4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GEORGIA STATE DEFENSE
– In a “the food was awful, but the portions were huge” way of looking at the Georgia State defense, nine of the top 11 tacklers and seven starters return after finishing dead last in the Sun Belt in total D, allowing 490 yards and 37 points per game. There was no pass rush, few big plays, and not enough key stops.
– The defensive front in the 3-4 generated just 13 sacks and 43 tackles for loss, and now it has to replace the one guy who made much of anything happen in DE Marterious Allen. 6-3, 270-pound Terry Thomas is more of a tackle than a pass rusher, even as a 3-4 end, and a steady option has to emerge on the other side. Back in the middle are 299-pound sophomore Akeem Smith and 275-pound junior Donate Wilson. They’re big, but they won’t get into the backfield.
– Leading tackler Ed Curney returns to the inside of the linebacking corps along with junior Trajan Stephens-McQueen. They’re not big, but they can move. Victor Heyward, Jontrey Hunter and Jordan Strachan have to grow into pass rushers on the outside.
– The Panthers only came up with six picks and no one generated more than one, but the veterans are there to do a whole lot more. The corner combination of Jaylon Jones and Quavian Whitereturn after taking their lumps as freshmen, but Jones will likely move to safety next to second-leading tackler Remy Lazarus.