Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Defensive Line

Returning: Chris Carter, Cornell Banks, Chris Lewis, Logan Harrell, Mark Roberts, Chase McEntee, Matt Akers, Anthony Williams, Donnie Pritchett, Nat Harrison, Tristan Okpalaugo, Nikko Motta, Andy Jennings, Ben Letcher
Newcomers: Tyeler Davison, Quentin Toailoa (transfer), Aaron Howse (walk-on)
Lost: Kenny Borg (injury)

Chris Carter
Sr, 6'2", 240
Fontana (Kaiser HS)

On a defense that was, quite frankly, abysmal most of last season, Chris Carter is a legit WAC defensive player of the year candidate at defensive end. Playing with only one free hand (the other in a club cast) most of last season, he finished among the WAC leaders with five of the team's 11 total sacks. He's the fastest defensive lineman in school history, though a bit undersized, but has one of those motors that only comes along every few years on this team. The articulate Carter is also the undisputed vocal leader of the defense, and also leads by example. As he's drawing double teams and facing blocking schemes designed to stop his pass rush, the other line mates must step up to contribute.

DaCo on Carter: Chris Carter is worthy of a spot on anyone's list of all-time favorite Bulldogs. His personal drive to be great and work ethic are unsurpassed, and when combined with his embracing of all things Bulldog Football, makes him truly unique. Beyond that, he's phenomenally skilled. Carter can rush around the end with the best of them, chase down ball carriers in the open field and never, ever takes a play off.
FSDogs1 on Carter: No one moment displays what Carter is all about more than a day during fall camp when the team was practicing at a sluggish pace and Carter commanded everyone to circle around him on a knee. He proceeded to rip into the team for poor practice habits and "explained" how that would not cut it at the level the Bulldogs want to compete at. Teammate Kyle Knox joined the pep talk and it seemed to be a turning point in this team's maturity and practice tempo.

Cornell Banks
Sr, 6'3", 310
Fresno (Edison HS)
More than anyone else on the line, Cornell Banks is positioned to make a splash. He's always had the size and talent, and has performed in spurts (30 tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1 sack last season) but if he can turn into a dominant defensive tackle it could turn the defense from bad to great by relieving the pressure on Chris Carter to perform and helping the defensive backs get into more gamebreaking turnover opportunities. Banks had an outstanding fall camp, following the momentum of a strong finish to his 2009 season.

DaCo on Banks: It's taken longer than we'd all have liked, but Banks seemed as primed for success this year as he can possibly be. While he may physically be similar in size to past years, Banks as actually leaned up a bit by hardening his body more. He has also been displaying a new confidence and swagger, which has led to a flurry of tackles in the backfield in camp against one of the nation's top offensive lines.
FSDogs1 on Banks: Expect big things from Banks this season. Yes, it's a hunch -- but it's an educated hunch.

Logan Harrell
Jr, 6'2", 275
Santa Margarita (Santa Margarita HS)

Logan Harrell is another player a whole lot more should be expected of. He was a highly regarded recruit, played as a true freshman and has two seasons full of experience. But he finished with just 17 tackles last year, though he did have a team second-best two sacks (which shouldn't be second best on any team). Harrell too often gets tangled up and stuck at a stalemate on the line of scrimmage on passing downs.

DaCo on Harrell: Harrell is a guy that was forced into action as a true freshman, but would have benefitted greatly from a redshirt year. Now in his third year, Harrell has packed on the size and muscle necessary to be an effective presence in the middle. He's a stable presence on the line, but will need to be a more frequent playmaker this year, because the depth is ready to challenge him.
FSDogs1 on Harrell: I'd like to see more tenacity and a higher motor out of Harrell. If he doesn't turn into a player, the 'Dogs will be in trouble up front next season.

Chris Lewis
Sr, 6'3", 260
Fresno (Clovis West HS)

If the bowl game loss to Wyoming is any indication, Chris Lewis is far better suited for end than tackle. He bulked up to play inside last season, and de-bulked this year to move back outside, his natural position. But more than any other lineman, Lewis' motor has to be questioned. A four-star recruit out of high school who originally committed to Miami, Lewis has the strength, speed and size that should make him lethal -- but he just hasn't pulled it all together yet.

DaCo on Lewis: It's now or never for Lewis. Here's a guy that has a ton of ability, but is missing (to this point) that intangible that Chris Carter possesses. He gave Bulldogs fans a lot of hope after making his presence felt in the final game of 2009, but was hardly a standout in camp. He's clearly honed his physique into as good of a condition as it's been in though, setting him up for the season he's capable of.
FSDogs1 on Lewis: Chris Lewis can be as good as he wants to be at this level. As dedicated as he is to the weight room, the same dedication needs to carry over to making plays consistently and winning games. He's more than capable.

