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2010 Miami Univ. Preview – Defense
Miami University LB Jerell Wedge
Miami University LB Jerell Wedge
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 5, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Miami University RedHawk Defense


Miami Univ. RedHawks

Preview 2010 - Defense


- 2010 Miami Univ. Preview | 2010 Miami Univ. Offense
- 2010 Miami Univ. Defense | 2010 Miami Univ. Depth Chart
- Miami Univ. Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: The RedHawks didn’t exactly bounce back after a disappointing 2008, but it had a far better season finishing 70th in the nation in total defense after getting ripped apart way too often two years ago. The run defense was hardly a rock with the defensive front getting pushed around way too often, and while the secondary didn’t allow too many yards, that was mostly because the front seven wasn’t making any plays. All four starting defensive backs return, led by free safety Anthony Kokal, and there are some nice speedsters coming in from the recruiting class to provide more depth. Jerrell Wedge might be the best linebacker in the MAC, but he might have to be even better with the front four looking shaky (at least to start the year). There are some interesting transfers ready to help, but one of the nation’s worst pass rushes has to be far, far better.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: JK Schaffer, 100
Sacks: Derek Wolfe, 5
Interceptions: JK Schaffer, 3

Star of the defense: Junior LB Jerrell Wedge
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Luke Kelly
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Will Diaz
Best pro prospect: Wedge
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wedge, 2) FS Anthony Kokal, 3) SS Jordan Gifford
Strength of the defense: Wedge, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Takeaways

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line needs a veteran to step up and be a rock in the middle, and sophomore Austin Brown has to fill the role building on his solid first year. A starter throughout at left tackle, the 6-2, 2755-pound sophomore made 40 tackles with five tackles for loss as one of the team’s most active linemen. He might not be an anchor, but he’s a good defender who’ll see time on the inside for the next three years.

Stepping in at right tackle, and used as a nose, will be junior Jordain Brown , a 6-0, 296-pound rock who made ten tackles but wasn’t the factor he was expected to be. A key backup so far, and with plenty of experience including a start against Temple, he needs to use his bulk to be an anchor.

MU has to find some semblance of a pass rush, and it has to start coming from Morris Council after a disappointing 2009. The 6-2, 267-pound junior was supposed to be a flash into the backfield after making things happen as a great reserve in the rotation, but he got hurt early on and only made two tackles and a tackle for loss in three games of action.

Working at right end will be sophomore Will Diaz after getting some key time as a true freshman including two starts late against Temple and Bowling Green. At 6-5 and 251 pounds he’s a tall, range defender with good size and just enough of a burst to grow into a pass rusher despite not getting to the quarterback last year. He finished with 17 tackles, but he’s a great prospect with the upside and the chances to be a key to the line.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-6, 283-pound senior D.J. Svabik had a phenomenal spring and appears ready to step up into a big role at one of the tackle spots after making just two tackles and a sack in two games before getting hurt. Quick enough to have been used on the end, he could be a dominant interior pass rusher.

Head coach Mike Haywood’s cousin, Kelvin Jackson , will get his chance to see time right away at right tackle as a dangerous pass rusher. Only 6-3 and 254 pounds, he’s built more like a linebacker than a tackle, but he’s a fantastic athlete and brings it when it comes to mixing it up with bigger blockers. He could end up working on the end.

6-4, 259-pound sophomore Anthony Shoemaker stepped in as a true freshman and played a role making four tackles with a half a sack. A high-character player who always gives a full effort, he could become a playmaker on the left side on sheer want-to and hustle. He’ll be tough against the run with good strength for the position.

