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2010 Colorado State Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Colorado State Ram Defense


Colorado State Rams

Preview 2010 - Defense


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

What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr needs to get more out of a defense that returns nine starters. The defense made some big improvements after a disastrous 2008, but it has to be far more consistent. The linebacking corps has the potential to be fantastic with the return of Ricky Brewer from a year-long suspension to go along with top tackler and tremendous playmaker, Mychal Sisson. The secondary gets all the key parts back, but it has to be far, far better after getting ripped apart by anyone who could throw a forward pass. There should be a good rotation up front, especially on the ends, and there’s plenty of reason to get fired up about a pass rush that turned out to be good at getting to the quarterback, but didn’t do enough to make plays behind the line.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Mychal Sisson, 91
Sacks: Mychal Sisson, 6
Interceptions: Elijah-Blu Smith, 3

Star of the defense: Junior LB Mychal Sisson
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior CB Momo Thomas
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE C.J. James
Best pro prospect: Sisson (as a safety)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sisson, 2) LB Ricky Brewer, 3) FS Elijah Blu-Smith
Strength of the defense: Outside Linebacker, Experience
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Consistency

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: After starting every game last year on the nose, 6-3, 297-pound senior Guy Miller has to serve as more of an anchor on the inside. Solid against the run, the former offensive lineman made 39 tackles and did a good job of getting into the backfield with two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He’s a mauler with the strength, experience, and toughness to be the main man for the front four.

6-6, 231-pound senior Cory Macon started most of last year at left defensive end and was fine, but not great. He didn’t get to the quarterback enough making just 2.5 sacks with five tackles for loss, but he made 35 tackles. The Alaskan missed time with a back problem suffered in a car accident, and he was out for a time this offseason, with a personal issue, but he’s tough, has all the tools and athleticism to do more, and he could be a breakout pass rusher if he’s able to put it all together in his final season.

Working in a rotation at defensive tackle will be Ty Whittier , an undersized 6-5, 268-pound senior who’d be a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He worked on the outside a bit last year making 13 tackles with a sack, and he’ll move around where needed working both inside and out. The former walk-on is a good athlete who has been around long enough to know what he’s doing.

6-3, 249-pound junior Eugene Daniels spent last year learning as a reserve making eight tackles with half a sack, and now he’s being asked to become a regular in the backfield. While he’s built more like a linebacker than a true lineman, his speed and quickness should make up for his lack of size now that he’s playing a bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-2 and 309 pounds, junior Nuku Latu is the team’s biggest option for the inside and is more than 30 pounds bigger than Ty Whittier at tackle. Latu was a key backup getting one start making 13 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a blocked kick as part of a rotation. Because of his size and his quickness, he’s going to be getting more of work at the position and will try to grab the starting job.

A starter in seven games last year, sophomore Zach Tiedgen showed great promise as a true freshman making 24 tackles with three tackles for loss as he grew into a role as the season went on. At 6-4 and 248 pounds, he’s a tall, thin pass rusher who has the potential to be a regular into the backfield with a quick first step and great change of direction. A shoulder problem kept him down this offseason, but he’s expected to be fine and become a bigger factor on the left side.

6-3, 249-pound sophomore D.J. James has the potential to be a special pass rusher showing tremendous upside with a great spring. He got some work in as a true freshman and was disruptive making 16 tackles with a forced fumble and two sacks, and now he’ll be a part of the rotation on both sides. A great recruit out of Orlando, he spurned Michigan and other BCS schools for CSU, and now he needs to live up to his skills.

Watch Out For … James. There might be a logjam on the end with Macon, Tiedgen, and Daniels all expected to be the main part of the rotation, but James has too much speed, quickness, and athleticism to not find his way into the mix.
Strength: Young pass rushing options. The program has loaded up on tall, athletic ends who can move. Now there’s a wave of sophomores who should get plenty of opportunities to hit the quarterback on a regular basis, but …
Weakness: Plays in the backfield. This might change in a hurry. The Rams did a nice job of getting to the quarterback, but it wasn’t always coming from the line. The plays in the backfield weren’t there as the Rams finished 94th in the nation in tackles for loss with the linebackers doing much of the heavy lifting.
Outlook: This will be one of the team’s most interesting units. A disaster two years ago, the line had to undergo a major change last year and the results were far, far better. The upside, the athleticism, and the youth are in place to possibly rise up and be fantastic, and if the young ends are turned loose, the sky’s the limit.
Unit Rating: 5

