2010 Kent State Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Kent State Golden Flash Defense
Kent State Golden Flashes
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The call came down from the coaching staff last year: get to the quarterback. After a 2008 with little pass rush and without enough big plays, the Golden Flashes spent half the season setting up camp in opposing backfields leading the MAC and finishing fourth in the nation in tackles for loss, and finishing 17th in the country in sacks. Expect more of the same with Monte Simmons leading a devastating pass rush up front, Cobrani Mixon in line for MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors at middle linebacker, and the safety combination of Brian Lainhart and Dan Hartman among the best in the league. The front four is too small and the developed depth isn't there across the board, but as long as the core players are fine, the defense will be terrific.
Star of the defense: Senior FS Brian Lainhart
Tackles: Cobrani Mixon, 108
Sacks: Monte Simmons, 8
Interceptions: Brian Lainhart, 7
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DE Lee Stalker
Best pro prospect: Lainhart
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lainhart, 2) LB Cobrani Mixon, 3) DE Monte Simmons
Strength of the defense: Safety, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Front Four Size, Developed Depth
Projected Starters: Senior Monte Simmons took over the BUCK position last year and was a pass rushing star. He only started seven times, but he ended up making eight sacks with 16 tackles for loss with 56 tackles overall. At 6-3 and 226 pounds, he's perfect for the hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end spot, and while he came up with plenty of stops against the run, he's a pure speed rusher who earned second-team All-MAC honors and should thrive again getting even more of a green light to get into the backfield.
The only returning starter in the front three (not counting the BUCK position) is senior Quinton Rainey, a woefully undersized nose tackle who's feisty enough to make 29 tackles with two sacks and 11 tackles for loss. A backup early in his career, he was able to use his quickness to overcome his lack of size, and while he'll get pushed around from time to time, he wins his share of battles.
Taking over at one end spot is 6-2, 254-pound junior Lee Stalker, a veteran backup who came up with 12 tackles, a sack, and four tackles for loss in his limited role. A great scout teamer, he showed a knack for coming up with big plays in practices and now will get the full-time job. With all the attention paid to Monte Simmons, Stalker has to shine.
Adding some desperately needed bulk to the inside is the 6-3, 304-pound Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, a pure run stiffer who made 13 stops with 2.5 tackles for loss in his part of the rotation. Now he'll get the starting defensive tackle job and will have to be the anchor for the rest of the extremely quick line to work around.
Projected Top Reserves: It'll be a shock if Zach Williams doesn't see starting duty after getting the call five times last year and seeing time in every game. A tremendous pass rusher from Citrus College in Los Angeles, the 6-3, 255-pounder was a disappointment early on making 3.5 sacks with six tackles for loss and 21 tackles last year as part of a rotation. He'll work in a combination with Stalker.
Considering nose tackle Quinton Rainey is just 235 pounds, there will be a rotation on the inside. Redshirt freshman DeVonte Helms isn't all that much bigger at 6-1 and 266 pounds, but he's extremely strong and has the build for the spot. He's squatty, gets great leverage, and he's just quick enough to get into the backfield from time to time.
Looking for time at the coveted BUCK position will be sophomore Jake Dooley , a 6-2, 236-pounder who stepped in and looked strong this spring when he got his chance. He got a little bit of work as a true freshman, but he only made three tackles and didn't get into the backfield. He'll be a pass rusher who should shine when he gets his chance, and he'll eventually be a statistical star.
Watch Out For … Kitchen to be good with a bigger role. At 304 pounds, he's desperately needed to stuff things up on the inside, and while the stats might not be tremendous, he'll be invaluable for his bulk.
Strength: Getting into the backfield. While the back seven gets involved too, the front four is great at getting to the quarterback finishing fourth in the nation in tackles for loss and 17th in sacks. Simmons is a terror who'll camp out in opposing backfields, and Stalker, Williams, and Rainey will do their part, too.
Weakness: Bulk. The run defense relies on the big plays to help out the overall average, but if Kitchen isn't great, there's no size against the power running teams. Rainey might be effective, but having a 235-pound nose tackle isn't a plus.