Watch Out For … Diaz. The former walk-on was the team’s best defensive end this offseason showing great toughness and a nice burst. He’s not an elite pass rusher by any stretch, but he’s going to be the leader of the ends holding a spot for the next three seasons.
Strength: Bodies. This might be a young line, but there are some nice pieces being added to the mix including Iowa transfer Jason Seemes, a potentially dangerous end, and John Steele, who has been out of the game for a few years but is a 295-pound body for the interior.
Weakness: Pass rush. The run defense was hardly a rock and got shoved around way too much, but the pass rush was a bigger issue. The RedHawks came up with just 14 sacks on the year, and 5.5 of those came from linebacker Jerrell Wedge. The coaching staff is looking for something from the ends.
Outlook: What the line lacks in talent and experience it makes up for in promise and young bodies. The RedHawks will rely on five underclassmen, and with only one senior Svabik, expected to play much of a role, the idea is to keep building and keep improving.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Linebacker

Projected Starters: Junior Jerrell Wedge had the unenviable task of taking over for Joey Hudson in the middle, and he came through as one of the team’s few producers with a team-leading 114 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. A big hitting 5-9, 222-pounder, he’ll get the start in the middle again where he should be even better after dominating in practices this offseason. He’s a tremendous tackler and an active, instinctive player who’ll be a near-lock for all-star honors.

Sophomore Evan Harris got the call as a true freshman and started every game but one on the outside. At 6-0 and 222 pounds, he bulked up and bit over the last year and should be more of a factor against the run after making 61 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. Very quick with good skills, he’ll be used as a pass rusher from time to time on the weakside.

Sophomore Luke Kelly is built more like a safety at 6-2 and 217 pounds and runs like one , too, but he’s a tough enough tackler to possibly be one of the team’s leaders starting on the strongside. He got the start in the season finale against Buffalo and finished the year with 24 tackles, but he could hover around the 100-stop mark with the bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves: Trying to get a little bit of playing time behind Luke Kelly on the strongside will be junior Ryan Kennedy , who at 6-1 and 227 pounds is a little bit bigger an option. Kennedy got a little bit of time in and made a tackle, but he can’t healthy with various injury problems keeping him down. When he’s right, he’s an athletic option.

Sophomore Austin Moore was thrown out on the field as a true freshman and made eight tackles in ten games working mostly on special teams. At 6-0 and 233 pounds he’s one of the team’s biggest linebackers and he’s one of the better tacklers. Now he needs the chance. With good toughness for the middle and great tackling skills, he’ll someday be a team leader in tackles.

Redshirt freshman Jaytee Swanson was a state champion in Georgia as well as a star in the classroom. Now the 6-2, 224-pounder will see time on the weakside working behind Evan Harris. Extremely strong and with just enough quickness to get by, he should be good both against the run and when he has to drop into pass coverage.

Watch Out For … Kelly. The RedHawks need a playmaker to step up on the strongside, and while Kelly isn’t all that big, he’s just active and strong enough to be a top tackler. He’ll get plenty of chances.
Strength: Wedge. The MAC always has great statistical producers at linebacker, and Wedge’s numbers can match up with anyone’s. He’s the type of talent an entire defense can work around.
Weakness: Run defense. Yeah, Wedge made a ton of plays, and the stats will be there with this group, but everyone has to be tougher and everyone has to be more physical. The linebackers did nothing to come up with big plays.
Outlook: Wedge is one of the MAC’s premier players and is good enough to carry the linebacking corps by himself, but Harris is a nice veteran who should make plenty of stops and should be a nice, physical playmaker.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Secondary

Projected Starters: Strong safety Jordan Gafford was on his way to having a great season before suffering a season-ending leg injury. The 6-0, 207-pound senior made 64 tackles with a sack and five broken up passes in just eight games, and he would’ve been one of the team’s top three tacklers had he stayed healthy. A huge hitter, he has great range and intensity, but he needs to be far better in pass coverage.

Out of the blue, junior Anthony Kokal went from being a little used special teamer into the team’s second-leading tackler making 105 stops at free safety. The 6-0, 202-pounder isn’t great against the pass, making just one pick, and he isn’t a huge hitter, but he moves well and he’s always around the ball. Very smart, he doesn’t make mistakes.

Senior Brandon Stephens has to be a rock at the field corner. He has the speed and athleticism to handle being out in the open, and he has the experience after starting every game last year and being a key part of the 2008 defense, but he has to start coming up with some big plays. The 5-10, 205-pounder made 57 tackles and a team-leading two picks, but it wasn’t enough. As the team’s No. 1 corner, he needs to be feared.

