By Sean Connor

Imagine everything you want is right in front of you. Problem is, you just can’t grab it.

Nightmares are filled with scenes like this.

Your hands are reaching out and grasping thin air. Your feet just aren’t moving fast enough, like they’re trudging through mud. The target’s in your sights but it always escapes at the last second.

This is what defensive end Larry English deals with every time he straps on a helmet. The constant feeling of coming up just short frustrates him and haunts his thoughts.

He’s had his chances. Over and over again No. 51 can smell a potential sack. But then the opportunity vanishes like a scent in the wind. Through five games the redshirt freshman has one sack. For him and his coaches, that’s just not good enough.

“It’s frustrating,” English said. “You think a tenth of a second faster and you would have had ’em.”

Those tenths of a second are starting to add up. Not just for English, but for the whole defensive line. So far this season the line has been held to four sacks, compared to last season’s 20.

This is English’s nightmare, and he doesn’t know how or why it’s happening. Is he just not trying hard enough? Are offenses creating better schemes against him and his teammates?

For the endless amount of questions there are very few answers. The only thing English knows is that it’s going to turn around. Defensive end Ken West has yet to register a sack after leading the team with eight last year. The coaches are pushing them to get after the quarterback. Sometime soon, something has got to give.

But even if it doesn’t, stats don’t lie. And while the rest of the d-line has been kept under the radar, English has been thriving.

Though quarterbacks have eluded him, everybody else has been fair game.

English is currently third in tackles with 28 and he has made his presence felt in the backfield with three and a half tackles for loss. Toss in a fumble recovery and the freshman has been making plays all over the field.

“For him to be third in tackles as a defensive linemen is something awesome,” defensive end coach Mike Sabock said. “We expect our guys to make plays and run guys down. Larry’s been putting in that little extra effort and doing his job.”

Other than the game against Northwestern, Sabock said he has been pleased with his line.

What the fan doesn’t see is what Sabock has taken the most pride in. While sacks get the celebrations, their No. 1 goal is to stop the run, and Sabock said he feels the linemen have been doing that.

But come Saturday, stopping the run won’t be good enough. English needs to get in the backfield. He wants to know what it feels like to whack a quarterback again.

By the end of the Homecoming game against Eastern Michigan University, English said he hopes the feeling of being “just short” becomes just a memory.