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2010 Arkansas State Preview – Defense
Arkansas State DT Bryan Hall
Arkansas State DT Bryan Hall
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 20, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Arkansas State Red Wolves Defense


Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2010 - Defense


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

What You Need To Know: The Sun Belt’s top defense last year both in yards and points allowed has enough pieces back to be among the best in the league again. There might not be a tremendous pass rush after the loss of Alex Carrington to the next level, but the ends are solid and there’s enough experience and athleticism among the outside linebackers to expect more plays in the backfield. The secondary is the weakest part of the D, but it’s not all that bad with some good options at safety, especially if M.D. Jennings is back from a knee injury, and good prospects at corner. It’s not going to be a brick wall of a pass defense, but it’s going to good enough to win with considering the defensive front seven isn’t going to let much happen against the run.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Demario Davis, 80
Sacks: Demario Davis, Jeremy Gibson, 3
Interceptions: Kelcie McCray, 4

Star of the defense: Junior LB Demario Davis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior CB Walter Moody
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Jeremy Gibson
Best pro prospect: Senior FS M.D. Jennings
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) Jennings (if healthy), 3) SS Kelcie McCray
Strength of the defense: Run Defense, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Proven Corner, Starting D Line Experience

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The ASU line loses three starters with Bryan Hall the lone returnee. The 6-1, 284-pounder earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors making 30 tackles with 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss, and while he’s not a space-eater who’ll be a rock against the run, he’ll get into the backfield on a regular basis. He made six sacks in 2008 and has the experience to go along with the quickness to be one of the Sun Belt’s best interior pass rushers.

Good luck trying to replace Alex Carrington, a good pro prospect who was a dominant figure up front for the last few seasons. Junior Jeremy Gibson will try to be the team’s top new end after seeing time in every game last season and getting a start against Florida Atlantic. He has a few years of experience and showed some flashes last season making three sacks, six tackles for loss, and 22 tackles, and now the 6-5, 260-pounder has to be a regular sacker and has to use his big body to do even more against the run.

Junior Dorvus Woods isn’t an anchor at 6-3 and 261 pounds, but he’ll end up starting on the nose. He’s not a fireplug and is a big tall and lanky, but he’s active making 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss last season. Solid in a rotation, now he has to prove he can handle himself in a full-time role.

Junior Justin Robertson is more of a linebacker than a defensive end, but he’ll be put on the line to see if he can use his speed and quickness to become a pass rusher. At 6-2 and 230 pounds he’s built like an outside linebacker, and after making six tackles last year he’ll be turned loose into the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves Ready to be a major part of the rotation right away will be JUCO transfer Brandon Joiner, a 6-3, 235-pound junior who came up with 40 tackles and eight sacks in ten games for Navarro College. After he originally signed with Texas A&M, he had problems, bounced around a bit, and now he should be a major player for the Red Wolves.

Sophomore Timothy Starson is an extremely promising prospect who made three tackles and a tackle for loss in what was supposed to be a breakout year. At 6-5 and 240 pounds he has good size and is extremely fast off the ball, but he could still used a little bit of development. He could be the X factor.

The line needs big bodies, especially on the inside, and that’s where Greg McCall comes in. At 5-11 and 297 pounds he’s a short player who has great leverage on the nose. He has played just enough to know what he’s doing, making ten tackles with a sack.

Watch Out For … Joiner. If everything had gone according to plan, he’d be starting for Texas A&M now. Instead, he should be a devastating pass rusher who picks up the slack for the loss of Alex Carrington.
Strength: Size/speed on the outside. The tackles aren’t massive, but they have decent size. The ends, though, have good size for the Sun Belt with four players 235 pounds and bigger and everyone can move.
Weakness: Starting experience. There was enough of a rotation to keep the line from starting from scratch, but there’s only one returning starter from a line that was among the best in the Sun Belt.
Outlook: Everything’s fine. There are some big losses, especially Alex Carrington, but the line has the talent, the upside, and considering there’s only one returning starter, the depth to be excellent.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: Returning to his spot on the strongside is junior Demaio Davis, last year’s leading tackler who made 80 stops with eight tackles for loss, three sacks, and an interception for a 75-yard touchdown against Iowa. The 6-3, 231-pounder looked like the real deal last offseason and he was able to come through big-time showing good open field tackling ability and excellent athleticism. The former high school wide receiver has great range and a burst into the backfield.

Senior Javon McKinnon was a big part of the rotation getting five starts on the weakside. He battle through injuries to finish fourth on the team with 53 tackles in just nine games, but he didn’t do anything to get into the backfield and he didn’t make enough plays when the ball was in the air. At 6-0 and 236 pounds he has great size for the position and fantastic speed. He’s way too athletic to not be more of a disruptive force.

Trying to get healthy and into the starting spot in the middle is sophomore Nathan Herrold, a promising 6-2, 234-pounder who made 41 tackles with a sack before hurting his knee late. He was a tremendous high school player making 379 tackles, and he’ll end up playing at several spots to show off his unlimited range and good tackling ability. He’ll be better with more of the workload on his shoulders.

Projected Top Reserves Until Nathan Herrold is 100% healthy, sophomore Nick Nelms will be used in the middle. He’s undersized at 5-11 and 215 pounds, but he’s feisty and active with ten tackles with an interception. The former high school running back isn’t a blazer, but he moves well.

Darius Glover was all set to start the season last year but he suffered an injury and missed the entire year. He made 54 tackles, with a sack, an interception, and 3.5 tackles for loss in 2008 and was seemingly on the verge of big things on the strongside before getting hurt. Now the 6-1, 220-pound senior is back to be in the rotation with Demerio Davis.

