2010 ULM Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - ULM Warhawk Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The defense will take a step back after finishing last year first in the Sun Belt against the run and second in total defense. The loss of stars DE Aaron Morgan, LB Cardia Jackson, and key defensive backs Greg James and James Truxillo will be tough to overcome, but there's plenty of speed and quickness from top to bottom for defensive coordinator Troy Reffett to work with. The 3-3-5 has a nice young group of defensive backs to work with, but it'll take a little while for the group to improve on a rough year against the pass. There's potential up front for a strong pass rush if end Troy Evans can take his game up a notch and if Ken Dorsey can grow into a factor on the other side.
Star of the defense: Junior DE Troy Evans
Tackles: Darius Prelow, 62
Sacks: Troy Evans, 6.5
Interceptions: Nate Brown, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Aaron Moore
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB DaCorris Ford
Best pro prospect: Junior S Darius Prelow
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Evans, 2) Prelow, 3) CB Nate Brown
Strength of the defense: Quickness, Pass Rush
Weakness of the defense: Experience, Pass Coverage
Projected Starters: The defensive line should be solid, but it loses Aaron Morgan, a first-team All-Sun Belt end who led the team with nine sacks. Junior Ken Dorsey, a promising 6-2, 270-pound run stopper who broke his leg as a freshman and is just now starting to get into the swing of things. He missed most of 2007, redshirted in 2008, and he played in just six games last year making one tackle. With his size and quickness, he's an ideal 3-4 end and he should be great against the run, even if he's not Morgan as a pass rusher.
Anchoring the middle will be senior Aaron Moore , a bowling ball of a 5-10, 279-pound nose tackle who made five tackles and a tackle for loss as a reserve. He got the start against Arizona State and is experienced enough to handle the full-time job. He takes over for Aaron Williams, who made 36 tackles for the Sun Belt's best run defense.
The lone returning starter up front is junior Troy Evans after making 32 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss on the other side of Aaron Morgan. Now the 6-2, 263-pounder will be the marked man as the team's top pass rusher, and he should thrive in the role with more responsibility, good experience, and a great burst into the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Emmanuel Jefferies came to ULM as a tight end, but the 6-2, 253-pound athlete will work in the defensive end rotation with Ken Dorsey. The cousin of former Indiana basketball star and New York Knick, Jared Jefferies, Emmanuel is strong, cuts well, and should grow into a pass rushing terror with some time and work.
Former JUCO star Quantez Hunter started out his career at Grambling before being great for City College of San Francisco. The 6-3, 273-pounder would be a bit better as a one-gap 4-3 tackle, but he'll work in the rotation on the nose after missing all of last year. He's quick enough to be a good interior pass rusher.
At 6-3 and 219 pounds, junior Jordan Landry is by far the smallest of the defensive linemen, but he's the quickest. He'll be a pass rushing specialist working behind Troy Evans, but he could be moved to linebacker if needed. With a little bit of experience, making nine tackles and a tackle for loss, he's ready to be a bigger part of the rotation.
Watch Out For … Dorsey. While he's not lightning quick and he's not going to be a regular sackmaster like Aaron Morgan was, he should be a solid force against the run as the season goes on.
Strength: Run defense. The line loses Morgan and Aaron Williams, but it's still strong enough to hold up against the run in Troy Reffett's defense. The Warhawks finished first in the Sun Belt against the run and generated pressure from all three spots.
Weakness: Aaron Morgan. Evans is a great pass rusher who could end up earning all-star honors with more of the spotlight on him, but losing a terror into the backfield in Morgan will hurt. He came up with twice as many tackles for loss (16) as any other ULM defender.
Outlook: Even with two key losses, the line should be fine as long as the reserves are able to form a solid rotation. Dorsey needs to come up with a big year to take the heat off of Evans, while the inside tandem of Moore and Hunter have to hold up for a full season.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps has to replace heart-and-soul star in the middle Cardia Jackson, who made 117 tackles last year. 5-11, 237-pound junior Jason Edwards has mostly been a special teamer but has seen a wee bit of time on the defense making 19 tackles as a part of the rotation. Able to work inside or out, he has good quickness to handle himself in space and the toughness to be one of the team's top tacklers in the middle.
The lone returning starter to the linebacking corps is junior Troy Evans, a 6-2, 215-pounder who was one of the team's top recruits several years ago and needs to play like it this year. He had a decent season finishing with 57 tackles with 3.5 sacks and six tackles for loss, and while he could end up on the end as a pass rusher, the speedster will work on the outside again and should be a major force who makes things happen all over the field.
6-1, 219-pound sophomore DaCorris Ford was recruited by Texas Tech and Oklahoma State as a linebacker prospect after making close to 200 tackles as a Texas high school star. He hit the weights over the last few years and added 20 pounds of muscle, and after making 11 tackles as a reserve he should be ready to make a huge impact. Physical for his size, he'll be great against the run on the outside.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 225-pound junior C.C. Carpenter is a small inside presence but he's tough. He saw a little bit of time as a special teamer and as part of the rotation making nine tackles, and while he has the pass coverage skills to be used on the outside, he'll start out in the middle.
Sophomore Cameron Blakes was a nice recruit for the program last year and he paid off right away making nine tackles as a decent backup. Now the 6-1, 212-pound outside defender will be used in a rotation with DaCorris Ford with a great motor and excellent athleticism. He cuts well, shouldn't have a problem in pass coverage, and is extremely strong. Before he's done he'll be one of the team's top tacklers.
The long journey of senior Troy Giddens ends this year. The 6-0, 218-pound senior was a top recruit for LSU with 4.32 speed and great tackling ability, but he ended up going the JUCO route and transferred to ULM. Expected to be a star right away, he made four tackles before suffering a knee injury. Back and healthy last year, he saw time in one game before quitting the team. Now he's back to work on the outside, and he appears to want to close out strong as part of the mix on the outside.
