2010 Western Kentucky Preview – Defense
WKU DE Jared Clendenin
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Western Kentucky Hilltopper Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: There was a lot of athleticism, plenty of promise, and tons of interesting prospects to play around with last year. This was also a very, very, very young group that got ripped apart by any offense able to field 11 live bodies. In the old 3-4, there was no pass rush, no big plays, and few stops as the defense finished 118th in the nation in yards allowed, 119th in scoring, and dead last in sacks and pass efficiency defense. Gone is the 3-4 in favor of a traditional 4-3, and there's enough size up front to do it. The key will be to generate pressure from somewhere, while the deep group of linebackers must come up with a meaningful play or three. The secondary will be the most interesting part of the team to keep an eye on with six good recruits coming in to challenge a group of veterans who never got a shot last year with no pressure from the front seven on opposing quarterbacks.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Thomas Majors
Tackles: Thomas Majors, 101
Sacks: Bo Adebayo, 2.5
Interceptions: Several with 1
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore CB Jamal Forrest
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NT James Hervey
Best pro prospect: Majors
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Majors, 2) SS Mark Santoro, 3) DE Jared Clendenin
Strength of the defense: Veterans, Young Prospects
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Production
Projected Starters: The defensive front has to find a pass rush from somewhere, and the hope has to be that junior Jared Clendenin can be the one to make it happen. He had a nice first year in 2008 and was active last season making 40 tackles, but he only registered one sack. The veteran end has 6-3, 258-pound size and two years of experience, and now he has to produce. As a 4-3 end now, he should be able to do more.
6-5, 240-pound sophomore Quanterus Smith is a linebacker-sized hybrid working on the left side, or the LEO. He was a regular in the rotation making 12 tackles, and now he'll get a chance to be a pass rushing specialist. An end by trade, he has a good burst off the ball and the athleticism to be disruptive.
Ready to be a key part of the rotation in the middle is 6-1, 269-pound sophomore James Hervey , a perfectly built nose tackle with the leverage and the interior quickness to be used as a two-gap defender and with just enough burst to be moved over a step to work as a one-gap. He saw a little action last year making five tackles while showing off his interior pass rushing ability with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Back after starting all but one game as a 3-4 end is Cole Tischer , a 6-4, 267-pound sophomore who made just nine tackles and a half a sack in his time. Originally considered a linebacker, he got his feet wet as a true freshman and now will try to hold up at tackle. What he lacks in bulk he needs to make up for in quickness and hustle.
Projected Top Reserves: At 6-0 and 276 pounds, sophomore Kenny Martin has the short, squatty build to be a terrific nose tackle. Originally expected to be a backup, he ended up starting the entire season working at the left end in the 3-4 for the first four games before moving over to the nose. He finished with 21 tackles, but he only came up with one tackle for loss and he didn't show any of the quickness or athleticism that made him such a promising recruit out of Orlando. Now he'll work in a rotation with James Hervey on the nose.
The defensive interior needs bulk, and that's what Korentheus Bailey provides. The 6-2, 297-pound sophomore got plenty of work in making 12 tackles and a sack with three tackles for loss. He also came up with a pick and rumbled for 20 yards against ULM. While he's not exactly a 3-4 tackle, he should be effective in the four man front.
6-4, 276-pound redshirt freshman Galation King was expected to push for time last year, but he ended up redshirting and now should be a major factor on the end. A perfect fit for the 3-4, the big body needs to be tough against the run and any production in the backfield would be a plus. He could've gone to several BCS schools, and he needs to be a big part of the rotation.
Providing good size and experience as a reserve, 6-4, 270-pound Bo Adebayo is back on the end after making 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. Bulked up since he first joined the program, he's big enough to see time at tackle and quick enough to work mostly on the end. He's a solid, versatile veteran to use.
Watch Out For … the 4-3. Many of the linemen were brought in to play the 3-4, and now there are several mismatched parts to the front wall. On the plus side, several players, like Clendenin and Smith, are in more natural positions.
Strength: Live bodies. It's a strength-in-numbers situation with more than two options for each spot. The backup ends are bigger than some of the tackles, and now the coaching staff can play around with several different combinations to try to find the right fit.