Linebacker

Projected Starters: Junior Mychal Sisson earned second-team All-Mountain West honors as the do-it-all playmaker for the defensive front seven. While he’s only 5-11 and 209 pounds, he’s extremely tough, very fast, very active, and has the talent to do even more after making a team-leading 91 tackles with six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Also great against the pass from the weakside, he broke up five passes. With 196 tackles in his first two seasons, the spotlight will be on as he’ll be in the hunt for Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors if he can stay healthy. So physical for his size, he has to continue to hold up despite having shoulder problems.

With Mychal Sisson getting most of the headlines, a decent year from Alex Williams went under the radar. The 6-2, 235-pound senior is a former walk-on who made 55 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss, and he would’ve done far more if he hadn’t been knocked out for a few games with knee problems. He’s not going to fly all over the field, but he doesn’t miss a stop.

Welcome back, Ricky Brewer. Suspended for the 2010 season, the 6-2, 212-pound senior saw his career put on hold after a whale of a sophomore campaign earning honorable mention All-Mountain West honors finishing with 104 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss. Now he’s back in everyone’s good graces and he adds another big-time playmaker on the outside to bookend with Sisson. While he’s built like a safety, he doesn’t miss a tackle and he’s a tremendously disruptive force who should be one of the team’s top tacklers, if not the leader, and he should be an all-star again.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Michael Kawulok took over the starting spot on the strongside with Ricky Brewer off the team, and he was decent making 31 tackles with an interception and 1.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 228 pounds, he’s a bit bigger than Brewer but he’s nowhere near the same tackler. While he’s a good athlete and he has the potential to do far more, he’ll end up moving around where needed as a top reserve and a possible starter on the strongside.

Working as a spot starter, getting the call in four games and serving as a top backup the rest of the time, Chris Gipson made 56 tackles with three sacks and four tackles for loss. At 5-11 and 230 pounds, he’s a short, thick, tough defender in the middle with the ability to move to the strongside if needed. A great recruit two years ago, he’s playing up to his ability and potential with great range and tackling ability. He’ll find time somewhere.

Sophomore James Skelton turned out to be a nice surprise starting three times and finishing with 42 tackles. While he’s nowhere near the playmaker that Mychal Sisson is on the weakside, he’s a nice athlete who gets all over the field and provides a pop when he gets to the ball carrier. A strong special teamer, he’ll make an impact no matter where he works.

Watch Out For … Brewer. Even after getting booted from the team, he was the model citizen, did everything right in the classroom and as a teammate, and now he’s back in the mix where he should be explosive again. He’ll make a big difference.
Strength: Outside linebacker. With Brewer back combining with Sisson, the Rams might have the Mountain West’s best outside linebacking tandem. As long as they can stay healthy, CSU should get close to 200 tackles worth of production out of their very active, very good veterans.
Weakness: Impact plays. There will be lots of tackles and lots of big moments, but the linebackers have to make more plays on the line and have to do more to force turnovers and to get into the backfield. That might happen with Brewer back, and now the linebackers have to be turned loose.
Outlook: The positive from all the injuries and the Brewer suspension was the time logged in by several young players. The Rams are now loaded with veterans with starting experience and have two potential all-stars on the outside in Brewer and Sisson. Even with all the problems, the linebackers improved last year after a rocky few seasons, and now they have the potential to be great.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Secondary

Projected Starters: Junior Elijah-Blu Smith started out his career at corner and struggled through a foot injury, but he was terrific last year when he took over at free safety. The 5-11, 194-pounder finished second on the team making 74 tackles with three interceptions and five broken up passes, and now he’ll be in the hunt for all-star honors with his great hitting ability and his tackling skills. With the speed and range to be all over the field, he should be able to come up with more big plays against the pass.

5-11, 196-pound junior Ivory Herd was a spot starter at strong safety getting time in five games making 37 tackles with two broken up passes, and now the starting spot is all his. He had a few injury problems banging up his leg, but he’s fine going into the season and he should be a big hitter for his size who should hold up.