Star recruit Michael Lombardo is a 6-1, 230-pound JUCO transfer who made 59 tackles, seven sacks, and 12.5 tackles for loss for College of the Sequoias. He was an all-state performer out of Jupiter, Florida, but had to junior college to get ready to college, and now he should be a major producer in the middle.

Watch Out For … the second teamers. The first string should be fine, but the backups might be even better. Lombardo is ready to play now and Glover, when he’s right, could be the team’s top tackler.
Strength: Depth. The Red Wolves are loaded with hitters with two good veterans on the outside in Davis and McKinnon and several strong options for the middle. Finding experienced players who can tackle won’t be a problem.
Weakness: Pass defense. This is a quick group that should be decent against short to midrange passing games, but not great. The ASU linebackers are built to stop the run and could get picked apart by any efficient, smart quarterback.
Outlook: Last year’s corps was a strength, and this year’s group has the potential to be even better with two great options for all three spots including three for the middle. While this might not be the Sun Belt’s best group of linebackers, it should be able to clean everything up that the front four doesn’t get to.
Unit Rating: 6

Secondary

Projected Starters: The Red Wolves suffered a bad break late last year when star safety M.D. Jennings suffered a knee injury. After making 67 tackles and three interceptions in 2008, he came back to finish second on the team with 64 stops with six broken up passes and three recovered fumbles. However, he only picked off one pass. Very smart and very tough, he should be one of the Sun Belt’s best free safeties when he’s healthy (and he could move to strong safety when needed).

Returning to his spot at strong safety Is junior Kelcie McCray, a 6-2, 190-pounder who finished third on the team with 58 tackles with a team-leading four interceptions. Very quick and smart enough to sniff out plays before they start, he’s still growing into the job after spending most of his time in high school as a quarterback. He might be built more like a corner, but he hits like a safety and he should be in line for all-star honors.

Walter Moody was never healthy and finished with just seven tackles with a broken up pass in a reserve role. A great JUCO transfer recruit in 2007, he’s fast enough to play corner and big enough, at 5-11 and 178 pounds, to be used as a nickel and dime back when needed. He’s an excellent tackler who hasn’t shown it off yet.

It’s not a question of if Darron Edwards turns out to be a major player, but when. The 5-11, 180-pound JUCO transfer was the star of this year’s recruiting class after making 43 tackles, four picks, and 19 broken up passes for Butler Community College in Kansas. He’s a big-time talent who could quickly take over one of the starting roles at corner, and if nothing else, he’ll end up being a key nickel and dime defender.

Projected Top Reserves 5-8, 160-pound sophomore Chaz Scales was a reserve throughout last year and finished with ten tackles, but he didn’t do anything against the pass. Extremely fast and cut-on-a-dime quick, he could’ve been a quarterback at Air Force or Navy and instead chose to come to ASU where the hope is for him to grow into a consistent corner. He won’t tackle anyone, but he should be able to stay with the faster targets.

Junior Jaquan Kilcrease was a key reserve throughout last season finishing with 29 tackles and two tackles for loss with a broken up pass. At 6-2 and 199 pounds he has good size and excellent hitting ability, and he’ll end up seeing plenty of action at free safety until M.D. Jennings is 100%. He has the range and the experience to become a top stat-sheet filler.

Watch Out For … Edwards. The Red Wolves could use a shut-down corner, and the star JUCO transfer could be it. He’s extremely quick, experience, and is a ready-made defender who could be the team’s next great defensive back.
Strength: Safety. Even if Jennings isn’t ready to go, ASU will be more than fine with McCray and Kilcrease two good sheriffs who know what they’re doing.
Weakness: Sure-thing corners. Jennings will be good, and Moody and Scales have excellent upside, but they’re not there yet. The ASU secondary wasn’t torched, but it allowed 19 touchdown passes and 219 yards per game.
Outlook: After three years of tremendous production, the defensive backs were average last year even with a good pass rush to help the cause. There’s plenty of speed, quickness, and athleticism to go around, but the corners have to do more against the better receivers and the safeties have to blossom into all-stars for the defense to be the rock it’s expected to become.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The Red Wolves played in five games decided by four points or fewer, and they’ll sorely miss Josh Arauco, a Lou Groza-caliber kicker who nailed 14-of-17 field goals. Trying to replace him will be sophomore Brandon Parker , a decent prospect who was part of a Florida state championship team hitting 7-of-12 field goal attempts. He has a big leg and great range, but he’ll need time to prove he’s consistent.

Ryan Wilbourn and his 42.3-yard per punt average are gone, and in will step junior Neely Sullivent, a backup quarterback and a good scout teamer. He’ll battle with Parker for the punting duties and will have to show he can get the same blast on the ball that Wilbourn did.

Senior Lucious Henderson will get the first look as the main kickoff returner after Brandon Thompkins averaged 22.6 yards per try. Henderson is an extremely quick wide receiver with excellent straight-line speed. He’ll also get the first look as a punt returner.

Watch Out For … some rough moments with the kicking game. ASU almost always gets good special teams play, but it’ll be asking a lot to replace Arauco and what Wilbourn was able to come up with.
Strength: The coverage teams. ASU has been solid at this for a few years allowing just 4.7 yards per punt return and 18.2 yards per kickoff return.
Weakness: The punting game. It came up with one great season in 2009, but it was a nightmare in 2008 and could be a sore spot early on this year.
Outlook: The special teams were fantastic last season and now they have to undergo a major overhaul. It’s asking a lot to get the same level of production from the kicking game, but the return game should be fine and the coverage teams should be good.
Unit Rating: 5

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