2010 Nevada Preview – Defense
Nevada DE Dontay Moch
Nevada DE Dontay Moch
Posted Jun 20, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Nevada Wolf Pack Defense

Nevada Wolf Pack

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Nevada has been trying, really trying, to improve the defense over the last few seasons, but there hasn't been much success. The run defense has been fine, and WAC Defensive Player of the Year Dontay Moch is back on one end, and the front seven should be decent, but the Pack has had a great pass rush in the past and has been strong up front with nothing to show for it. The pass defense has been among the worst in America over the last few years, and new defensive coordinator Andy Buh has been brought in to change that. The secondary has to find one thing it can do well, and that's likely to be preventing the deep ball … at least that's the hope.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Brandon Marshall, Dontay Moch, 61
Sacks: Dontay Moch, 6.5
Interceptions: Khalid Wooten, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Dontay Moch
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore SS Duke Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Brett Roy
Best pro prospect: Moch
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moch, 2) LB Brandon Marshall, 3) LB James-Michael Johnson
Strength of the defense: Pass Rush, Run Defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Pass Defense, Pass Defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The defense might have been a disaster, but it wasn't Dontay Moch's fault. The WAC Defensive Player of the Year made 61 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss as a brilliant pass rusher who was always camped out in the opposing backfield. Originally a linebacker, the senior moved to defensive end and has been able to apply his quickness and athleticism to the outside where he has been a dangerous terror for the last few years. The key to his game has been speed, and he has been able to get up to 245 pounds on his 6-1 frame without losing a step.

Working on the other side, after splitting half of last year with Kevin Basped, is senior Ryan Coulson , a 6-3, 255-pound pass rusher who came up with a solid 26-tackle, 2.5 sack season starting the opener and then the final five games of the year. He has the tools to be a dangerous all-around playmaker, but he has to take advantage of being on the other side of Moch.

Trying to gum up the middle will be veteran tackle Zack Madonick , a 6-1, 285-pound junior who gets great leverage inside and does a nice job of making big plays against the run. A plugger, he made 26 tackles with 1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss working as the anchor on the inside. He might not be flashy, but he gets the job done.

Part defensive end, part defensive tackle, junior Brett Roy is back after being a key part of the line both inside and out. At 6-4 and 260 pounds he's a bit tall and light to be a true tackle, but he'll get his shot inside looking to be a consistent interior pass rusher. Mostly a great special teamer so far, he also worked on the defensive side making 22 tackles with a tackle for loss.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Mike Andrews transferred from Arizona Western College and grew into a part of the rotation. He only made three tackles, but at 6-2 and 275 pounds he's a big end with the ability to move inside from time to time if needed. He was recruiting by several mid-level schools, like San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico State, along with Cincinnati, but the Wolf Pack snagged him and now they're hoping to have a three-year anchor.

At 6-4 and 270 pounds, sophomore Mark Avery is a decent-sized quick tackle working behind Zack Madonick, but now he has to produce. He didn't do anything last season, but he's a strong prospect who should become a dangerous interior pass rusher.

Moving over from the offensive side is Jack Reynoso , a 6-3, 275-pound sophomore who was originally supposed to be an offensive tackle, but now he'll be a part of the rotation on the defensive interior. 15 pounds heavier than Brett Roy, he'll provide more bulk on the inside.

Redshirt freshman Sam Foster isn't expected to be Dontay Moch, he'll be the understudy with the hope to become the main man on the outside next year. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, he's a tall end with a quick burst off the ball, and he'll have to show it off in spurts with Moch not likely to get off the field all that often.

