2010 Temple Preview – Defense
Temple DE Adrian Robinson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Temple Owl Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's group should be the best in the MAC, and it might not even be close. The front seven is loaded with sure-thing all-stars from reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, end Adrian Robinson, to linebacker Elijah Joseph, to DT Muhammad Wilkerson. This should be a brick wall against the run and great at getting into the backfield. The one issue is in the secondary after giving up way too many big plays. The corners are experienced, but suspect. They'll get help from Jaiquawn Jarrett, who might be the best safety in the conference. There's depth, talent, and the potential to get better. There's a lot to get excited about.
Star of the defense: Junior DE Adrian Robinson
Tackles: Jaiquawn Jarrett, 76
Sacks: Adrian Robinson, 13
Interceptions: Jaiquawn Jarrett, Marquise Liverpool, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior NT Elisha Joseph
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Marcus Green
Best pro prospect: Robinson (as a 3-4 outside linebacker)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robinson, 2) LB Elijah Joseph, 3) DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Strength of the defense: Front Seven, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Shutdown Corners, Proven Backup Linebackers
Projected Starters: While junior Adrian Robinson might be built more like an outside linebacker than a true defensive end, he sure rushes the passer like a lineman. The 6-2, 245-pound reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year was one of the team's top recruits in the strong 2008 class, and he more than lived up to his immense potential last season making 46 tackles with 13 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and an interception while also forcing five fumbles. Extremely quick off the edge, it's over when he gets a step on a tackle. More importantly for the Owl defense, it's not like the production came in bunches and it's not like he was stuffed against the big boys making a sack against Penn State and playing well against UCLA.
At 6-4 and 295 pounds, Kadeem Custis has good size for the rotation on the inside and has the quickness to become a dangerous interior pass rusher and the smarts to pick things up right away. He saw a little time in ten games and made three tackles with a broken up pass, but he's ready for a far bigger role.
Stuffing things up in the middle will be 6-5, 300-pound junior Muhammad Wilkerson , a first-team All-MAC performer who blossomed as a true sophomore making 61 tackles, seven sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss. He's not only tough to get around, but he's quick off the ball with the ability to blow through the interior to make something happen in the backfield. He's also good at batting the ball down; he's tough to throw over. He has an NFL future ahead of him if he can pack on some more pounds and still keep his quickness.
6-3, 280-pound senior Elisha Joseph was a huge part of the rotation last year, and even saw a little time on the end, and now he'll get the unenviable task of play the nose in place of Andre Neblett. He came up with a decent year as a reserve making 14 tackles, but he has the quickness to get past the slower linemen and the strength to anchor himself against double teams. He might not put up huge sacks, but he could be an All-MAC performer.
Projected Top Reserves Back on the other side after getting a start in one game last year will be junior Morris Blueford, who at 6-4 and 260 pounds might not have the pass rushing talents of Robinson, but he's strong against the run making 26 stops and he's not bad at getting to the quarterback coming up with three sacks. He has good quickness for his size and the maturity of a 25-year-old; he went into the Army out of high school.
Levi Brown redshirted last year, but he should be able to hit the ground running and be a key part of the defense for the next four years. The faster he becomes a player on the nose, the faster Elisha Joseph can move around to a different spot where needed. Brown has the 6-2, 305-pound size and is an active prospect.
It'll be interesting to see how fast redshirt freshman Tyreek Spain can become a playmaker. More of a linebacker than an end, the 6-4, 230-pounder has all-star pass rushing potential, good smarts, and the toughness to handle himself well on the line. He's the cousin of former NFL star, Marvin Harrison.
Watch Out For … at least three of the starting four finish with All-MAC honors. Robinson and Wilkerson are locks while Blueford and Joseph will be close.
Strength: movement. This group can get into the backfield from all angles, especially when Robinson is flying around from the outside, and there can't be too much attention paid to double-teaming Wilkerson on the interior.
Weakness: Teams that can actually run the ball. The overall stats were great, but that's partly because most MAC teams couldn't run. UCLA was held in check, but Penn State, Army and Navy were able to get things moving. Even so, the Owls only gave up more than 200 yards (Navy) on the ground and allowed just nine touchdowns.
Outlook: The defensive front is legitimately good, and not just by MAC standards. Several BCS teams would love to have the starting foursome the Owls will throw out there, and it'll be a shock if this isn't the best line in the conference by far.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: Originally a backup last offseason, Elijah Joseph quickly took over the starting job on the outside and dominated making 63 tackles, two sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss on his way to a first-team All-MAC season. The 6-2, 235-pounder will start out this year working in the middle, but he could quickly go back to the outside to utilize his experience and playmaking skills. He gets to every play and he doesn't miss a tackle.
Senior Amara Kamara followed up a fantastic first two seasons making 138 tackle, he struggled as a junior making 44 stops with two sacks and three tackles for loss after spending most of his time at defensive end. At 6-2 and 235 pounds, he's far better suited for outside linebacker and should be better in space. He's strong, experience, hits like a ton of bricks, and has 4.58 speed.
6-2, 225-pound junior Tahir Whitehead was a key special teamer last season and saw enough time on defense to finish with 30 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. He's not all that big, but he moves well on the outside and is a terrific tackler. A safety and wide receiver in high school, he has no problem getting around the field.
Projected Top Reserves While Marcus Green isn't going to replace Elijah Joseph in the lineup, he's going to see more than his share of time in the middle. The 6-1, 245-pound sophomore is built for the position and has a huge upside with range and toughness. He saw a little bit of action in his true freshman year making seven tackles, and now he'll be a big part of the rotation.