Outlook: The line overcame a disappointing 2008 to destroy opposing backfields, and there should be more of the same. Simmons is an all-star, and while the supporting cast is just okay, everyone but Kitchen can move. The pass rush should be fantastic again.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: Senior Cobrani Mixon led the team with 108 tackles, three sacks, and ten tackles for loss on the way to first-team All-MAC honors. Not just terrific against the run, Mixon managed to be a star in pass coverage with seven broken up passes while showing great quickness to stay with backs on short pass plays. The 6-1, 240-pounder played most of his high school career with a torn ACL, started out at Michigan, transferred, and then suffered a broken foot. With 181 tackles over the last two years, he's a special player who doesn't miss any stops.
6-0, 209-pound senior Will Johnson moved over from safety to become a backup with three starts, but he only made six tackles with a broken up pass. He's undersized, but he's fast and is a great open field tackler who made 27 stops as a freshman. He'll be sent into the backfield early and often from the weakside.
Taking over for Anthony Mirando on the strongside will be sophomore Luke Batton, a 6-0, 220-pound versatile playmaker who did a nice job as a key backup. He got the start against Eastern Michigan on the weakside, but he's better suited to the strongside where he's able to hold up against the run. He made 26 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and an interception in his true freshman campaign.
Projected Top Reserves: With Cobrani Mixon out this spring hurt, Dorian Wood stepped in and was terrific. A starter for most of last year on the weakside, he could end up there again if he's not needed in the middle. The 6-1, 235-pounder has excellent quickness for his size.
A star special teamer throughout his career, junior Byron Tyson has seen a little bit of time at linebacker and should finally play more of a role on the weakside. At 5-10 and 213 pounds, he's small but he packs a wallop. Now he has to do it more on defense after only making four stops.
6-0, 224-pound junior Kyle Reese is more of a smallish defensive lineman than a linebacker, but he should be fine on the strongside after making ten tackles both as a defender and on special teams. He could become a BUCK pass rusher if needed, but he'll mostly be needed as a key reserve for the linebacking corps.
Watch Out For … Johnson and Wood to shine on the outside. They've been around just long enough to know what they're doing with Mixon handling everything on the inside. The outside defenders should be active.
Strength: Mixon. As long as he's healthy, he's a MAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate with the toughness to handle everything funneled his way and the quickness to be solid in pass coverage.
Weakness: Starting experience outside of Mixon. There's defense experience among the starters, but it's a little bit of a transitional period for the corps with the new guys stepping in. They'll be good, but they might need a little bit of time.
Outlook: After a year of rebuilding, there will be another season of work to make sure the right guys fit on the outside. With a player like Mixon in the middle everything will be fine and there are enough athletes on the depth chart to find a few disruptive playmakers to find the right fits.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: After suffering neck and shoulder injuries early in his career, Brian Lainhart got healthy and made 106 tackles with a team-leading six interceptions in 2008. He followed it up with another tremendous first-team All-MAC season making 87 tackles with seven picks and four forced fumbles at free safety, and he should be a lock for all-star honors once again as long as he stays healthy. The 6-1, 207-pound senior is a huge hitter and an intimidating force for the back seven with great range and natural instincts to get to the ball. If all goes according to plan, he could finish his career with over 350 tackles and 20 interceptions.
Returning to his starting strong safety spot is veteran Dan Hartman , a 6-2, 205-pound senior who made 72 tackles with four interceptions and nine broken up passes. Able to get into the backfield on a regular basis, he made six tackles for loss as an athletic all-around playmaker. He needs to be more consistent against the pass, but he's versatile and he's physical.
Junior Josh Pleasant was one of the team's top recruits a few years ago and he's just now growing into his potential. The 5-10, 181-pounder started every game and was fantastic finishing third on the team with 73 tackles with an interception and 11 broken up passes. With tremendous quickness and good all-around athleticism, he's a playmaker who's overdue to earn all-star honors if he can be a bit better against the top targets.
