Central Michigan's defensive unit in 2013 was a group that flashed its talent late in the season, but ultimately turned in a mediocre performance. CMU's pass rush never got going, as the Chippewas averaged less than 2 sacks per game, with their total of 21 sacks placing 82nd among FBS schools. The run defense was even worse, as CMU gave up over 200 yards per game, good for 97th in the nation.
However, there were bright spots, including the continued strong presence of defensive tackle Leterrius Walton. With one last year to play at CMU, Walton will need to continue to play up to his potential if the Chips are going to have an improved defensive performance in 2014.
A three-sport athlete at Clintondale High School, Walton surprisingly had the most recognition for his baseball talents. During his 2009 campaign, he was MVP of his high school conference and hit .423, which amazingly was down from his 2008 average of .441.
Choosing to play football in college, Walton was recruited to CMU as an offensive lineman, and was considered a solid 2 star prospect. He announced his commitment on January 26th, becoming one of the first players to commit to then-new head coach Dan Enos. Redshirting his first season, Walton switched over to the defensive side of the ball, as Enos hoped to use his formidable size as a way to attack quarterbacks instead of to protect them. In the ensuing offseason, Walton received a considerable amount of hype for his performance during spring practice, but only ended up playing sparingly during his first season on the field.
Walton would see quite a bit more of the field during the 2012 season. Despite not playing much early, Walton went on to start seven games for the Chippewas in 2012, with notably strong showings in wins against Akron, Miami, and UMass. Walton ended the year with 2.5 sacks and 32 tackles, good for best among CMU's defensive tackles for the season.
2013 served as a breakout season for Walton. Retaining his starting position, Walton led the Chippewas with 9.5 tackles for loss, three of which came in a CMU victory over the Miami Redhawks. Disappointingly, Walton was unable to build his presence in the pass rush, and only recorded a single sack during the entire season.
Walton enters the season as the eldest member of a defensive line with quite a bit of experience. The Chippewas return three starting lineman on the defensive side of the ball, with Blake Serpa and Louis Palmer both entering their junior years. Walton also has the highest level of expectations to meet; he is a consensus All-MAC defensive tackle among various lists and is considered along with Justin Cherocci to be one of the top two defensive players for the Chippewas going into the season.
Listed as 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, Walton has the size and strength needed to succeed at the next level, but pro scouts will be looking for a more polished performance from Walton in order to earn consideration in the 2015 draft. In the meantime, Walton will look to continue to serve as a rock in CMU's defense while also terrorizing the backfields of the Mid-American Conference during his final year of college football.