As we review this year’s Defensive Line, we continue our popular ‘Positional Preview’ segment for each unit on the team! Moving back to defense, we focus our attention to the trenches.
As the old saying goes, battles are won and lost in the trenches. While ‘skill units’ tend to receive all of the glory and praise, someone has to get to the Quarterback and close holes that the running backs run through. In short, if a team is weak on either the offensive or the defensive line, they don’t stand a chance.
For this very reason, it is important that the Tribe build off of last season’s success on defense by continuing steady production across the defensive line. Clogging running holes and sacking the Quarterback are vitally important, and thankfully the Tribe again has the personnel this season to get the job done.
To begin, the Tribe lost a crucially important defensive piece to graduation this Spring. Veteran George Beerhalter, a Senior Captain who appeared in all 12 games last season, will be sorely missed on the defensive line. He finished the season with 34 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery last year. Replacing Beerhalter’s leadership and production on the field will be no easy task, but again, the Tribe returns more than enough talent to continue their dominance on defense this year.
Even with the loss, the unit is unquestionably seasoned in terms of true game experience. Jasper Coleman, a 6’4’’ 290 pound defensive tackle, is more than up to the task of becoming the centerpiece that Beerhalter was. Coleman also appeared in all 12 games last year, finishing the season with 41 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries—all of which scored higher than Beerhalter’s totals a season ago. It also does not hurt that Coleman will be a Senior this season, already coming in with a plethora of game experience.
Moving from the inside of the line to the outside, the Tribe boasts two terrifically talented defensive end prospects in Stephen Sinnott and Mike Reilly. Sinnott is coming off a season in which he earned 10 starts, totaling 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. These statistics, coupled with his work ethic on and off the field has awarded him being named a Senior Captain for this upcoming season. Having a proven veteran and Captain on the line is never a bad thing.
Next, there is Mike Reilly, a Junior who may just be the best all-around player on the entire roster. Reilly has already been selected to this year’s Buchanan Award watch list. The Buck Buchanan award is awarded annually to the most outstanding defensive player in all of Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football.
Last season, Reilly was a first team all-conference selection, leading the entire Colonial Athletic Association in sacks (11.5) and sacks per game (.96). Reilly started all 12 contests a season ago, tallying 47 tackles, the aforementioned 11.5 sacks, and a staggering four forced fumbles. All of this production on the field has translated to the 6’4’’ 265 pound Junior to garner the attention of NFL scouts across the nation, possibly securing himself an NFL draft pick in the near future.
Suffice to say, the defensive line is deep this year. It should be extremely difficult for opposing Quarterbacks to sit back in the pocket comfortably with two outstanding defensive ends roaring after them; it should also be difficult for running backs to easily find lanes to run through.
The defensive line will again play a key role in the overall success of not only the defense, but also the team as a whole. The unit looks more than up for the task. Roll Tribe.
Update: Who do you think will be the fourth starting defensive lineman for the Tribe this year? Join the discussion on the CSN Boards!