2010 Ball State Preview – Defense

Posted Aug 6, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Ball State Cardinal Defense

Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Ball State's defense came up with a nice year in 2008 but was overshadowed by the offense. There was a little overhauling to be done, but there were enough pieces in place to be better than it was. There wasn't any pass rush even with two all-star defensive ends, but the return of Robert Eddins should help set the tone for the rest of the line. The linebacking corps has a strong twosome in Davyd Jones and Travis Freeman, who should combine for at least 200 tackles, and safety Sean Baker leads an improved secondary. This won't be a rock of a defense by any stretch, but it should be stronger after finishing last in the MAC in pass efficiency D and 106th in the nation in sacks.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Davyd Jones, 100
Sacks: Robert Eddins, 7
Interceptions: Sean Baker, 4

Star of the defense: Senior DE Robert Eddins
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Adam Morris
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Tony Martin
Best pro prospect: Eddins (as an OLB)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Eddins, 2) S Sean Baker, 3) LB Davyd Jones
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, Baker
Weakness of the defense: Shutdown Corner, Consistency

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Senior Robert Eddins needed to grow into a role as a dominant pass rusher and a disruptive force, and he did coming up with a fantastic 55-tackle, seven sack, 13.5 tackle-for-loss year on the way to earning second-team All-MAC honors. He's not all that big at 6-3 and 242 pounds, but he has a quick first step, is a great closer, and has a future at the next level getting a look as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Needing to replace Brandon Crawford at end will be Andrew Puthoff, a 6-3, 249-pound junior who played running back and linebacker in high school and has a nice mix of skills to grow into a regular pass rusher. The junior made 16 tackles and showed flashes of being something great two years ago, but he only made one start last season and ended up making just six tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. He'll benefit from all the attention paid to Eddins on the other side.

5-11, 272-pound senior Rene Perry isn't big, isn't tall, and isn't particularly athletic, but he's tough to move around without a concerted effort. His leverage is his biggest strength, but he can get into the backfield from time to time and produced with a bigger role making 26 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He's not an anchor on the nose, but he's a feisty veteran.

Stepping in for Drew Duffin at tackle is junior Adam Morris, a 6-0, 279-pound bowling ball who saw time in almost every game making 12 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and four tackles for loss. He's a great interior pass rusher who did a nice job when given the chance, and now he'll be one of the most important players on the defense trying to clog things up with the full-time job.

Projected Top Reserves Senior Justin Woodard is still trying to find his form after suffering a torn ACL a few years ago. The 6-3, 228-pound senior got back on the field last year but only made one tackle in his one appearance. He's a linebacker working on the end to take advantage of his speed, but he needs to get healthier.

Adding more size on the inside is Donovan Jarrett, a 6-2, 309-pound sophomore who saw time in every game as a true freshman and made five tackles on the year. He's an active option who isn't just going to be a stick in the mud and will find his way into the backfield from time to time. He'll work at tackle in a rotation with Adam Morris and will come in against the bigger, power running teams.

Watch Out For … a good rotation at tackle. The interior of the line got shredded last season, but there's hope for a big improvement with two big bodies in Jarrett and Steve Yoder adding 300+ pound bulk behind the starters.
Strength: Eddins. Every line needs one great player who takes the attention away from everyone else, and Ball State's star out the right side will be the guy to do it again. He's a fearsome pass rusher who can change games by himself.
Weakness: Run defense. The Cardinals haven't stopped anyone cold in years, and this group won't be a brick wall, either. The 2008 line allowed 4.6 yards per carry and 2,282 yards, but last year's group improved a bit. This year, the line will be fine, but hardly special.
Outlook: A major disappointment last year with all four starters returning, this year's line needs to more production from some relatively untested sources. The pass rush that was so mediocre last year has to get more from options other than Eddins, and the inside has to hold up better against the stronger ground games.
Unit Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters: Back after leading the team in tackles is Davyd Jones, a 6-1, 215-pound senior who made 100 stops and eight tackles for loss. He's not all that big, but he's ultra-productive with 185 stops in the last two seasons with the versatility to work in the middle or out. He's tough and can move like a defensive back with unlimited range and the potential to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

Travis Freeman didn't start in the opener, but he was the main man the rest of the way in the middle as he started to live up to the potential. The 6-0, 223-pound sophomore was a major recruiting coup coming from Cleveland after playing for Ted Ginn, Sr. The bigger schools were scared off by his lack of size, but he's a hitting machine and showed off great speed making 93 tackles in his first year.

6-1, 219-pound Tony Martin got a little bit of starting time as a true freshman and finished with 28 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. A great athlete, he should grow into the strongside role over the next few years, and even though he's not all that big, he's a tough tackler. Smart, active, and with the raw skills to be an all-around playmaker, he should come up with a huge statistical season.

Projected Top Reserves Sophomore Theon Dixon will work on the weakside after seeing time in 11 games as a true freshman. He was active and showed excellent upside making 36 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. A smart, active player who sniffs things out well, he's only 6-1 and 216 pounds but he can move. Now he needs to start doing more in pass coverage.

Sophomore Justin Cruz saw plenty of time as a true freshman working on both special teams and as a reserve making 14 tackles. He's not huge at 5-11 and 216 pounds, but he's a tough hitter and could work in the middle from time to time. More like a tough defensive back than a hard-nosed linebacker, he'll work in a variety of roles as a key backup.