Sophomore D.J. Brown made the most of his first season in the lineup seeing time as a fourth defensive back and partly at corner. At 6-1 and 174 pounds, he’s a tall, rangy defender who gets around the field in a hurry making 34 tackles with two broken up passes. Very smart and very fast, he should grow into the job on the boundary side, but he has to come up with a pick and has to start making teams pay for going at him.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 197-pound senior Peris Edwards will be a key backup safety working as a nickel and dime defender as well as a free safety. Extremely fast, he has the wheels to get all over the field and get around the ball, but he didn’t see any time last year. Back and healthy enough to be a factor this season, after making 33 stops in his first two years, he’ll move around into a variety of spots.

6-1, 195-pound sophomore Pat Hinkel did a nice job as a true freshman making 16 tackles with a broken up pass. A great hitter, the backup strong safety is strong against the run and has enough range to be a big helper against the pass when he gets his chances.

Top recruit Allen Veazie will be one of the team’s fastest players and has the talent to instantly be a starter at one of the corner spots. Originally considered to be a lock for Minnesota, he switched to MU and has the potential to be the type of playmaker the rest of the secondary works around. He might be thin at 5-11 and 165 pounds, but his speed makes up for the problems.

Travis Williams and Orne Bey are two excellent recruits who’ll get a shot at playing time right away. Williams was wanted by several BCS schools, but the 5-9, 160-pounder ended up being a great get for the program. With phenomenal speed, no one will get by him in the MAC. Bey will likely end up playing running back, but with tremendous strength for a 5-8, 170-pounder, he should be at his best as a defender.

Watch Out For … the true freshman. Kokal is a nice safety and the rest of the starters are decent, but Veazie, Bey and Williams might be the three best defensive backs before they take a practice snap. At the very least they’re the most athletic.
Strength: Veterans. With all four starters returning, the RedHawks have a nice base of talent to go along with some talented young reserves. There’s a nice mix of athletes that could make the pass defense one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Weakness: Interceptions. The RedHawks came up with just six picks as a team, and making big plays has been an issue over the last few seasons. They don’t attack the ball well and they don’t do nearly enough to scare anyone getting picked apart by anyone looking to put the ball in the air. .
Outlook: Yeah, the pass defense finished second in the MAC and 27th in the nation allowing 190 yards per game, but that was because no one really needed to throw with the MU run defense so porous. However, this year, the potential is there to be great with four returning starters and some speedy backups. Who’s the backup corner? That remains to be seen and will be an issue early on.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Trevor Cook lost his gig to Nate Parseghian a few years ago after hitting 10-of-13 field goals in his freshman year and just 5-of-10 as a sophomore. Last year he was fine hitting 7-of-12 attempts, but he was hardly special. While he was able to nail a 55-yarder against Toledo and two of his kicks were blocked, he wasn’t consistent. He’s the main man for the job, but he needs to be reliable in close games.

The RedHawks were looking for steady punting, but got a rough year from the coverage teams and didn’t get much consistency. Sophomore Jim Broadway got 17 chances and averaged a mere 34.6 yards per try putting six inside the 20. He’s a promising directional kicker who has just enough pop to air it out once in a while, but he needs help from the coverage teams and he has to be more consistent.

Watch Out For … an open casting call for the returners. The punt return game wasn’t great, but it was hardly special averaging 7.8 yards per try with former WR Dustin Woods handling most of the work. The kick return game was an utter disaster averaging a nation-worst 15.5 yards per try.
Strength: Kicking potential. Cook knows what he’s doing with several years under his belt, while Broadway could surprise and come up big with a few more deep shots.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Kickoff returns are the biggest issue, but there’s no way MU can be that bad again. Covering punts has to be more of a priority after allowing 11.1 yards per try.
Outlook: The special teams weren’t good. The punting game was among the worst in the nation, the kickoff return game was the worst, and the placekicking was shaky. If Cook is consistent and if Broadway isn’t bad, there should be a decent turnaround.
Unit Rating: 4

- 2010 Miami Univ. Preview | 2010 Miami Univ. Offense
- 2010 Miami Univ. Defense | 2010 Miami Univ. Depth Chart
- Miami Univ. Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006