Blue Raider Preview- Defensive Line

As the season draws near continues to preview the upcoming Blue Raider season. In this segment we will take a look at the defensive line.

In 2006 Middle Tennessee made an impressive run to a Sun Belt Conference co-championship and a berth in their first ever D-1a bowl game, the Motor City Bowl. Many would say that the catalyst for this feat was the dominating play of the Blue Raider defensive line. Even more impressive, in 2007 the Blue Raiders return every player from the defensive line, except Christopher Sapp who was lost to graduation, and they will welcome some talented recruits into the mix. Defensive line coach Les Herrin must be licking his chops to get the season underway.

Many football analyst across the country are touting this group of players as not only the best in the conference, but one of the top squads in the nation. If the Blue Raiders plan to contend for a conference championship, the Middle Tennessee defensive line needs to set the tone for the rest of the defense.

Key Losses:
Christopher Sapp was the only senior on the defensive line. He played in 6 games and recorded 2 tackles.

Returning Players
When you start talking about game changing players you must begin with Erik Walden. Walden recorded a school record 11.5 sacks in 2006 in route to becoming the Blue Raider All-Time sack leader. His 11.5 sacks were enough to rank him 10th nationally. He also forced 3 fumbles and recovered one. He led the defensive line in tackles with 48. It will be interesting to see how Walden follows up his record breaking season.

DE Sean Mosley will be another player to watch this season. The redshirt senior from Sylvania, GA recorded a career best 40 tackles. He had 9.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He also led the team with 4 forced fumbles.

Tavares Jones has been described as having a "good motor". Basically he plays hard every play and never lets up. It is this kind of determination that helped him see a career year in 2006. He had 38 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks. What makes this more amazing is the fact that Jones was moved from linebacker to defensive end.

Junior defensive lineman Trevor Jenkins is a tale of two personalities. Jenkins was often the voice of the defense at the weekly press conferences. The personality he showed while attending the press conference was that of a well-spoken, mild-mannered man. On the field he displayed a whole different persona. He was a beast who clogged up the middle of the field. He ended up with 35 tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss.

Other returning players include Jonathan Presley, who played in all 13 games last year and recorded 13 tackles. Also, Brandon Perry, Derek Mason, and Chris McCoy will be back for Coach Rick Stockstill.

Antonio Hill is a 6-0, 240 lb. defensive lineman from Chesapeake, VA.

Emmanuel Perez is a 6-2, 220 lb freshman from Miramar, FL.

Gary Tucker is a 6-2, 245 lb. freshman from Maryville, TN.

Dwight Smith is a 6-1, 270 lb. freshman from Swainsboro, GA.

The 2007 season looks to be a banner year for the Middle Tennessee defensive line, but there are still questions to be answered.

1) Can the defensive line improve over last year's performance or was last year a time when the moon and stars aligned just right?

2) Where is Brandon Perry? Perry was a highly touted recruit in 2005. In both years combined he has only 10 tackles. Is this the year he makes his impact?

3) Who, if any, of the incoming freshmen will make an impact? With all the depth at defensive line one would assume all 4 freshman will be redshirted.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz pleased the Blue Raider crowds with his attacking defensive schemes. Not only was it fun to watch, it was very effective. If the Blue Raiders want to build upon last year's success, it will all start with the defensive line.

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