Donnie Pritchett
R-Jr, 6'5", 275
Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa HS/Santa Rosa JC)

Fans have been clamoring to see Donnie Pritchett since he arrived on campus last season as a JC transfer. Pritchett has only a few years of football experience under his belt, and spent last year redshirting to gain valuable experience for this level of football. Based on camp reps, especially in the first scrimmage when he replaced a knicked-up Chris Lewis in the starting lineup, Pritchett is an impact player in the wings. He's massive for an end, and gives the Bulldogs size at the position no one else can. If he knows his assignments and shows discipline, he'll be on the field often. He could even end up cracking the starting rotation before season's end.

DaCo on Pritchett: Pritchett competes with Lewis for time at the end spot, and based on fall camp, proved to be much more of a playmaker. Pritchett gets to the quarterback quite frequently, and has been a much more obvious and consistent presence. Lewis will likely get the chance to keep his spot, but Pritchett, who has a world of talent, has given every indication he could be in there and make a difference.
FSDogs1 on Pritchett: Think Nick Burley but about 30 pounds heavier with a wider frame. That's Donnie Pritchett, long neck and all. And if he plays anything like Burley, the 'Dogs defense is in for a big, big boost.

Anthony Williams
So, 6'2", 280
Humble, TX (Atascocita HS)

Since Anthony Williams arrived at Fresno State two years ago, he's looked like one of the top linemen on the team. But he's had very limited game action, redshirting his first year after a camp injury and finishing with 5 tackles last year (the same amount kicker Andrew Shapiro had). Williams has been setting weighlifting records galore in the meantime, and is among the team's best bull rushers. If Logan Harrell doesn't get it done, Williams is the obvious choice to step in and start. Either way, he should see a big increase in playing time.

DaCo on Williams: Williams is the strongest man on the team, which is a trait the defensive line could use. Williams has shown tremendous promise in spurts, and is on the verge of breaking out at any time. Williams is ready for extended game action, and is one of the key guys to keep your eye on during the season, because of his relevance to the defensive line's development for the future.
FSDogs1 on Williams: Finally -- finally! -- coaches are hyped up on "A-Dub's" potential. Us at The Bounce have been writing for two years that he needs to play. Now listed second on the depth chart, fans should hope it happens.

Mark Roberts
Sr, 6'2", 295
Modesto (Modesto HS)
Credit Mark Roberts for sticking with it and working hard going into his final year after dropping in the rotation last season. The former starter had just 7 tackles in limited action, but stood out in live game situations in fall camp and has moved back to second on the depth chart at tackle, behind Cornell Banks.

DaCo on Roberts: Roberts' conditioning in practice had been an issue in the past, but like Banks, he appears to be ready to put forth a consistent 2010 season. He has performed well in game situations against the run, and has climbed back into the mix for playing time at DT.
FSDogs1 on Roberts: His speed could be a liability against a scrambling QB, but his size is a plus against between-the-tackles runners.

Chase McEntee
Jr, 6'2", 275
Galena Park, TX (North Shore Senior HS)

With Mark Roberts and Anthony Williams rising on the depth chart, Chase McEntee has fallen a bit. He remains very much in the mix as a former starter, but probably wasn't ready to start when he did. He had 19 tackles (2 more than Logan Harrell) last season to go with 2.5 for loss. But his pass rush was almost nonexistent, and the Bulldogs can't afford that any longer.

DaCo on McEntee: McEntee, like Harrell, is the other tackle who was forced into action before either was physically ready. McEntee is a wide, powerful 275 pounds, and appears to have slipped down the depth chart a bit, despite his apparent improvement. This means good things for depth, though.
FSDogs1 on McEntee: Just a thought, but coaches ought to consider redshirting McEntee this season (since he played as a true) with all the depth at tackles and both Banks and Roberts graduating after this year.

Nat Harrison
R-Fr, 6'2", 230
Fresno (Edison HS)

There aren't many guys Pat Hill is talking up more than Nat Harrison. And it's the second straight offseason Hill's been excited about the young pass rusher. Harrison put on some pounds (230 is probably generous), but is still undersized and unproven. Fans should be anxious to see what all Hill's excitement is about.

DaCo on Harrison: Harrison appears to play with tenacity, a trait all 11 guys of a Bulldogs defense have been known for in the past. He is very fast from his end spot and has true playmaking ability. He is one of a handful of guys to get excited about this season, with his first game action upcoming.
FSDogs1 on Harrison: Size-wise, Harrison could end up looking similar to Chris Carter eventually. Carter really started to come on strong his second year in the program and maybe Harrison will do the same?

Matt Akers
So, 6'2", 225
Bakersfield (Liberty HS)

The Bulldogs looked to undersized Matt Akers to create an edge presence with his speed last season, but he was sometimes too overmatched by the big uglies to do anything. He had 8 tackles (1 for loss) but doesn't look like he bulked up much, if at all. He's been passed on the depth chart by Nat Harrison, but continues to shine in agility drills.