Weakness: Production. This was the worst defensive line in America last year, and while part of the reason was the scheme combined with inexperience, part of the problem was the talent level and play. There's no proven pass rusher and no one who did much against the run.
Outlook: WKU finished dead last in America in sacks coming up with a mere ten, was 118th in tackles for loss, and was 118th against the run. Now in a 4-3, and with most of the young, green players of last year now experienced, there can't help but be more production. Last year's coaching staff preached patience with the line, and now the lumps taken last year have to be worth something.
Unit Rating: 4
Projected Starters: While senior Thomas Majors led the team in tackles making 101 stops with three tackles for loss and an interception, he wasn't quite as much of a disruptive force as the defense needed. The former JUCO transfer stepped in right away and put up the numbers as the main man in the middle, but now he has to do far more to get into the backfield and use his range and 6-0, 240-pound size to make more plays at the point of attack.
5-10, 218-pound senior Orlando Misaalefua started at strong safety throughout last year and now will end up at weakside linebacker. A good tackler, he made 48 stops with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in just eight games, missing time banged up. He started his career off as a linebacker before moving over to the defensive backfield, and while he might not be huge, he has the athleticism and the experience to become a major playmaker now that he's closer to the line.
Senior Chris Bullard pushed is way into a starting job on the inside in the middle of the season, and he ended the year working on the outside. The 5-11, 243-pound veteran made 30 tackles and three tackles for loss, and he's one of the biggest hitters on the team. A nice all-around option, he has the size to play in the middle and the quickness to be steady on the strongside.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Tyran Golden was expected to be a major factor in the starting rotation last year, but he only made seven tackles in his limited action. At 6-2 and 223 pounds, he's a tall, rangy defender who has been good in practices over the last two seasons and is expected to do more on the strongside.
6-1, 225-pound senior Mike Gothard will find a spot somewhere. A sure-hitter, he moved around on the outside last season making 39 tackles and three tackles for loss with three forced fumbles. He's more savvy than athletic, but he has the potential to be used more as a pass rusher once he gets into the rotation. He'll have to work to see time, though.
Sophomore Josh Carter came up with a good true freshman season making 19 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. One of the team's most prominent pass rushing linebackers, he can play any of the three positions, abut at 6-1 and 245 pounds he's build for the middle. He'll take over the job next year when Thomas Majors is gone.
Watch Out For … Misaalefua. With his combination of experience and athleticism, he should be the player the team needs to become a factor in the backfield and a playmaker for opposing teams to worry about. He'll be turned loose from the weakside.
Strength: Veterans and size. It helps to go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 to help boost the linebacker depth, and now there are plenty of options to play around with. Even with the 218-pound Misaalefua in the mix, this is still one of the Sun Belt's bigger linebacking corps.
Weakness: Big plays. Because of the position and because the line doesn't clean things up, the linebackers will make more than their share of tackles. However, they have to show they can get behind the line on a regular basis and the have to be far more disruptive. The linebackers did NOTHING last year against the pass.
Outlook: Like many other areas of the team, the hope is for the linebackers to go from inexperienced and a problem to experienced and a positive. There are decent tacklers in place who can make plenty of plays if the line does its job and holds up, but forcing fumbles, getting into the backfield, and being more dangerous is a must for the team to improve.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: The new coaching staff has put everyone in the secondary on high alert to play well or quickly be replaced by a younger option. That might not apply to junior Mark Santoro , the veteran strong safety who spent last year trying to clean up the messes left by the front seven. The 6-0, 196-pound tackling machine followed up a 60-stop season with 91 tackles with two broken up passes and 1.5 tackles for loss. If he's allowed to help out more against the pass, he'd be a huge help for corners that need the assistance, but his real worth is as a run stopper.
Returning to his starting corner job after a rough first year is Jamal Forrest , a smallish 5-9, 163-pound sophomore who started every game but one last year making 32 tackles with an interception and four broken up passes. He might not be big, but he can scoot with no problem staying with the quicker receivers. He's a willing tackler, but he has problems with the bigger targets.
Stepping in for Jihad Morris, one of the more productive defensive backs last year with seven broken up passes and 54 tackles, is junior Avery Hibbett, a 5-9, 178-pound athlete who started out his career as a running back before moving over to the defensive side. Very quick and with great athleticism, he should build on the 15 tackle, two broken up pass season of last year and become a steady corner. If nothing else, he'd make a great nickel and dime defender.
