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Wayne State Preview 2007: The Defense August 14, 2007

Posted by City Hoops in Previews, Wayne State.
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Wayne State linebackers Alan Guy (10) and Prosper Iwu (43) pull down Ashland quarterback Billy Cundiff last year. All three starters are back at linebacker, making this defensive unit WSU’s strongest. (Photo by Ron Harper)

Click through for the preview …

WAYNE STATE FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2007: DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

Thin and untested would best describe this unit heading into fall camp, albeit bigger and more stout. There are a number of skilled players and the coaches like their potential, but none have much game experience if any at all except defensive end Athan Anagonye, who was in the rotation last year as a true freshman.

It’s a good bet that the rest of the starters here are up in the air and won’t be decided until the conclusion of camp. The depth isn’t where the coaches want it to be.

Andrew Bates is a big JUCO transfer who enrolled in Wayne State during the winter and is slated to start at tackle alongside senior Josh McLean, who has the most experience of the group. Jason Thomas has been in the program for three years and will also compete for playing time. Of the three, the coaches like Bates the best, calling him unblockable at times during the spring.

Anagonye, Alex Jachym, James Cook and Nick Grundy will all compete for starting spots and playing time at both end positions.

It’s clear that production is needed early from this unit – the D-line has to find a way to generate some pressure up front to help stop opposing quarterbacks from picking apart a young and inexperienced secondary.

It’s still a far cry from last year’s senior-laden front of Chris Smilo, Alan Clay, Mike Ellison and Dan Barnes and will be hard-pressed to match that unit’s production without some growing pains in the beginning.

NEWCOMERS: An area that needed both skill and depth, WSU inked three tackles and two ends in its incoming freshman class. Cornell Ewell (6-5, 218) keeps the WSU pipeline to Benton Harbor open, has an imposing frame for an end and has the most potential, but will have to make strides in the weight room during his redshirt year. Still, there aren’t many GLIAC defensive ends over 6-foot-3, much less 6-5.

Mike Fields (Taylor Truman) is the other freshman end. Marcus Watkins, Donne Laramie and Brad Tucker (JUCO transfer – Delta CC) compose the group of incoming defensive tackles. GLIAC teams are always on the market for impact defensive lineman, so WSU won’t hesitate to add more to next year’s recruiting haul.

POSITION STRENGTH: 2

LINEBACKERS

If there is a strength on the defense, the WSU linebackers – led by three-year letterwinner and senior captain Alan Guy – are it. There will be enormous pressure on this experienced group to help the front four in run support, pressure the quarterback on blitzes and assist the secondary in both zone and man coverage.

Guy has made 29 career starts and is a senior leader. His 77 tackles led the team last year. He will start at the WILL position. The other starters are juniors Tristan Black (MIKE starter) and Prosper Iwu (SAM). Black has 14 starts over his first two WSU seasons and is tough to block. He is an imposing presence in the middle of the field. Iwu is a hard-hitter that is particularly strong in run support. He is the third linebacker in non-nickel situations.

The depth here is decent with Adam Nuckols and Matt Shango, a special teams whiz who has also played defensive end. Matt Faulkner redshirted last year but was active on the scout team.

All told, the WSU linebackers are going to be counted on to play to their talent and experience level, because the defense needs it.

NEWCOMERS: Linebackers coach Landon Fox will be particularly excited if Zach Easterly, a physically imposing 6-2, 200 pound freshman, eventually makes the move from safety, where he will start his career. Easterly has the speed to cover receivers and loves to hit.

Mike Moyniahn was overlooked by many schools – actually, every school, as Wayne State was his only offer – but was a Dream Team selection at Allen Park.

Jordan Miller (6-3, 203) prepped at Cincinnati Colerain, one of Ohio’s top programs, and is the most highly-touted prospect of the group.

Raliegh Ross is from Detroit Crockett, which has a history of producing top linebackers.

This position group rates as one of the two strongest in WSU’s incoming freshman class. If Winters and staff can haul in one or two more promising linebacker stars in the class of 2008, this group might rate as a 5 for years to come.

POSITION STRENGTH: 4

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Coach Winters and staff need defensive backs to step up – and fast. Five starters graduated, and only Dante Dunn (5-10) has seen extended playing time as the nickel back and on a corner last year.

Cornelius Dillard (5-9) is a JUCO transfer who sat last year. Jonathan Klyce (5-9), Keman Jacobs (5-10) and Stan Thornton (5-10) will all compete for playing time.

Incoming freshman Myles McNichols has the size, speed and athleticism to be a shutdown GLIAC corner. Is he ready to play right away – it has been discussed.

Steve and Brent Wisnewski (twin brothers) are penciled in as starters at free and strong safety. Wendell Thompson and Tigina Mikuna are redshirt freshmen that enter camp as the backups.

Freshman Jeremy Jones (Rockford) is a high-energy player who is always going at 100 percent. He has a chance for early playing time at strong safety along with classmate Kenny Loney at free safety.

This group needs to solidify its starters and rotation and get right to work in camp. Progress through the next three weeks will be crucial. Despite the losses, Winters thinks this group is more athletic and will eventually improve on consistency.

NEWCOMERS: With the graduation of five secondary starters, it was vital that WSU secure some impact players in this year’s class. They did just that with Myles McNichols (CB/S), Tyler Amos (CB), Jeremy Jones (SS) and Kenny Loney (FS), which potentially compose the defensive backfield of the future. Now the quest will be to sign a couple more players next year to bolster talent and depth.

POSITION STRENGTH: 2

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Comments»

1. Sanford - January 3, 2008

good analysis- the defense didnt perform well during the season but should be improved in 2008. What do you think about the QB situation? I know there were injuries but the best pass I viewed all season was thrown by Joique Bell.


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