A Morgan State defense that finished 2013 ranked eighth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in average yards allowed (391.8) and ninth in average points surrendered (30.6) could be weaker after the departure of five starters.
But the Bears return three of four linebackers who earned a majority of starts last season, and that group was cited by rookie head coach Lee Hull as being critical to leading the defense.
“We’re really counting on those guys to be the anchor of our defense,” Hull said Tuesday during the MEAC’s weekly conference call. “… All three of those guys have great experience. We need them to be very productive for us. For our defense to go, our linebackers have to be productive.”
Seniors Cody Acker and Chris Robinson started all 12 games last year. Acker, an inside linebacker, led the team in tackles with 97, which ranked 14th in the conference. Robinson, a Baltimore native and Dunbar graduate who lined up at outside linebacker, led Morgan State in sacks with four and tied for fourth in tackles with 43.
Redshirt junior Bill Hill started 10 games at outside linebacker and ranked seventh in tackles with 31 and intercepted two passes.
The only change among the linebackers is at the other inside position. Stephen Blissett (24 tackles in seven starts) is gone, and redshirt sophomore Ta’Quon Jackson is projected as the starter for Saturday’s season opener at Eastern Michigan.
Hull said Jackson, who made 19 tackles last season, has helped alleviate some concerns the coaches had about Jackson in the spring.
“Ta’Quon has done a great job,” Hull said. “When I first got here, to be honest, I didn’t know what to think. He played physical sometimes and sometimes he didn’t play physical. This camp, he’s been physical all the time, coming downhill. He was kind of not playing the defense, doing his own thing. In camp, he’s done a great job of learning the defense and understanding where he needs to be. He had some success academically this summer. He went to summer school and got all A’s and B’s, and I think that helped him with his confidence. He’s been a tremendous guy to work with this preseason.”