Watch Out For … Ford and Blakes. The two are good enough to blow up with more responsibility on the outside. They have the talent and the athleticism and speed to be stat-sheet fillers as they combine in the rotation.
Strength: Speed. With Giddens back, the two deep is full of fast defenders who might not be all that big, but they can move. They'll be able to swarm around the ball and can be used to get into the backfield.
Weakness: Cardia Jackson. He was everything for the Sun Belt's top run defense making 381 career tackles as one of the program's greatest defenders. Edwards and Carpenter will be fine in the middle, but it's asking for too much to be Jackson.
Outlook: The ULM linebackers will have to overcome a lack of overall experience with athleticism and quickness. It's a safety-sized group that will fly around all over the place and needs to get in on gang tackles. The linebackers will be allowed to get into the backfield on a regular basis, and they should be able to do it.
Unit Rating: 5
Projected Starters: As one of the two returning starters to the secondary, strong safety Darius Prelow has to be a big presence. The 6-0, 207-pound junior is the team's leading returning tackler making 62 tackles with 12 broken up passes and a sack, and he has the speed and range to do even more. A great hitter with a nose for the ball, he has all-star potential if he can start turning some of his broken up passes into interceptions. Defending the run won't be a problem.
Junior corner Nate Brown is the other returning starter in the secondary after making 49 tackles with two interceptions and six broken up passes. At 5-9 and 178 pounds he's not all that big, but he's aggressive, doesn't have a problem sticking his nose in against the run, and has the speed to keep up with any receiver. The former wideout should grow into the role as a lock-down No. 1 corner.
Trying to take over for First Team All-Sun Belt free safety Greg James is Khairi Usher, a 5-9, 186-pound sophomore who made three tackles in a limited special teams role. He's a good tackler for his size and he should be physical against the run to go along with his cornerback speed. He's the cousin of former NBA star Antoine Walker.
Working at the other corner on the other side of Nate Brown will be junior Montavious Hill , a 5-9, 162-pounder who comes in from Mississippi Delta CC after making 44 tackles with 21 broken up passes. He's small, but feisty and isn't afraid to get physical.
ULM uses a fifth defensive back in a hybrid H role. James Truxillo made 64 tackles and three interceptions in job, and now it'll be up to senior Alex Ibe to take over after making 23 tackles with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. A terrific athlete, he was a two time Texas high school triple jump champion. The big hitting 6-2, 216-pounder can be used at any safety spot and should be one of the team's top tacklers.
Projected Top Reserves: Rail-thin 5-11, 158-pound redshirt freshman Otis Peterson will work as a nickel and dime back as well as in a rotation with Nate Brown at corner. The good wide receiver prospect moved over to the defensive side right away, but he has to prove he can be physical. With his speed and height, he's an intriguing player who should be able to stay with most Sun Belt targets.
Versatile sophomore Robert Nelson got a little bit of work last year making six tackles, and now he'll see time in the corner rotation with Montavious Hill. The 5-10, 159-pounder might be thin, but he can move well and could grow into a solid nickel back when he's not seeing time at corner.
Junior Shaq Belson was a great special teamer two years ago and saw limited time last year playing in just two games. The compact 5-9, 228-pounder is the team's biggest defensive back option and will see time in the rotation on the H with Alex Ibe, but he'll mostly be used as a top special teamer. Yes, his name is Shaquille O'Neal Belson.
Watch Out For … Ibe to be one of the team's leading tacklers. Being able to do a little bit of everything at the H, Ibe will be a key part of the run defense and he should finish with around 75 tackles and five tackles for loss.
Strength: Young speedsters. There isn't a lot of size, but there are plenty of fast options with the ability to stay with most Sun Belt receiving corps. The future is bright with two good redshirt freshmen and three sophomores who'll all play prominent roles this year.
Weakness: Pass defense. Last year's secondary was loaded and it got picked clean way too often. Even with a great pass rush to help the cause, the Warhawks sill allowed 237 yards per game. Now there are major changes across the board and no one is expecting a huge improvement.
Outlook: Athleticism isn't a problem and everyone is willing to tackle, but the production should be mediocre with three new starters and almost no developed depth. There's a ton of upside, but this group will take its lumps for a few games until the right rotation is established.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: Junior Radi Jabour struggled hitting just 12-of-20 kicked and missing seven inside the 40. He has a good leg with range just inside 50 yards, and he was better when he could line up and blast away hitting three of his four attempts from beyond the 40. The leg is too good to find someone else, but he has to be more consistent.
taking over for the solid Scott Love is redshirt freshman Thomas Giddens , a nice-legged prospect who should air it out without a problem, but he has to prove he can put the ball inside the 20 like Love did.
Lightning fast receiver Luther Ambrose will handle the kick return duties after averaging a solid 21.9 yards per try last year, while receiver
Tavarese Maye will work on improving the nation's 112th ranked punt return game that averaged 4.5 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Giddens to be fine in place of Love. Putting the ball on a spot wasn't a problem for Love, but the punting game averaged under 35 yards per try.
Strength: Jabour's leg. He might have problems with the four foot putts, but he can bomb away from deep and is a weapon from just inside the 50.
Weakness: Punt returns. The coverage teams were a problem, but the punt return game was a bigger issue. The Warhawks were the worst in the Sun Belt even though Ambrose came up with a 33-yard return.
Outlook: Not a plus over the last few years, the coverage teams have to be far better, Ambrose has to come up with more big returns, and Jabour has to show he can hit the midrange shots as well as the deep ones.
Unit Rating: 5
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