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Position Preview (and updates) - Defensive Line


catdaddyp

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The staff did a nice job landing immediate help from the transfer portal and JUCO ranks during the 2023 offseason. Run defense and pass rush improved over the previous year. Depth additions and development of the previous recruiting classes could make the 2024 DL the best in Moorhead’s tenure.

 

 

(DE)

Bennett Adler - [Senior, Returning] - (5.3) 2 ️ - Adler is defensive end that gets the most out of his ability. He is active and is at his best when coming downhill. Adler only saw action in 1 game on defense in 2022, but was a key special teams contributor playing in all 12 games. Adler played in all 12 games on defense in 2023 and became a starter once Ryan Johnson hit the portal. He finished the season with 26 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. Adler started in the 2024 spring game and looks ready to have his best season. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

 

Clarence “CJ” Nunnally - [Senior, Returning] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Former JUCO. Nunnally burst onto the scene in 2023 and led the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and QB pressures. He started all 12 games and was the top rated defensive lineman. Nunnally finished the year with 65 total tackles, 15 for a loss, and 7 sacks. Nunnally was a terror in the spring game and seems primed for a huge year. Although, he may be hard pressed to match the same sack and pressure numbers from a year ago as he will certainly receive more attention from opponents. JUCO FILMStar Rating Take: (5.5) 3 ️ 

 

Kabbash Richards - [Redshirt Senior, Returning] - NR - Former JUCO. Long, active player that runs and bends well. Richards was injured for a large portion of the season and saw action in only 3 games. Richards was held out of the 2024 spring game. JUCO FILMStar Rating Take: TBD.

 

Kam Cheatom - [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - (5.5) 3 ️ - Cheatom is the second highest rated player in Akron’s 2023 class according to Rivals. He missed his senior year due to injury, but was used as a standup DE/OLB as a junior. Cheatom’s strength is rushing the passer and he has a frame to add on more mass without losing any explosiveness. Cheatom saw action in 2 games on defense and 3 on special teams before redshirting in 2023. Joe Moorhead said “Cheatom will be a star in this league.” Cheatom was very active in the 2024 spring game and will contribute this season. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Bruno Dall - [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - (5.4) 2 ️ - The best way to describe Dall is untapped potential. Dall is uniquely agile and smooth in his movements for someone his size. He has a massive frame at 6’7”, with long arms, and is just scratching the surface of his development. Dall did not see the field in 2023 and redshirted. HS FILMStar Rating Take: TBD.

 

Tristen Graham - [Freshman, New] - (5.5) 3 ️ - Former Syracuse commitment and the highest rated HS prospect in Akron’s 2024 class. Graham plays in the same vein as CJ Nunnally. He’s very active and does not give up on a play. Graham dominated at a lower level of football in Delaware and in time could become an All-conference player. Graham already has the size to play as a freshman, but a year in the S&C program will help refine his body and make him even more explosive. Graham was a post spring arrival. HS FILM. *

 

Jahvon Frazier - [Freshman, New] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Defensive end with some length. Frazier is able to bend and turn the edge quickly on pass rush. He was also stout against the run at the HS level. Frazier will likely redshirt and add mass his freshman year. Frazier was a post spring arrival. HS FILM *

 

Jon’Trell Mixon [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - NR - Walk-on.

 

Langston Ragland [Redshirt Freshman, Returning] - NR - Walk-on.

 

 

 

(DT)

Nathan Kapongo - [Redshirt Senior, New] - NR (HS) / (5.5) 3 ️ (Portal) - Grad Transfer with a year of eligibility remaining from New Hampshire. Kapongo has been coached well and plays with excellent extension. He did not record any sacks this past season, but did apply plenty of pressure. Kapongo moves well enough to be slid out to defensive end in 3 man fronts. Kapongo will be rotate as a starter and created issues for the interior OL during the 2024 spring game.
- Portal Offers: UMASS, Ball State, Western Kentucky, Robert Morris, Stephen F. Austin. *

 

Lama Lavea - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.4) 2 ️ (HS) / NR (Portal) - Former transfer from New Mexico State. Lavea started and played in 11 games. He formed a solid duo in the middle of the line with Terray Jones and would be considered a run stuffer. Lavea collected 25 total tackles. Lavea was difficult to move in the 2024 spring game and will be a starter at defensive tackle. NMSU highlights and HS FILMStar Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

- Portal Offers: Kent State, Georgia Southern, Mississippi Valley State, Illinois State, UCONN. *

 

Zy Brockington - [Redshirt Junior, New] - (5.4) 2 ️ (HS) / (5.4) 2 ️ (Portal) - Transfer from Memphis.