Watch Out For … Coulson. He didn't exactly blow up when he got his chances in the rotation, but he wasn't bad. He didn't take advantage of the attention paid to Moch on the other side, but he has just enough quickness and athleticism to put up decent sack numbers.
Strength: Pass rush. Even with Kevin Basped gone, the Wolf Pack won't have any problems getting into the backfield. The defensive front was first in the WAC in sacks and second in tackles for loss, and there's enough quickness all across the front to be that strong again.
Weakness: Experienced depth. There isn't any. No one on the second team has made a tackle, and considering the Wolf Pack is heavy on using a rotation, there could be some issues.
Outlook: The line did its part. The run defense was fine (mostly because everyone spent so much time bombing away on the pathetic secondary) and the pass rush was tremendous. Losing Basped and his 9.5 sacks is a problem, but Moch is a phenomenal pass rusher who'll do even more this year. The rest of the line will have plenty of opportunities to shine.
Unit Rating: 6


Projected Starters: Working as the team's weakside linebacker last year, or the Wolf, was Brandon Marshall , a 6-1, 235-pound junior who got a little bit of all-star recognition making 61 tackles with a sack and 9.5 tackles for loss. Now the active defender will move to the strongside where he'll try to be more effective against the run. Solid against the pass, he moves well and has great range with the pass rushing ability of a smallish end and the quickness of a safety.

With Marshall moving over, 6-1, 215-pound JUCO transfer DeAndre Boughton will become a dangerous option working on the weakside. The new Wolf is fast and has big hitting ability when he gets a bead on a ball carrier. He should be a statistical star with free reign to get into the backfield.

Junior James-Michael Johnson will take over for second-leading tackler Mike Bethea in the middle after spending most of last year on the strongside. The 6-2, 240-pounder is in a natural position to be a run stopper, but he was great on the outside at getting into the backfield making two sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss along with 56 stops. Nice in pass coverage, he came up with a pick and broke up five passes.

Projected Top Reserves: Mostly a special teamer so far, 6-2, 225-pound sophomore Albert Rosette made four tackles and blocked a punt in his limited action, but now he'll play a bigger role as a backup in the middle. While he's not huge, he's quick and isn't afraid to mix it up. He's physical enough to handle the spot.

Combining to back up Brandon Marshall on the strongside will be junior Kaelin Burnett and senior Adam Liranzo . The 6-4, 205-pound Burnett came up with 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks working as a good backup and special teamer, while the 6-4, 230-pound Liranzo made 11 stops and recovered two fumbles while working mostly on special teams.

6-0, 205-pound senior Kevin Grimes is more like a safety than a linebacker, but he's physical for his size and a good tackler making 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. He beefed up 15 pounds over the last year after working in nickel situations as a defensive back, and while he's not a starter, he's a smart, tough part of the rotation.

Watch Out For … more activity from the outside linebackers. It's not like Johnson and Marshall weren't productive, but the coaches will be looking for more help against the pass and will hope the addition of Boughton makes a difference.
Strength: Stopping the run. This is an active group that's quick enough to get around the ball and keep runs to a minimum. Coming up with plays in the backfield won't be a problem with tackles for loss coming from all three spots.
Weakness: Pass defense. This is a problem for the entire back seven, and while Johnson broke up plenty of passes and wasn't awful, there were too many short to midrange passes allowed.
Outlook: The Pack wants as many athletes as possible to keep in a rotation to put the most active and athletic playmakers on the field at all times. While there aren't any big blocks of granite against the run, there will be plenty of plays made behind the line and several takeaways.
Unit Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: Trying to take over for Mo Harvey at strong safety will be sophomore Duke Williams , a 6-1, 185-pound athlete who was recruited by a few Pac 10 schools along with BYU, and ended up seeing time throughout last season and getting a start at strong safety against San Jose State making 29 tackles. However, while he might have great range and tremendous upside, he has to start doing more against the pass.

Nothing really worked in the Nevada secondary, but strong safety Jonathan Amaya led the team with 89 tackles. Stepping into the position is one of the team's most interesting prospects, 6-2, 200-pound junior Corbin Louks , a top quarterback prospect for Utah who didn't pan out. Now that he's with the Wolf Pack, he'll use his tremendous athleticism and smarts to work at free safety where he needs to try to be a ball hawker and has to try to replace Amaya's 89 tackles.

Back at one corner, after starting 12 games last year, is junior Isaiah Frey , a veteran who has been decent against the run, making 29 tackles last season, but hasn't done much ball hawking. The 6-0, 190-pounder made just one pick, but he has the quickness and the ability to do far, far more. The team needs a No. 1 corner, and he has to be it.