Watch Out For … Jones and Freeman to get a lot more MAC acclaim. These two combined for 193 tackles last season and didn't get a sniff of all-star consideration. That will change this year.
Strength: Experience. Jones, Freeman, and Martin are now grizzled veterans and Cruz and Dixon can each produce. Unlike last year, the corps knows what it's doing.
Weakness: Pass rush. Considering this isn't a big corps and is extremely active, it should be doing more to get into the backfield. Everyone has had enough of a problem holding up against the run much less figure out how to get behind the line, and that has to change.
Outlook: The Cardinal linebackers turned out to be good with Jones coming through as expected and Freeman stepping up his play, but they weren't disruptive enough. With several good young players with only one senior, Jones, the potential is there to grow into a strength over the last few years.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: After coming up with the MAC Freshman of the Year honor, safety Sean Baker followed up a 94-tackle first year with 61 stops and a team-leading four interception. At 6-1 and 204 pounds, the junior is a solid, effective tackler and has a great way of finding his way to the ball with ten interceptions and 13 broken up passes in his first two seasons. He'll be the sheriff of the secondary.

Taking over for Alex Knipp at the other safety spot will be junior Kyle Hoke, a 5-11, 193-pound career reserve who made eight tackles last season. A special teamer so far, he did a little more as last year went on and now he'll have to replace the lost production of Knipp, who finished third on the team with 82 stops. He's not big and he can't fly, but he'll fight to get to the ball-carrier with Sean Baker taking care of everything else.

Charlie Todd started every game but one as he turned into one of the team's biggest surprises making 80 tackles, fourth most on the team, with an interception and two tackles for loss. The senior came in from the JUCO ranks and produced right away showing good tackling skills, but he needs to be more consistent against the better receivers. At 5-10 and 190 pounds, the senior has decent size and should end up being the team's No. 1 corner.

True sophomore Jason Pinkston was thrown to the wolves right away and did a decent job picking off three passes and making 25 tackles in a reserve role. He has tremendous size at 6-2 and 177 pounds, and while he's not a blazer, he moves well. He'd be better suited as a nickel and dime defender, but he should be stronger when he gets to lock on to a smaller receiver.

Projected Top Reserves Junior Koreen Burch started for most of last year at left corner and will get a chance to get back his gig, but he has to be far better on deep plays. He made 43 tackles and a team-leading nine broken up passes, but he didn't come up with any picks. A phenomenal athlete, he started off his career at running back, and now the 5-9, 170-pounder should be better in nickel and dime packages when he gets to use his speed in the open spaces.

The coaching staff isn't afraid to throw young freshmen into the mix, and Quintin Cooper should be ready to go from Day One. The 5-9, 175-pound corner is a pickoff artist with 13 career interceptions in high school, and he has the No. 1, shut-down potential the Cardinals desperately need. Consider it a minor shock if he redshirts.

Joshua Howard can play any spot in the secondary with corner quickness and safety tackling ability, but he only made six tackles in a reserve role. The 6-1, 197-pound junior is very smart and very athletic, and now he has to play a bigger role in the rotation working with Baker and Hoke at safety.

Sophomore Armand Dehaney was a tremendous high school running back who's still learning the ropes of being a top corner. He's not big at 5-8 and 165 pounds, but he jumps out of the stadium playing bigger than he actually is. He made eight tackles in a reserve role.

Watch Out For … Baker to earn all-star honors. He should've received more mention last year after a nice year doing what he could, but on reputation alone he'll be given more respect.
Strength: Corner options. There isn't a sure-thing shutdown corner who can come out and erase a No. 1 receiver, but there will be several players trying out for the job with Pinkston, Burch, Todd, Dehaney, and Cooper all getting their shot.
Weakness: Good passing teams. Anyone with a decent quarterback and a passing game was able to light up the Cardinal secondary. BSU allowed 300 yards or more five times and got picked apart for 26 passing scores.
Outlook: The stats in previous years were misleading as teams ran so easily that they ignored throwing the ball. Last year's secondary wasn't as lucky as anyone who wanted to throw, did. There are some good young players like Pinkston and Dehaney to get excited about, and Baker is a star, but this isn't going to be a strength. The key will be to pick off passes and come up with more third down stops since it'll be a shock if BSU finishes the year allowing an average of 200 passing yards per game.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Ian McGarvey nailed 16-of-21 field goals in 2008 and was even better last season connecting on 18-of-21 attempts including all five of his shots from 40-to-49 yards. He's a weapon who should be in the mix for all-star honors.

Scott Kovanda had the unenviable task of trying to replace Chris Miller and his 43.5-yard average, and he wasn't bad. He has a big leg and was able to blast away from time to time, averaging 40 yards per pop, and he showed nice touch with 15 put inside the 20.

The kickoff return game was mediocre overall and finished 94th in the nation, but backup running back Eric Williams was solid averaging 23.9 yards per try. Corner Charlie Todd averaged 11.7 yards per punt return, including an 87-yard touchdown, and he'll get the first shot again.

Watch Out For … Kovanda to grow into his own as a strong punter. He's not going to be Chris Miller of a few years ago, but he showed off good range last year and turned in a nice all-around season. Now he'll start to be even more of a weapon to bail the team out of jams.
Strength: Experience. McGarvey is a good, reliable kicker, Kovanda proved he could handle the work, and all the top returners are back. The chance is there for BSU to have the best special teams in the conference.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. This is a bit misleading since Williams was fantastic, but the Cardinals averaged 20.45 yards per try, good for 94th in the nation, with no one other than Williams averaging more than 19 yards per attempt.
Outlook: The special teams were among the best in the country in 2008 and were decent last year, and now they should be great again with all the key pieces returning. The coverage teams were good, the kicking game is solid, and the top returners are excellent.
Unit Rating: 7.5

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