Junior Chris Gilbert started his career as a wide receiver and a special teamer, and he spent last year making the transition to the defensive side. He only made two tackles, but he has the speed and the potential to be a major factor at corner. At 6-0 and 198 pounds he has the size to go along with some of the best wheels on the team.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Norman Wolfe stepped up his play and became a top nickel back and a good reserve corner. The 5-8, 163-pounder might not be all that big, but he's a sure tackler in the open field and he has decent coverage skills making 27 tackles with four broken up passes last season.
After spending last year as a special teamer, 5-11, 204-pound sophomore Leon Green will work behind Dan Hartman at strong safety. A physical player who was a good high school offensive performer, he moves well and he should be decent with a little bit of time after making three tackles.
6-0, 173-pound sophomore Sidney Saulter isn't all that big but he's really, really fast. A good tackler for his size, he didn't see the field as a redshirt freshman but was a great hitter in high school and should be fine with a little bit of time playing behind Chris Gilbert, and he could be used as a nickel and dime back at times.
Watch Out For … Gilbert. While he doesn't have all that much experience, he has the size and the speed to be great. The tools are all there, but he'll get picked on until he can prove he can handle the work on deep plays. It's not a stretch to call him the key to the secondary.
Strength: Safety. Lainhart might be the best defensive back in the MAC and Hartman is a playmaking strong safety who'd get far more credit and a far bigger spotlight on a different team. These two should combine for at least 150 tackles and should be the best tandem in the league.
Weakness: Corners. Bowling Green destroyed the Golden Flash corners for 505 yards and four touchdowns, and while the defensive backs did a decent job against the mediocre teams, they got picked apart in key spots. Pleasant should be better, but the overall production and the consistent must improve.
Outlook: The pass rush was terrific and the secondary benefitted. The safeties are fantastic and the corners have speed and upside, but the pass defense has to be better against the stronger passing teams. The Golden Flashes were second in the MAC against the pass, and they could be even better if injuries don't strike.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: As a true freshman, Freddy Cortez came up with a strong first season hitting 13-of-19 field goals, and while he wasn't always consistent, three of his kicks were blocked. With a big leg, he has range just inside the 50 and was great as the season went on. After missing five of his first eight attempts, he settled down and nailed ten of his last 11.
Junior punter Matt Rinehart came up with a great year averaging 40.9 yards per kick putting 17 inside the 20 and forcing 19 fair catches. He came up with an 80-yard bomb against Western Michigan, but he doesn't have a cannon of a leg. Extremely good at placing the ball when he needs to, he should once again be an all-star after earning first-team All-MAC honors.
WR Anthony Bowman will get the first shot at the kickoff returner job after averaging 22 yards per try last year with a 92-yard touchdown. Extremely quick, he's good at getting up the field in a hurry.
Star running back Eugene Jarvis should be fantastic returning punts in what amounts as an audition for the NFL. The smallish speedster averaged 15.4 yards per try on his five returns in his limited work last season.
Watch Out For … Cortez to be better. He might have struggled early on, but he was terrific over the second half of last year and now he should be in the mix for all-star honors.
Strength: Rinehart. After two seasons at the job, the junior punter is a weapon who turned into a difference maker last season. As long as he's consistent, the Golden Flashes have a big advantage.
Weakness: Pop in the return game … maybe. The Golden Flashes were great on punt returns, with Leneric Muldrow stepping in and shining when Jarvis got hurt, but the kickoff return game could stand to do more after averaging a mediocre 21.09 yards per try.
Outlook: If Cortez is great, KSU could have the MAC's best special teams. The punt coverage team allowed just nine yards per return and the kickoff return team only allowed 15 yards per try. Rinehart is a star, the returners are quick, and after a year of night-and-day improvement, the production should once again be great.
Unit Rating: 8
- 2010 Kent State Preview |
Kent State Offense
2010 Kent State Defense |
Kent State Depth Chart
- Kent State Previews