He coughs, takes a big deep sniff through his nose, takes a breath and, he's ready to talk. You see, Ryon Bingham has allergies, to, well, almost everything as he put it. I'm not sure if that qualifies as a weakness, but if so, it's probably the only one you will find with the senior defensive tackle.
In fact, just to look at the guy, "weak" is probably the last thing you would think. Just on stature, Bingham has to be one of the "pound for pound" most stacked players on the team. And to ask offensive lineman that have faced Bingham on the line, I know that most agree that Bingham could easily be the strongest DT they face all year.
His strength IS his strength and you only have to ask him who he thinks there is out there that can "handle" him one-on-one. "I'd say that if I come up, play good technique, good hands, good feet, I don't think there's anyone in the country that can block me." Ryon said.
That type of confidence shouldn't be a surprise, but you might be somewhat intrigued that it's not his physical ability he necessarily gives the credit to for that. "It's all mental." Ryon said. "The only person that can block me is myself. If I don't use good hands, have good feet or stuff like that, it's my fault if I am not having success."
Ryon does illustrate one point extremely well though in that regardless of how strong or big you are, there's something that has to tag along. It's only the advancement to the higher levels of the game where you find just how much the whole package means. In high school, it's a bit easier.
Out of Utah, Bingham dominated his competition playing at Alta high school. Recording 13 sacks as a junior, increasing that to 15 sacks a senior, Bingham finished off his high school career winning just about every honor the state of Utah had to offer. Defensive player of the year, Gatorade's Circle of Champions Utah Player of the year and throw in a record in wrestling that saw him lose only once in 2 years, winning two-straight state titles.
Ryon was just used to dominating.
That gives you an idea of just how "stacked" Nebraska already was when he arrived on campus, Bingham redshirting his first year, what was also the last year of defensive line coach and defensive coordinator, Charlie McBride.
Since that time, Ryon has dealt with the frustrations of injury forcing him out an entire season and after that, played as part of a rigorous rotation on the D-line. Ryon spent his first year playing behind Jon Clanton and last year, starting as the back-up to Jason Lohr. As you might recall, Jason was injured even before the season had begun, a season-ender as it turned out.
Ryon was already going to get a lot of time, but because of Jason's injury, he went from being the other guy to THE guy and that's when everyone got to see just what he could do.
That subsequently led to Bingham leading all defensive linemen in total tackles and solo tackles, while he tied for first on the interior in tackles for losses and total quarterback hurries. And, much (but not all) of that success was predicated on one thing, his strength. I remember one offensive lineman remarked of practicing against him, "Even if you have leverage, he still just muscles you out of the way. He's just ridiculously strong."
I'll go ahead and interject for Ryon here as I know he would point out that no matter how strong you are, if you don't have good technique, it won't end up mattering in the end. That's where coaching comes in.
That's an inevitable segue into all the coaching changes that occurred during the off-season, but wouldn't you know it, the defensive line was almost the only position that didn't get affected in the end, Jeff Jamrog retaining his duties and even expanding, taking over the Rush Ends along with the guys down in the trenches.
Besides, Ryon already went through his coaching change, again, Bingham coming in when Charlie McBride was just getting ready to leave. Wouldn't you know it, just when Ryon is ready to make a statement to the new coach about what he can do, the injury and that's a year gone by. "It was frustrating for me." Ryon said. "There was a coaching change, I get injured and he (Jamrog) hadn't seen what I was able to do. Whatever I proved to the first coach, that was all gone and now, I have to do it all over again."
A new learning curve you might call it, but it wasn't just one for Bingham as Jeff Jamrog was learning himself. So many lose sight that it's not just the players that have to find their way, but coaches do as well and as Ryon stated, Jamrog has changed to. "When you are new, there's always time you need to learn and get comfortable and I think he is now and he's proven himself to be a good coach."
Good enough that Jamrog wasn't one of the many that were relieved of duty as they say, thus the defensive line actually being able to absorb all the changes that much easier. In fact, Ryon perceives the changes as significant, but not to him personally per say. "They are great coaches and you couldn't ask for better." Ryon said of the new hires. "I think that what it means for us on the defensive side is that we'll play smarter, but technique-wise, everything is the same for me. That way, nothing's really changed at all."
Another thing that won't change from last year was the liberal substitutions along the defensive front, something Ryon is fully expecting to continue. "I think the coaches have a good mind that they want to keep guys fresh." he said. "The guys coming in are going to be able to get it done, so I think that's going to be the case this year as well."
It's funny. With all the changes that have happened over a season and an off-season as well, there's this new aura that most people think has taken over the entire team. And yes, the overall attitudes seem to be better, but when you take a look at the interior defensive line, it's one of the few units relatively unaffected by the turnover.
Before you start shooting yourself thinking that it will be the same unit, thereby giving up the same results, remember that each unit's success isn't the sum of what it can do, but the sum of what the entire team can do, offense included. This unit is just part of it and as far as expectations go, Ryon's quite literally and figuratively, "bullish" on the future. "My expectations aren't any different." Ryon said of what he expects from the team. "We don't think about doing better than 7 losses. We just think about winning games."
"What I expect or what anyone on the team expects, it's not any different than before. There's just a lot of new coaches around that here to help make sure it gets done."
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com 4025-730-5619
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