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PRESEASON PRACTICE UPDATE: Defensive Line Preview

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: August 25, 2012
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Aug. 25, 2012

Defensive Backs Preview:

There are a few words that are repeated over and over when talking to either the defensive line coaching staff or any of the Monarchs on the line and they are "fast" and "physical".

The ODU defensive line will be filling some gaps this year with the losses of Ronnie Cameron to the Cleveland Brown, Edmon McClam to the Detroit Lions, and Chad King to the U.S. Army. However, there are plenty of Monarchs ready to step up into the roles left by those Monarchs.

"They are way ahead of where they were in the spring," said Defensive Coordinator Bill Dee. "The kids are working hard, playing hard. We've got some good senior leadership, so I think that's going to help us going into the beginning of the year and hopefully we develop every week and get better every week."

"We lost a couple pretty good players last year, but I think the guys have all stepped up and taken on responsibilities," added assistant head coach Dealton Cotton. "We expect to be just as good or better than we were last year. We expect our players to step up and be the foundation of the defense."

"Coach Dee and Coach Cotton bring a lot of intensity to camp and practices, " noted Alex Arain. "They expect a lot out of us. They've got us playing a lot more physical and faster and getting everyone after the ball."

Chris Burnette will serve as the veteran of the defensive line. A co-captain, along with Craig Wilkins and Taylor Heinicke, Burnette has garnered Preseason All-America honors from College Sports Network, Phil Steele and College Sports Journal and has been a started for three seasons. Last season, he totaled 49 tackles including eight tackles for loss en-route to Third Team All-CAA accolades.

Lining up at the other tackle will be another senior and veteran in Erik Saylor. Saylor saw starts as a sophomore entering for an injured Burnette. Last season, he made 20 tackles, which included a season-high seven stops in the second round playoff game against #3/2 Georgia Southern.

Backing up the two seniors at the tackles will be sophomore Dominique Guinn-Bailey and fellow senior Kai Blanco. Blanco made the switch to defensive tackle during spring drills, while Guinn-Bailey appeared in all 13 games a season ago ending the year with 15 tackles.

Also among the returning Monarchs figuring into the mix will be tackles Jagger Blehm and Jonathan McLean.

Joining the ranks is freshman Jacob Green from Page High School in Greensboro, North Carolina. Green helped the Pirates to a perfect 15-0 overall record and 6-0 mark in league play and a 4AA state championship as a senior in 2011 with 75 tackles, including 53 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

Alex Arain made his third position move of his career this past spring. After starting his first year at wide receiver, Arain moved over to the defense and played linebacker the last two years, and this year will debut at defensive end and will be used as a hybrid of a linebacker and end. His job will be to play the edges and rush the passer using his speed and quickness.

"I feel a lot more up in the trenches of the d-line," said Arain of the move. "I'm able to play a lot faster, be physical."

Preston Smith is ready to move into a starting role at the other end and has made great strides in camp.

Other defensive ends of note include Alex Johnson, B.J. McLaughlin, and Michael Colbert. Arain pointed out Johnson's increased speed and physicality in camp, McLaughlin appeared in nearly every game with 15 tackles, while Colbert will make a transition to the line from linebacker where he made 39 stops.

Nate Barnes has also played some time at the ends this preseason where Saylor has noted he has fit in really well.

Among the newcomers coaches and players have noted this preseason have been defensive end Andrew Everett and tackle Galen Evans.

Evans had one of the most notable plays of the preseason scrimmage in which a fumble landed in the hands of the 305-pound freshman who then tore down the middle of the field for a 55-yard touchdown. The play had Wilder calling him "Freight Train" at the end of the night.

"He's a big kid, he's plays strong for being a true freshman," said Saylor.

Everett has also caught the coaching staff's attention in the preseason scrimmages. Everett hails from the same high school as quarterback Taylor Heinicke where he was a Gwinnett County All-Star Team, First Team 7AAAAA Region, and Second Team Gwinnett Daily Post All-Gwinnett County Team member with 58 tackles, including 21 for loss and 11 sacks.

Two other newcomers also join the defensive ends in Darius Wilkins and Anderson Miller. Wilkins joined the Monarchs in the spring as a grey shirt out of Middle Creek High School in Apex, North Carolina where he registered 79 tackles, including 11 sacks for 52 yards lost as a senior. Miller comes to ODU with impressive stats from First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach have started 39 games for the Patriots with 326 career tackles, including 24 sacks and 49 tackles for loss.

"My expectations are that we play hard every play and we improve in every category on defense, that we give great effort, and be disciplined," said Dee of heading into the 2012 campaign.

"They just want just the best out of us," said Saylor of his coaches "They want us to give the most effort and play fast and physical every down. That's what it's going to take to make a championship defense and that's what they are trying to instill in us."

"For me this season is just to play as fast and hard as I can every play and just give everything I can for this team," said Saylor of his final season. "I'm a senior and I want to make it back to the national championship playoffs and we'll see after that.

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