Junior Gerard “Momo” Thomas started at corner for the second straight year, making 43 tackles with an interception, but he had problems staying healthy and he didn’t do nearly enough to pick off passes. Extremely fast and athletic, he makes up for his 5-9, 172-pound size with great wheels. With his experience, he has to become a No. 1 corner.

Senior DeAngelo Wilkinson started twice and was a key backup the rest of the time finishing with 27 tackles. However, he only broke up three passes and didn’t come up with any picks, and now he’s trying to get over a foot injury to be a factor at right corner again. The 5-10, 191-pound veteran has good speed and he’s not afraid to get physical, but he needs to make more big plays.

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-2 and 201 pounds, redshirt freshman Ezra Thompson has excellent size at free safety and the potential to become a major factor. A very strong tackler with good ball skills and the smarts to keep the mistakes to a minimum, he has the upside to eventually put up some huge stats.

Redshirt freshman Immanuel Mitchell is one of the team’s best athletes and he should quickly find a spot at corner or as a nickel and dime defender. He’s a tall, thin defender at 5-11 and 166 pounds, but his speed should make up for his lack of bulk with track star skills and phenomenal quickness. Recruited by Texas, among other BCS schools, he was a nice get for the Rams and he should make several big plays working behind Momo Thomas on the right side.

5-8, 168-pound Marcus Shaw isn’t all that big, but he moves well and he saw a little bit of work on special teams making five tackles while also getting his feet wet at corner. He’ll see time at right corner in a rotation with DeAngelo Wilkinson where he’ll be a smart, ready backup who can step in at any time.

Watch Out For … The redshirt freshmen. While the starters will be relatively set going into the season, the coaching staff have to find spots for Thompson and Mitchell. These two have as much upside and talent as anyone in the secondary and should shine when given the chance.
Strength: Experience. Considering the depth has a ton of upside, it’s not a disaster that the second team experience isn’t there. The starters have seen enough time to be better with three returning starters and with plenty of time logged in at all four spots.
Weakness: Production. The pass defense got a wee bit better as the season went on, but it helped that the good passing teams were off the schedule over the final quarter of the season. The Rams only picked off 11 passes, but came up with just two (both against New Mexico) in the final six games.
Outlook: There’s plenty of speed, athleticism, and potential, but the production has to be far, far better. Even with a decent pass rush to help the cause, the secondary got torched allowing 200 yards or more in each of the first eight games and were only saved by playing teams like Air Force and New Mexico. There’s a lot of room for improvement.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Ben DeLine stepped into the job midway through 2008 and was fine hitting 4-of-5 field goals including a game-winner, and then last year he nailed 12-of-16 attempts. He doesn’t have a huge leg, but he’s good from just under 50 yards connecting on all four of his tries from 40-to-49 yards. However, six of his attempts came from under 30 yards and he missed three midrange, makeable kicks.

Sophomore Pete Kontodiakos wasn’t bad but he didn’t get any help. The star punting recruit of last year averaged 40.9 yards per kick and put 12 inside the 20 and forced 12 fair catches, but the team allowed a whopping 15.1 yards per return. With his year of experience, he has to take his big, booming leg (he crushed a 76-yarder) and work better with his coverage team.

Watch Out For … the return game. Dion Morton was a special talent averaging 24.6 yards per kickoff return as the Rams finished 37th in the nation. The punt return game wasn’t great, but Morton was solid averaging 10.3 yards per try. Now it’ll be an open casting call going into the season.
Strength: DeLine. Yeah, he missed a few kicks he shouldn’t have, but he was stead enough from beyond 40 yards and was just good enough to be counted on in key spots.
Weakness: Kick coverage. A complete and utter disaster, CSU finished 116th in the nation in punt return coverage allowing 15.11 yards per return, while the kickoff coverage team wasn’t any better allowing 24.16 yards per try.
Outlook: The potential is there to be far better. The kicking game will be fine as long as Kontodiakos works better with his coverage team and DeLine is automatic inside the 40. The return game needs work and the coverage teams need a LOT of work.
Unit Rating: 5.5

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