Back after starting the final five games of last year at corner is 5-11, 185-pound senior Doyle Miller a former JUCO transfer who got better as the year went on finishing with 33 tackles with a sack and six broken up passes. He has the skills to be one of the team's best pass defenders, but consistency will be the key after getting beaten deep way, way too often.

Projected Top Reserves: Getting a look as a true freshman, 5-11, 175-pound sophomore Thaddeus Brown managed to making five tackles in his little bit of work with four coming in the win over San Jose State. Promising enough to have been recruited by Washington State and Boise State, he has excellent quickness and the potential to be used more in nickel and dime packages.

Brought in to make an immediate impact, 5-11, 185-pound sophomore Ahmad Wood saw a little time early on making seven tackles with a broken up pass and a fumble recovery. Mostly a special teamer, he was a willing tackler and came up with a promising true freshman campaign. Now he'll get a chance to push for time behind Doyle Miller.

JUCO transfer Dean Faddis will have a bit of an uphill climb to push out Duke Williams from the starting strong safety job, but he'll be one of the team's better athletes when he's on the field. The 6-1, 190-pound sophomore was a walk-on at Palomar Community College and became good enough to grow into a nice recruit. He'll find time sooner than later.

Watch Out For … Louks. It wasn't a total shocker when he transferred from Utah with Jordan Wynn becoming the program's star quarterback, but that he didn't want to go play quarterback for someone else was a bit puzzling. Can he handle the free safety position and be physical enough? He has something to prove.
Strength: UAB. That's the only team in America who had a rougher time against the pass. The pass rush is phenomenal and should provide the help needed, but …
Weakness: Pass defense. A disaster for years, the Pack struggled once again allowing 298 yards per game and finishing 118th in pass efficiency defense. The Pack allowed 33 touchdown passes and came up with just eight picks.
Outlook: The Pack has tried to improve the pass defense over the last few years without any luck. A slew of young, athletic prospects were brought in, but they have yet to pay off. On the plus side, the pass defense actually improved a bit after allowing 312 yards per game in 2008, but it has still been a disaster allowing 400 yards or more in three games and 300 or more in four other games. There's room for improvement, and it's not likely to be night-and-day different this season.
Unit Rating: 4

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Ricky Drake didn't get a lot of work, but he grew into the job hitting five of his last six field goals. He missed three makeable kicks under 40 yards, and he didn't show a ton of range with his biggest kick coming from 40 yards away. He doesn't have a live leg, but if he can continue the hot streak started midway through last year, he'll be used more.

Senior Brad Langley was one of the nation's top punter recruits, coming in from American River College, and after a decent first year and an Achilles heel injury, he was fantastic averaging 41.1 yards per try with 15 put inside the 20. A big, veteran punter who can hang it high and put it deep, he's one of the WAC's premier punters and he should be one of the team's better weapons to help bail out the defense.

Junior Rishard Mathews will try to save the punt return game. The speedy JUCO recruit can't be any worse than Antoine Thompson, who averaged 0.4 yards per try as the team finished 118th in the nation averaging 3.1 yards per attempt. Running back Mike Ball will be the main kickoff returner again after averaging an impressive 24.8 yards per try.

Watch Out For … Drake. While he struggled a bit, he started to find a groove late and he should be better this year as he gets more chances. He'll be better on kickoffs.
Strength: Langley and the kickoff return game. Langley has been around long enough to know what he's doing and be extremely consistent, while Ball is one of the WAC's premier kickoff returners leading the way for the WAC's second best kickoff return game.
Weakness: Punt returns. Not great over the last few years, it was a disaster last season with Memphis and San Jose State the only two teams more inept at returning punts. Whatever Mathews can do will be a plus.
Outlook: The special teams have been fine (especially after a disastrous 2008), but not great, and while it didn't matter last year, it could be an issue this season in the tighter games … if there are any. Only one Nevada game, a 35-32 win over Utah State, was decided by single digits, but it would be nice if there was more from Drake and a lot more from the punt return game.
Unit Rating: 5.5

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