Aside from the running back position, where not a single back graduated from last year's team, the defensive line may be one of the best and most improved positions on the entire team. Although graduation saw losses to integral parts of the D-line in Nick MacDonald (29 tackles, 5 sacks) and Alex "Juice" Carson (27 tackles, 2 sacks), many players are returning, and much is expected of those who will fight in the trenches against the opposing offensive line. Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Mude Ohimor will anchor a talented and deep D-Line. Ohimor, who leads one of the more talented defensive fronts in recent memory, will certainly face many more double teams than he saw in the past, but this will no doubt provide opportunities for his comrades.
In past years, lack of depth and undersized defensive linemen allowed opposing running teams to convert many 3rd and short and 4th and inches situations. Two particular games stick out for me: the 2007 Patriot League Championship game at Fordham and the 2008 PLC game at Colgate were exceedingly frustrating in short yardage situations. Granted, that 2008 Colgate team was loaded on the offensive line and dominated many opposing teams throughout that season. Still, our lack of depth on the line enabled 'Gate to wear us down throughout the contest. This year, I don't think that will be the case.
Ohimor, who tallied 34 tackles, 7 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss a season ago, will play defensive end, while all 290 pounds of Jack Maliska is at defensive tackle. Maliska, who is just a sophomore, saw limited action during the 2009 season, but simply by looking at the sheer size of him, one knew he would be an impact player on the defensive line soon enough. Alongside Maliska at the other defensive end will be Rory Sullivan. Behind all three of these linemen are very capable backups. In fact, all of the second stringers have received playing time throughout their careers. Ryan McGinn (DE), Eric Oldiges (DT), and Anthony Ruoti (DE) all have experience, especially Ruoti who saw significant time last year. One can almost compare the defensive linemen to the wide receivers. Well, not really, but in terms of depth they are comparable.
The interesting thing about the defensive line is they frequently switch in and out of a 3-4 and 4-3 defense. And, not only do they switch frequently, but they are able to switch just seconds before the snap. Although James McLaughlin and David Herman are both listed as outside linebackers, they are also able to slowly walk up to the defensive line and act as a defensive end. Essentially, it is the Lawrence Taylor position. The constant movement and confusion of the various formations that the D-Line shows will give opposing lines fits.
As good as the defensive line will be this year, I firmly believe the linebacking corp may be just as good if not better. I will address that group in my next preview.
For the first time in several years, the defense may be the most talked about part of Holy Cross football.
Kevin Doyle '11