Junior Ryan Beard has had an interesting year. He made 41 tackles with a team-leading three interceptions in 2008, but he was suspended from the team last offseason, and for the first two games, after getting nailed with a DUI, along with other issues. He returned, made seven tackles in two games, and then missed the rest of the year hurt with a knee problem. At 6-0 and 187 pounds, and with his experience, he's a good, promising playmaker who could become a whale of a free safety if he's able to stay on the field.
Projected Top Reserves:
Kareem Peterson will find a spot somewhere. The 5-11, 176-pound sophomore stepped in as a true freshman and turned into one of the team's top reserves finishing fourth on the team with 57 tackles in eight games along with a sack and two tackles for loss. While he wasn't expected to shine right away, he produced whenever he was on the field and now will get a long look as the main nickel back when he's not working at free safety.
Sophomore Willie Simmons came to WKU as a running back and was quickly moved over to the defensive side. He didn't do anything in his redshirt freshman year, but he'll be tried out at corner working in a combination with Jamal Forrest. While he's only 5-8 and 178 pounds, he's still a bit bigger than Forrest and is one of the team's fastest players.
5-11, 208-pound redshirt freshman Kiante Young is a big-hitting prospect who should eventually shine at strong safety. He's not going to be pushing Mark Santoro out of a job any time soon, he's a nice, physical prospect who'll see time in the defensive backfield in some way.
Watch Out For … the freshmen. Priority One for the new coaching staff was to upgrade the defensive backfield, and it did that in a hurry with six defensive backs brought in led by 215-pound safety Xavius Boyd and speedy corner Jerome Speights. Cam Thomas, Arius Wright, Kadeem Jones, and Tyree Robinson are all expected to compete for jobs the second they step off the bus.
Strength: Veterans. The potential is there to not be as miserable as last season if Santoro comes up with another decent year and if Beard can regain his 2008 form. The starting foursome should be decent if there's a …
Weakness: … pass rush. The corners didn't exactly help their cause and were beaten way too easily and way too often, but there was no help whatsoever from a front seven that never breathed on the quarterback. The secondary had to work way too hard for way too long.
Outlook: Dead last in the nation in pass efficiency defense, the WKU secondary got gouged on a regular basis and seemingly never came up with a key play (the team made just six interceptions). There's experience now after going through the motions of youth last season, and now there are options with a strong recruiting class coming in. Write the depth chart in pencil.
Unit Rating: 4
Projected Starters: Junior Casey Tinius is a decent kicker who had a few yips inside the 40 but hit 14-of-19 field goals including a 47-yarder against Florida Atlantic. While he doesn't have a huge leg, he's good from 45 yards and in connecting on 5-of-8 opportunities from beyond 40.
One of the team's only positives last year was punter Jeremy Moore and his 43.3 yard average. Redshirt freshman Hendrick Brakefield is a big prospect with a huge leg, and he needs to bail out a suspect defense by pinning teams deep.
Redshirt freshman receiver Willie McNeal is one of the team's fastest players and will get every shot at both the kick and punt returner jobs, but it'll be hard to take out star running back Bobby Rainey , who followed up a phenomenal year averaging 30.6 yards per kickoff return by averaging a solid 23.9 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Brakefield to be interesting. He might not be as consistent as Moore right away, but he'll have plenty of opportunities and he can get a good blast on his boots.
Strength: Rainey. If he's not the main weapon in the return game, that means there's a really, really good other option; like McNeil or track star Derrius Brooks.
Weakness: The coverage teams. The kickoff coverage unit allowed 22-3 yards per try, while the punt team gave up 9.5 yards per attempt. There weren't a ton of big returns given up; the Hilltoppers were nickeled and dimed for field position.
Outlook: Rainey is a premier kick returner and Tinius has all-star potential. But for a team that needs so much help, special teams is taking a bit of a back seat. The key will be opportunities on the good side after returning a mere eight punts last season and needing to take too many chances offensively to keep up in games. However, the special teams aren't going to be a negative.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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2010 WKU Defense |
WKU Depth Chart
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