While it may appear there are too many holes to fill on football’s defensive line, all is well for the Huskies on the home front.
Last season, the defensive line was one of the nation’s best. The Huskies as a team were 17th in the nation in sacks by recording 39 and tied for fourth in the nation with 103 tackles for a loss.
Of the 39 sacks, 36 of them were made by members of the defensive line. The defensive line also recorded 69 of the teams’ 103 tackles for a loss.
Three key contributors to that defensive line from a season ago have graduated: Defensive ends Sean Progar and Alan Baxter and defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson.
Progar and Baxter will both go down as two of the best in school history at getting to the quarterback. Progar finished third in the record books with 24 career sacks while Baxter finished tied for seventh with 16 sacks.
Jefferson was a key contributor to clogging up the middle, recording 144 tackles, 22.5 of them for a loss during his four year career with the Huskies. Jefferson was also highly decorated as a student athlete, earning numerous prestigious academic awards, and was named an Academic All-American.
Replacing three players of that kind of caliber is no easy task, but head coach Rod Carey believes it can be done.
“Those three guys made a difference for us last year,” Carey said. “The reason they made a difference though was because they didn’t have to play 80 snaps a game, because we had other guys like George Rainey, Joe Windsor, Jason Meehan, going in there and taking a lot of snaps in key times, in key situations. Those guys are back.”
Rainey and Windsor will take over the two defensive end positions. In limited action last season, Windsor was third on the team with seven sacks and Rainey recorded two-and-a-half of his own.
Rainey believes that speed will be the focal point of this year’s defensive line.
“We’ll definitely be a lot faster than the team last season,” Rainey said. “Even though we won’t be as strong, we’ll definitely be fast, so we’ll just have to take advantage of that and use our speed.”
At defensive tackle, senior Ken Bishop will return after a strong season last year in which he recorded nine-and-a-half tackles for a loss as well as two sacks. Bishop will be joined by redshirt junior Donovan Gordon, who has locked down the second defensive tackle position for now.
For depth on the defensive line, the Huskies will look to Meehan, sophomore Perez Ford and redshirt freshman Mario Jones and Michael Ippolito, who have solidified themselves on the second defensive unit.