The departure of former linebacker Tyrone Clark is a huge blow to football’s defense and linebacking core.
Clark was a force for the Huskies as he was the second leading tackler last season, recording 86 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss. He will not only be missed on the field, but off it as he was the leader of the linebackers and a strong presence in the locker room.
“Tyrone, I think he was a great player, a great leader,” said redshirt junior Michael Santacaterina. “You know, it’s really hard to fill his shoes, but I think as a group we can do that just by doing the right things on the field, off the field.”
Without Clark at middle linebacker, the Huskies will look to junior linebackers Jamaal Bass and Santacaterina to pick up the slack.
Bass should fill in nicely for Clark as last season he was third on the Huskies with 83 tackles, while Santacaterina recorded 28 tackles of his own. Each of them also recorded one interception on the season.
“Everything I did last year, I’m just trying to double it...,” Bass said. “This year I’m shooting for 100-plus [tackles] and as long as we keep winning, I think I’ll be able to do that.”
Bass and Santacaterina will also become the leaders of the linebacking core and set the example for the younger linebackers.
“I think JB and I are the two oldest of the group,” Santacaterina said. “We have a lot of experience and the two of us have stepped up as leaders… We’re just trying to lead as a group, help these young guys out. We’re a young group and we want to bring these young guys along.”
The Huskies will also turn to redshirt sophomore’s Boomer Mays and Rasheen Lemon to take on a bigger load this season.
Mays played in 13 games last season and made 31 tackles, five of them coming for a loss. Lemon played in 14 games, mainly as a part of special teams, and recorded 11 tackles on the season. With four returning linebackers from last season, the Huskies’ linebacking core members will be familiar with one another.
They will also have depth and versatility with five new incoming freshmen as well as two redshirt freshmen at the position.
“For the most part, we’ve been here for a while with each other,” Bass said. “We each know how all of us play, so that’s a big plus and for the most part, all of us are versatile. We can all play different positions at the linebacker position.”
The Huskies’ linebackers’ main objective this season will be to shut down the opposing team’s running game as their game plan is to create tackles for a loss.
“As a unit, we pride ourselves on stopping the run first and foremost,” Santacaterina said. “Anytime you can stop the run, it forces the offense to become one-dimensional, that’s kind of what we pride ourselves on, not only as a linebacking unit but as a whole defense.”
As a linebacking unit, they want to be the face of the Huskies defense.
“We’re trying to be the best defense on the field and the best unit on the defense,” Santacaterina said. “So we want to be the leaders in tackling, takeaways, whatever it is we want to lead and that’s our goal as a unit.”