- Portal Offers: Georgia Southern. *

 

Dimitri Madden - [Redshirt Junior, New] - (5.3) 2 ️ (JUCO) / NR (Portal) - Former JUCO that transferred in from UTEP. Madden played less than 50 snaps at UTEP, though he did play well in his limited time. He is agile for a big man - easily changing directions and already has a handful of moves. Madden will likely step in as a backup DT on the depth chart. Madden was a post spring addition. JUCO FILM *

 

Andre Proffitt - [Redshirt Junior, Returning] - (5.3) 2 ️ - Stout defensive tackle that has some agility. Proffitt did not see action in 2022, but did play in 4 games in 2023. He did not record a stat. Proffitt participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2

 

Kiawan Murphy - [Redshirt Sophomore, Returning] - (5.2) 2 ️ - Strong and heavy nose tackle. Murphy fires out quickly and moves unusually well for a guy his size. Murphy played in 1 game on special teams in 2022 and was singled out by Moorhead as a young guy to watch. He did not breakthrough in 2023 despite playing in 5 games. Murphy participated in the 2024 spring game. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Marcus Moore - [Sophomore, Returning] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Long time Zips commitment that is stout, agile, and plays violently. Moore has the ability to become an all-conference player by the time he graduates. The true freshman worked his way into the rotation as a backup and is close to becoming the top run defender along the DL. Moore played in 7 games and had 8 total tackles. Moore was impressive in the 2024 spring game and will be a rotational starter. HS FILM * Star Rating Take: TBD.

 

Elijah Davis - [Freshman, New] - (5.4) 2 ️ - Extremely agile and violent DT. Davis moves unusually well for an interior lineman and has all-conference potential. Davis will likely redshirt due to the depth at this position, but it would also not be a surprise to see him collect meaningful snaps similar to Marcus Moore’s freshman year. Davis was a post spring arrival. HS FILM *

 

Ronald Hull - [Freshman, New] - (5.2) 2 ️ - Lazy rating by Rivals. Similar to Elijah Davis, Hull moves extremely well and is a violent player. He is physically built more in the vein of Kiawan Murphy and has all-conference potential. Hull will likely redshirt, but also would not be a surprise to receive significant snaps as a freshman. Hull was a post spring arrival. HS FILM *

 

Jamie Riedel - [Freshman, New] - NR - Walk-on. HS FILM *


 

 

Going into the 2023 season no one knew what to expect from this group. We knew the talent level and athleticism would be increased, but that was about it. JUCO CJ Nunnally became the carbon copy of what is desired along the defensive line and was voted 1st Team All-MAC . The other JUCOs provided depth, but not much more in their first year in the system. Transfer DT Terray Jones was the only legitimate interior pass rusher and was flanked by another transfer in Lama Lavea. Devon Robinson never lived up to his 3 star rating coming out of high school, but did become a solid backup. Freshman Marcus Moore came on strong as the year progressed and will be a terror if he can continue to develop. The DL did struggle at times putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks without the assistance of blitzes. If coach Wart has another strong offseason of recruiting and development, the DL could be impressive in 2024. 
 

Fast forward to the 2024 offseason and the defensive line is in excellent shape. Starter Terray Jones and backups Devon Robinson and Kyle Thomas are gone from the middle. Jones had a season that was certainly worthy of an all-conference selection. In his stead will be a rotation between Moore and transfer Kapongo. Lavea returns in his starting spot at the other DT position. Transfers Brockington and Madden will have the opportunity to work their way into the rotation, while Murphy may be ready to contribute as well. Keep an eye on the two freshmen defensive tackles later in the season. Both have the potential to contribute in their first year, but need time to get acclimated. 
 

At defensive end both starters return in Nunnally and Adler. Former JUCOs Antonio Smith and LaJoshua Jackson were backups that decided to move on. Richards and Cheatom will have a chance to fill the backup roles and potentially give a higher level of production than the departed backups. Freshmen Graham and Frazier will also have a chance to contribute if they are ready.


