden, along with a recruiting class of nine defensive backs, the Trojans have a ton of young talent to mold over the next few years.
Weakness: Stopping the pass. Partly because teams spent so much time and energy trying to keep up the pace with the Trojan offense, and partly because the defensive backs stunk, Troy finished 118th in the nation in pass defense allowing 287 yards per game. The secondary gave up over 400 yards in two of the final four games and 395 to Central Michigan while giving up 29 touchdowns.
Outlook: The secondary wasn't supposed to fall off the map even after losing several stars, and it fell off the map. Even with a tremendous pass rush to help the cause, the secondary still gave up a ton of yards and couldn't come up with enough big stops. The young group should be decent in time, and it can't be worse than last year, but it'll hardly be a rock. However, expect the Try pass defense to be back up to snuff soon; there's plenty of talent to work with.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Michael Taylor took over the starting placekicker job early on hitting 11-of-14 field goals including a 46-yarder against Central Michigan to force overtime. However, his 31-yard attempt in the second overtime was blocked. His two other misses came from 34 and 48 yards, and he was steady the rest of the way. He doesn't have a cannon for a leg and is merely decent on kickoffs, but he's good enough to be in the hunt for all-star honors.

The punting game was strong helped by a nice year from junior Will Goggins , who sputtered as a freshman but averaged 40.8 yards per try last year. He put 14 inside the 20 and forced 16 fair catches, and now he should be an all-star if he can keep forcing returners to average just 5.5 yards per try again.

Top wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan had a terrific year on kickoff returns averaging 23 yards per try, but as a team, the Trojans averaged a mere 21 yards per return. The punt return game was a disaster finishing 116th in the nation averaging just 3.53 yards per attempt, but receiver Tebarius Gill has a shot of adding more pop if he ends up taking over.

Watch Out For … the Trojans to have two all-star kickers. Taylor doesn't have the deepest range, but he's good enough and accurate enough to become a first or second-team All-Sun Belt performer. Goggans has had a nice career and is terrific at keeping returns to a minimum.
Strength: The kickers. Taylor and Goggans are veterans who know what they're doing. Jernigan is a dangerous kickoff returner who has to be avoided whenever possible.
Weakness: Punt returns and kickoff coverage. The punt return game was abysmal with Cornelius Williams averaging just 3.9 yards per try, but the kickoff coverage was a particular disaster allowing 23.2 yards per try. As good as Taylor is, he doesn't bust it deep.
Outlook: Was last year an aberration? Troy had the best special teams in the Sun Belt in 2007 and 2008, but the return game was lousy and the kickoff coverage team wasn't any good. The kicking game will be fine and the coaching and overall quickness are too good to not return to form.
Unit Rating: 6

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