Wednesday, April 08, 2015

LFN's 2015 Spring Preview - Defensive Line

Lehigh NG Tyler Cavenas
The 2014 numbers don't get any better when you look at them five months later.

Team Sacks: 104th.

Team Tackles for Loss: 118th.

Rushing Defense: 100th.

In order to have any chance of improving those poor numbers from 2014, one of the biggest areas for improvement will have to be in Lehigh's defensive front seven, a fact that head coach Andy Coen is all too aware of.

"When we put pressure on the quarterback it was because we were blitzing," he said in Lehigh's spring preview.  "We need to be able to get a rush to the quarterback and create more of a mechanism to get after that guy. We have to get back to being more aggressive in that respect."

It stands to reason that Lehigh's defensive line will be the start of that aggressive defense.  And fortunately, the Mountain Hawks have some young talent that started to emerge last year that could be poised to firm up this part of the defense in 2015.

With senior DE/LB Matt Laub lost to injury, the spring will see four players who showed flashes of good play last season get their chance to shine with the increased workload of the spring season.

One is sophomore DT/NG Tyler Cavenas was one of the more exciting young defensive players to see the field last season, notching 12 tackles in only 5 games as well as blocking two kicks.

At 6'5 and 295 lbs, he will be in competition for a position at nose guard as the leading run-stuffer, and I think it's fair to say Lehigh Nation is looking to see him emerge as an impact player.

With NG Arturo Gyles and NG Reed Remington graduating, the two players who started at that position last season, it seems to point to Cavenas starting at No. 1 on the depth chart at that position.

At defensive tackle, 6'4, 270 lb junior DE/DT T.J. Stubbs also figures to me in the rotation as well on the defensive line.

In 2014 he finished with 9 tackles and a 1/2 sack, but showed some good flashes early in the season before battling injury in the second half of the season.

In my estimation, it looks like he could be splitting time on the line with 6'3, 265 lb senior DT/NG Greg Palma (8 tackles), two big players that should be effective in stuffing the run, but an alternative is Stubbs could alternatively spend time at defensive end as well.

Another player that looks like he could be poised for a breakout is senior DE D.J. Bourgeois, who was in the starting defensive line rotation and logged 21 tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2014.

"We're going back to a three-man front," Coen told Keith Groller of The Morning Call, "and we'll be concentrating on that in the spring and trying to get more turnovers from our defense, which has been a problem for two years now."

Rounding out the spring roster on the defensive line are senior DT Grant Jamgochian, sophomore DE Harrison Johnson, sophomore Justin Gille and junior NG Jimmy Mitchell, who all will be vying for more time on the defensive line and special teams units.  It will be interesting to see who emerges here on the depth chart.

LFN's unofficial guess at the spring depth chart:

NG: 
1st: Freshman NG Tyler Cavenas 
2nd: Senior DT/NG Greg Palma or junior NG Jimmy Mitchell

DE: 
1st: Junior DE D.J. Bourgeois
2nd: Junior DE/DT T.J. Stubbs or Sophomore DE Harrison Johnson or sophomore DE Justin Gille

DT: 
1st: Senior DT/NG Greg Palma or Junior DE/DT T.J. Stubbs
2nd: Senior DT Grant Jamgochian

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