 

 

Scholarship Players:

Kiawan Murphy

Andre Proffitt 

Marcus Moore

Bennett Adler 

Kam Cheatom

Bruno Dall

CJ Nunnally

Lama Lavea

Kabbash Richards

Jahvon Frazier

Tristen Graham

Nathan Kapongo

Elijah Davis

Ronald Hull

Dimitri Madden

Zy Brockington

 

Added:

Jahvon Frazier

Tristen Graham

Nathan Kapongo

Elijah Davis

Ronald Hull

Dimitri Madden

Zy Brockington

 

Removed During/After 2023 season:

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - DE Ryan Johnson - TP = Southern Miss

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - DE Antonio Smith - TP = Valdosta State

(5.4) 2 ️ (TP) - DT Kyle Thomas - TP 

(5.2) 2 ️ (TP) - DE Julian Richardson - TP 

(5.5) 3 ️ (TP) - DT Terray Jones - Graduation.

(5.5) 3 ️ (HS) - DT Devon Robinson - TP

NR - DT Tyler Carter - Graduation.

NR - DE LaJoshua Jackson  - TP

 

 

 

 

Removed Before 2023 season:

(5.5) 3 ️ - Victor Jones - Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

(5.2) 2 ️ - Curtis Harper - Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

(5.5) 3 ️ - Zach Morton - Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

(5.2) 2 ️ - Logan Hawkins- Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.3) 2 ️ - Ravontae Holt - Grad. - Star Rating Take: (5.4) 2 ️ 

NR - Angelo Howze - Grad. - Walk-on

(5.4) 2 ️ - Nazir Sy = TP Northwestern State - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.7) 3 ️ - Curtis Fann = TP Western Carolina - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.2) 2 ️ - Bryce Wilson = TP Western Carolina - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.5) 3 ️ - Quevan Lawson - Retired. - Star Rating Take: (5.3) 2 ️ 

(5.5) 3 ️ - Ahmad Rabah - Retired.

Before 2022 season:

(5.4) 2 ️ - Janirr Wade - JUCO - Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ 

NR - David Hooks - Retired. - Star Rating Take: (5.2) 2 ️ 

 

 

Edited by catdaddyp
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Kiwan Murphy looks awesome. Is there any way a true freshman could start on the DL?  That'd be pretty remarkable.

 

What are the physical prototypes looked for in D-linemen when running a 3-4 scheme?  I'm more used to the 4-3, where you typically have 2 beefy DT's and 2 leaner, more athletic DE's.  With 3 DL's, are there two typical DT's and 1 typical DE who switches sides depending on the offensive alignment?  

 

(I'm going to ask a similar question when we get to the 4 linebackers.)

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1 hour ago, Blue & Gold said:

Kiwan Murphy looks awesome. Is there any way a true freshman could start on the DL?  That'd be pretty remarkable.

 

What are the physical prototypes looked for in D-linemen when running a 3-4 scheme?  I'm more used to the 4-3, where you typically have 2 beefy DT's and 2 leaner, more athletic DE's.  With 3 DL's, are there two typical DT's and 1 typical DE who switches sides depending on the offensive alignment?  

 

(I'm going to ask a similar question when we get to the 4 linebackers.)

The further away from the football, the higher the chances of a freshman starting. Meaning it’s more likely for a freshman to make a bigger impact at safety or cornerback than it is at defensive end or defensive tackle. However, there are plenty of examples of it happening, but it’s usually due to a high need at that position or the player just being that much more gifted than the current players on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Murphy get some playing time in the back half of the season, but it’ll be tough in the front half - especially with this year’s depth.

 

As far as the 3-4 goes, the best way to think of the 3 down linemen is as space eaters. In a perfect world, they would hold their ground, swallow up the double teams, and allow the linebackers to run free. In today’s game, the schemes have gotten more complicated and offenses have become so good at getting to the second level (think about all the inside and outside zones you see now vs 20 years ago). So when a defensive lineman has the chance to make the play, he’d better do it, otherwise the chances are high that an offensive lineman has already moved up to the linebacker.


The DEs are usually in the 6’3-6’6 250-300lbs range. The DTs are usually in the 6’0 - 6’3 265-315lbs range. Those are just general numbers as some players are more productive at different weights due to their body types. Our roster may not exactly fit those ranges right now as the staff will continue to recruit more to the scheme we are playing.

 

Depending on down and distance we could see a combination of any of the linemen. Could be up to 3 DTs on the field in short yardage, 3 DEs for pass rush, or 1 DT and 1 DE when we go nickel. The 3-4 is popular due to all the combinations and pass rushing angles that can be created.

 


 


 

 

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1 hour ago, catdaddyp said:

The further away from the football, the higher the chances of a freshman starting. Meaning it’s more likely for a freshman to make a bigger impact at safety or cornerback than it is at defensive end or defensive tackle. However, there are plenty of examples of it happening, but it’s usually due to a high need at that position or the player just being that much more gifted than the current players on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Murphy get some playing time in the back half of the season, but it’ll be tough in the front half - especially with this year’s depth.

