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Opponent Breakdown: Kent State Defense

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Kent State is coming off of a solid defense performance and they’re looking to keep that trend going.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Haynes’ background is as a secondary coach and he has fielded a team at Kent State that is definitely better on the defensive side of the ball than offense. Haynes has a couple of players that can make plays and he gets good effort from his guys. The Golden Flashes are coming off of a solid defensive performance but they’re going to have their hands full against an angry Louisville team.

The first player that jumps out at you when you watch Kent State is Jon Cunningham. He’s a defensive tackle with a big time motor. He’s a stout player at six feet even but he plays strong and he has long arms. Cunningham is the exact type of player you need when you don’t have a lot of talent. He runs down plays well down the field and doesn’t loaf when things aren’t going well. The line as a whole does a pretty good job of keeping blockers off of he linebackers but they aren’t guys that get a lot of penetration.

The Kent State line isn’t overly impressive but they do pursue the ball well and they have some high motor players. They’ve made a couple of plays behind the line this year and are at their best against straight ahead plays. Louisville has pass protected well and I would expect that to continue against Kent State. They don’t really have the athletes to crash the pocket or to run down Lamar Jackson.

Kent State will blitz some and will show different things at the snap to try to confuse the quarterback and offensive line. Matt Bahr had a nice game against Clemson in the opener but he missed their last game. This group can run a little bit but they’re really undisciplined and get out of position a lot. None of the linebackers wow you in coverage either. I would expect them to make some plays against the run but to have some real issues with option plays.

The best group on the defense is the secondary. Demetrius Monday is an impressive player at cornerback. Monday had six interceptions two years ago and was named first team All-Mac. He picked off a pass last week and had a PBU against Clemson. The Golden Flashes play a 4-2-5 and because they bring pressure at times the corners are left on an island some. Louisville should have some opportunities to push the ball down the field but I wouldn’t be surprised if their defensive backs make a play on the ball. Right now, Kent State is ranked 10th in the country in passes broken up.

One thing that Kent State has going for them is a good amount of speed in the secondary. While they’ve given up too many big plays, they’ve also been able to stop a couple of them from being touchdowns. One of those plays was catching Travis Etienne from behind in their first game. We all saw him outrun Louisville’s secondary after breaking a tackle last week so we know catching him isn’t an easy task.