If Amara Kamara ends up seeing most of his time at defensive end again, senior Jordan Martin should play a bigger role on the outside. The 6-3, 235-pound senior has mostly been a special teamer and a reliable weakside backup making 11 tackles in 2008 and 24 last year. He has the toughness to play in the middle, but the former transfer from Valparaiso should be at his best on the outside.
Junior Quinten White is the speedster of the bunch. Potentially a pass rushing specialist from the outside, the 6-3, 218-pounder only made five tackles and two tackles for loss last season. That should change as he gets more of a role and more chances to shine.
Watch Out For … interchangeable parts. There's no question that Joseph and Kamara can play, but the more they can rest, the better. Green and Martin will get plenty of long looks with the first teamers, while Whitehead and White could form an interesting combination on the outside rotation.
Strength: Range. Joseph is all over the field at all times, and he's just one of the defenders with the ability to go sideline to sideline. This is an active group that will swarm around the ball.
Weakness: A sure-thing starting threesome. There are enough question marks about the depth chart to keep everyone guessing. It might be hard to establish consistency with everyone looking over their shoulders.
Outlook: The linebackers should be terrific, especially with a good line in front of them to eat everything up. Joseph and Kamara lead an active, tough group that should be full of all-stars and big plays.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: Senior free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett leads a veteran secondary and should be a lock for first-team All-MAC honors for the second year in a row. After making 149 tackles in his first two seasons, the 6-2, 197-pounder was second on the team with 76 stops with three interceptions and seven broken up passes. Tall and thin, he's still a fearless tackler who's great in the open field and has unlimited range. A starter from Day One, he has seen it all and is the unquestioned playmaker and leader in the secondary.
Marquise Liverpool was one of the team's top running backs and part-time receivers before moving to the secondary last season. He came up with a good year, and while he still needs work and will get beaten from time to time, he has the speed and the 5-11, 190-pound size to win more than his share of battles. The senior has experience and he's not a bad tackler, making 38 stops to go along with three interceptions, but he's not necessarily a lockdown corner who can erase an opposing No. 1 at the Boundry position. Originally a Boston College Eagle, the 24-year-old was a big get for Temple after spending time in the Seattle Mariner farm system.
Working on the Field side (the side of the field with more space) will be sophomore Maurice Jones,a rising star who made 24 tackles and two tackles for loss in a part-time role. A good special teamer and spot starter, the 5-10, 192-pounder finished the year with 24 tackles and broke up a pass. One of the team's faster players, he has the potential to be the Owls' No. 1 corner with a little bit more work.
Kevin Kroboth was a terrific special teamer and an under-the-radar performer at corner last year making 45 tackles and seven broken up passes. At 6-0 and 192 pounds he's not all that big, but he's extremely quick and is a good enough tackler to be given a long look at strong safety. Very smart and very athletic, he should be one of the team's statistical stars.
Projected Top Reserves The Temple backfield is so loaded that junior Kee-ayre Griffin the team's star offensive player of a few years ago, moved to defensive back. He ran for 335 yards and three touchdowns last season and made five picks with an interception as a corner, and now he knows what he's doing enough to be a good corner and nickel prospect in the rotation.
Junior Deonte Parker was a key JUCO transfer who's expected to see time and action with away at free safety. While he's not going to replace Jaiquawn Jarrett, he's a ready-made producer with the skills and the talent to step in and shine right away. He's only 5-11 and 190 pounds, but he moves well and is a good hitter.
Mostly a special teamer so far, 5-11, 182-pound sophomore Justin Gildea is expected to push for time at strong safety after making eight stops last season. An athletic option who can return kicks and has good open-field tackling skills, he'll be used early on in nickel and dime packages.
Watch Out For … Kroboth. He might not be the team's best defensive back, but he could end up being one of the defense's top three tacklers after moving from corner to safety.
Strength: Veterans working around Jarrett. Throw in the addition of Parker and the potential is there for this to be the strongest Temple secondary in years.
Weakness: Shut down corners. There were some puzzling performances last year from the corners. They couldn't handle Miami University or Ohio, and the stats weren't disastrous only because Army and Navy were on the slate.
Outlook: This won't be the team's biggest strength, but it'll be a better group than last year on experience alone. The safeties will be solid against the run, and now more is needed against the better passing teams to make the Temple D the best in the MAC.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: Considering the kicking game was supposed to be a major issue, the emergence of now-sophomore Brandon McManus was a big plus. While he had a few misfires, going 17-of-24 was terrific with all but one of his misses coming from 42 yards and more. He might not have tremendous range, but he's great from short to midrange and can be counted on. He'll also get the first look as the punter after Jeff Wathne struggled averaging just 37.2 yards per kick and putting 11 inside the 20.
Temple has been special on kickoff returns over the last few years and Joe Jones and James Nixon should keep it going. Nixon averaged 29.2 yards per try last year with two touchdowns, and Brown averaged 24.1 yards per try.
The punt return game wasn't much further behind the kickoff return game in production, and Delano Green is back after averaging 11.6 yards per try with two scores.
Watch Out For … the Owls to work on the punting game all year long. They have to do something after only averaging 32.55 yards per try meaning McManus and Wathne will battle it out for a while.
Strength: The return game. Temple led the MAC on kickoff returns and was second in punt returns. That should continue.
Weakness: Punting. Everything else is rock solid, and the coverage team was good, but there needs to be more boom to the boots after finishing 110th in the nation.
Outlook: If the Owls can do a little more with the punting game, the special teams might be the best in the MAC. McManus is a promising kicker who'll win a game or two for the team, while the return game is special and the coverage teams are solid.
Unit Rating: 8
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