 

As far as the 3-4 goes, the best way to think of the 3 down linemen is as space eaters. In a perfect world, they would hold their ground, swallow up the double teams, and allow the linebackers to run free. In today’s game, the schemes have gotten more complicated and offenses have become so good at getting to the second level (think about all the inside and outside zones you see now vs 20 years ago). So when a defensive lineman has the chance to make the play, he’d better do it, otherwise the chances are high that an offensive lineman has already moved up to the linebacker.


The DEs are usually in the 6’3-6’6 250-300lbs range. The DTs are usually in the 6’0 - 6’3 265-315lbs range. Those are just general numbers as some players are more productive at different weights due to their body types. Our roster may not exactly fit those ranges right now as the staff will continue to recruit more to the scheme we are playing.

 

Depending on down and distance we could see a combination of any of the linemen. Could be up to 3 DTs on the field in short yardage, 3 DEs for pass rush, or 1 DT and 1 DE when we go nickel. The 3-4 is popular due to all the combinations and pass rushing angles that can be created.

 


 


 

 

Thanks.  Very insightful.

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Great write up as always. I wonder if we will run a 3-4, 4-3, or if its situational. Remember Nick Toth was the DC, something happened there, then Tibesar was brought in to replace. I'd think Moorhead would want to replace Toth with someone who is planning to run a similar scheme, but I haven't dug into it really.

 

My general thoughts on both the DL and OL: Not really super high on personnel across the board, but for the first time in a long time, we have both depth and experience on both sides. I'd think we can find some lineups that will stick and be formidable.

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Catdaddyp, I love the position analysis you are providing. They are first class and addictive for any Zip junky. FWIW I'd like to offer one suggestion. Can you include the player's year and if he is returning or a transfer. There is such needed and welcomed change to our roster I am unsure of which players are new (high school and transfers) and which are holdovers from previous years. Just a thought. Thanks for joining the board. 

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We are going to have some real depth at DL then. We still have the likes of Fann, Wilson, Johnson, McClain, Morton, and Szy backing them up (assuming they don’t transfer)..all of whom have plenty of experience. I guess 4 new starters means we should raise our expectations of this unit. 

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2 minutes ago, LZIp said:

We are going to have some real depth at DL then. We still have the likes of Fann, Wilson, Johnson, McClain, Morton, and Szy backing them up (assuming they don’t transfer)..all of whom have plenty of experience. I guess 4 new starters means we should raise our expectations of this unit. 

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I don't expect much out of the holdovers on DLine from last year. Joe is going to expect a whole lot more than they are accustomed. I hope they make the transition. If not the portal can be their friend.

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8 minutes ago, 72 Roo said:

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I don't expect much out of the holdovers on DLine from last year. Joe is going to expect a whole lot more than they are accustomed. I hope they make the transition. If not the portal can be their friend.

Devon Robinson looks like something we haven’t seen next to the rest of the DL, hope he plays as good as he looks

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  • 2 weeks later...
1 hour ago, Blue & Gold said:

Some brutally honest quotes from DL coach Winston DeLattibourdere about how deficiently coached he thought our DL was last season.

There have been multiple comments from this staff implying that the previous coaching staff did a poor job or had the players inefficiently conditioned. Can’t really argue that if solely going off the team stats or overall record, but not everything done by the previous staff was poor. I hope this staff - and I think they will - backs up this talk with excellent play in the field.

 

I was going to adjust my thoughts accordingly on a 4 man front scheme, but this is the second article I’ve seen mention a “multiple” front, so I guess I’ll wait and see. Sounds like they still don’t know for sure and are letting what the players do best dictate what will be ran.

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On 4/4/2022 at 1:33 PM, catdaddyp said:

Readjusting the outlook after the spring game. The coaches say we’ll have a “multiple” defense, but what I saw in the 2nd half of the spring game was a base defense with 4 linemen. 

 

Against 11 personnel sets (3 WR), it looked like we went with 2 LBs and a “Nickel.” Sometimes the defensive ends were players listed as outside linebackers and were in a 2 point stance (standing). Other times it looked like we had one true defensive end in a 3 point stance and a stand up outside linebacker at the other end.

 

Bumping true defensive ends inside to a defensive tackle spot should help with pass rush. The concern is when one of our outside linebackers are slotted in the defensive end spot and get caught against the run. Keeping edge contain in that scenario might be a problem for our lighter weighing outside linebackers. 
 