DaCo on Akers: Akers gets great jumps off the ball, but his lack of size means he gets pinballed on any chip block on his way to the quarterback. Following his redshirt season, Akers appeared to be on track, until he decided to intentionally lose weight. He's far from 225 pounds, and really can only function as a speed rusher for 3rd and long situations at this point.
FSDogs1 on Akers: Akers is another highly touted recruit, but he doesn't seem to be able to put much more size on his frame. If he can't bulk up to handle the large o-linemen, he'll continue to be limited in what he can do.

Tristan Okpalaugo
R-Fr, 6'5", 240
Livermore (Granada HS)

The Nigerian end was a walk-on last season who had lots of height, but little weight. He put on about 20 pounds in the offseason and showed up to fall camp competing hard, and competing well. Tristan Okpalaugo even had an interception in the first fall scrimmage. His ridiculously long arms make him a threat, but he still needs to learn to use that to his advantage more.

DaCo on Okpalaugo: Okpalaugo came into camp noticeably bigger, having added a lot of muscle to his once lanky frame. Still, he has a lot more room to fill out, which will give him a chance to make a more significant impact. He is an under the radar prospect with loads of talent, and has been progressing very quickly. He's been a consistent disruption during his fall camp reps, and has been tabbed as one to keep an eye on in this program by Pat Hill.
FSDogs1 on Okpalaugo: Nothing to lose in trying to develop this prospect. Okpalaugo has a high ceiling if coaches can develop him. If not, there are lots of others who can be worked with.

Nikko Motta
R-Fr, 6'3", 265
Sanger (Sanger HS)

The youngster was converted from offensive line early last fall camp, and has flourished at his new position. He might not see the field much this season, if at all, but is capable of playing now if need be. Motta excels in practice drills and game situations, and has valuable position flexibility.

DaCo on Motta: Based on the size difference between Motta and the large offensive lineman, you wouldn't expect the kind of disruptions he's made. He's shown a knack to shed blocks well and often times sneaks behind the line to make tackles.
FSDogs1 on Motta: Motta's development has been a pleasant surprise for a unit that didn't expect to have him ready this early in his career. If he keeps working, he has a chance to battle for a spot in the rotation next year.

Andy Jennings
R-Fr, 6'3", 270
Turlock (Pitman HS)

Andy Jennings sat out most of the open portion of fall camp with an injury, but the Turlock prospect is coming along nicely. Pat Hill is high on him already, despite the fact he came in as a project player who was fairly raw.

DaCo on Jennings: The first thing you notice about Jennings is the size of his legs and calves. He's built very powerfully in his lower half, a valuable trait when you're talking about defensive linemen. Due to injury, he hasn't had the chance to really show what he can do, but he is being talked about behind the scenes as part of a bright future for the line.
FSDogs1 on Jennings: 270 pounds? I would have pegged him for 290-300 via the eyesight test. He'll be a fun one to watch.

Ben Letcher
R-Fr, 6'3", 240
Corona (Centennial HS)

Letcher is a strong, long-armed defensive end. That said, he is arguably the most forgotten of all the defensive lineman on scholarship. Pat Hill has marked him as another promising defensive end, but he may need a little more seasoning before he is ready to make the impact he is capable of.

Tyeler Davison
Fr, 6'2", 300
Scottsdale (Desert Mountain HS)

Tyeler Davison adds immediate size to a line that has been undersized for longer than hoped. Davison is strong and wide from top to bottom, giving him a great base to start from. But he will have to improve upon his quickness after struggling through some routine drills at points in camp. That said, Davison seemed to respond very well to live situations, flashing an ability to move offensive lineman with ease at times. Bulldogs coaches are hoping he is an impact tackle down the road.

Quentin Toailoa
So, 6'4", 285
Redlands (Redlands East Valley HS/Nebraska)

Given the more recent history of the Fresno State defense, getting another addition to the defensive line is very much welcome. Toailoa is a transfer from nebraska, and will sit out this year per NCAA rules. The huskers had attempted to make Toailoa an offensive lineman over the past year, but so far, Fresno State coaches have been comfortable with him at his original defensive line spot. Toailoa is an athletic looking lineman with evenly distributed weight, making him appear leaner than your typical tackle. With only two years to play after this season, Toailoa will have to get comfortable in the system quickly, because competition will be fierce.

Aaron Howse
Fr, 6'3", 240
Sacramento (Sheldon HS)

As a high school linebacker, Howse recorded 134 tackles, meaning he obviously has instincts for the game. Howse also turned down scholarship offers from FCS schools for the chance at being a Bulldog, which automatically earns him points. Still, it will be a tough mountain for Howse to climb to overtake any of the defensive lineman currently on the roster.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.