The staff did a great job landing some talented veterans out of the transfer portal that should provide immediate help. Where high quality defensive line depth was an issue in 2021, it should not be as much of an issue in 2022.

 

 

 

Bennett Adler - (Sophomore, Returning) - Defensive end with a strong motor. He is active and is at his best when coming downhill and rushing the passer. Adler could bulk up and be effective against the run.

 

Curtis Fann - (Redshirt Sophomore, Returning) - Good athlete that should be strong at defensive end. His technique needs work, but he is physically gifted. Fann possesses long arms to help shed defenders, has the agility and mobility to drop into space, and the speed to come off the edge as a pass rusher. With effort and the right coaching, Fann has the capacity to develop into an All-MAC player. Although, when Fann was bumped inside during the spring game he looked disinterested. Hopefully, we see more effort from him during the season.

 

Logan Hawkins - (Redshirt Junior, Returning) - Stout and strong defensive tackle. He is a space eater and someone that should be placed at nose tackle to take up blocks and get push into the back field. He’s not going to be a stat stuffer, but could clog running lanes and assist in keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers. 

 

Angelo Howze - (Redshirt Senior, Returning) - Active defensive end that shows good pursuit. He has some agility, but isn’t fast and doesn’t run particularly well. Howze should provide depth.

 

Ryan Johnson - (Junior, Returning) - Defensive end with ideal size. He is strong, active, and agile. Johnson should push for starting minutes at defensive end as he has the ability to develop into a full time starter by the time he graduates.

 

Quevan Lawson - (Redshirt Sophomore, Returning) - Has Power 5 measurables in the terms of height, length, and athleticism. The arm length and agility he possesses can’t be taught. Lawson has added more mass to his frame and now physically looks the part of a starting defensive end. Will he start living up to his potential in the 2022 season?

 

Zach Morton - (Redshirt Senior, Returning) - Solid athlete with height and length. He runs well, has some pass rush ability, and the frame to add more mass. Morton’s best fit, in this defense, is at defensive end but he could he bumped inside for pass rush.

 

Andre Proffitt - (Sophomore, Returning) - Defensive tackle with size. He runs well and has some agility. He’ll need to get stronger before becoming a consistent contributor. 

 

Nazir Sy - (Redshirt Junior, Returning) - Stout and agile defensive tackle. He needs to fine tune his body to provide more quality minutes at nose tackle.

 

Janirr Wade - (Sophomore, Returning) - Defensive tackle with good size. He’s agile and sheds blocks well, but he’s a labored runner. He should provide depth at nose tackle.

 

Bryce Wilson - (Junior, Returning) - Good athlete that runs well. He’s strong, agile, and has long arms to take up blocks and also shed them. Wilson has the ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end. He should be a starter along the defensive line, but will have competition from the new transfers.

 

Devon Robinson - (Redshirt Junior, New) - Transfer from Memphis, where he did not play. Robinson was originally a scholarship player at Mississippi State who then walked on at Memphis. This is the definition of a boom or bust opportunity. It’s worth the staff taking a chance on Robinson as he possess immense talent and could be an all MAC defensive lineman if he lives up to his potential.

 

Victor Jones - (Redshirt Senior, New) - Senior transfer from Wyoming. Jones played defensive end and defensive tackle during his time at Wyoming. He was a productive backup who will bring experience and provide immediate defensive line depth. After the spring, Jones is pushing for a starting role.

 

Curtis Harper - (Redshirt Senior, New) - Senior transfer from Syracuse. Harper was a productive backup at Syracuse, who is now pushing for a starting role. He’s strong, agile, and should cause problems for interior OL in the MAC. He’s a defensive tackle that could also play defensive end in short yardage situations.

 

Kiawan Murphy - (Freshman, New) - Stout and wide bodied nose tackle, similar in build to transfer Curtis Harper. Murphy has been well coached at the high school level and gets out of his stance quickly. He usually overpowered OL at the high school level, but also flashed plenty of agility. 

 

 

 

Best guess as to who is on scholarship:

Murphy

Harper

Jones

Robinson

Fann

Adler

Proffitt 

Wade

Sy

Lawson

Wilson

Hawkins

Johnson

 

 

 

Edit:

Removed David Hooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bump for post Spring update.

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  • 1 month later...
  • catdaddyp changed the title to Position Preview (and updates) - Defensive Line
  • 3 weeks later...
22 minutes ago, GoZips4824 said:

Appears Ravontae Holt has hit the portal, is not listed on the spring roster. Appeared in 247 portal tracker 

Well that stings. Also explains the recent JUCO and Portal DT offers.

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