Denlinger's Minutes Increase With Injuries

With injuries to team captains David Patterson and Quinn Pitcock in recent weeks, redshirt freshman Todd Denlinger's playing time has been on an increase on the defensive line. Next year with Patterson, Pitcock and Joel Penton no longer around, this unfortunate injury situation right now should become a very beneficial experience for Denlinger in the long run.

The opportunities to be on the field have been more frequent in recent weeks for Todd Denlinger with the injuries to David Patterson first and now Quinn Pitcock, but that's just a part of the game and Denlinger is just trying to make the most of the unfortunate situation.

What makes it even worse, however, is that Patterson and Pitcock are team captains and leaders of the defense.

"That hurts us," said Denlinger. "They're both great players and we feel the loss from them but that's what football is all about: Having guys being able to step up and replace them. And me and Joel (Penton) have been able to get some reps in there and we've done pretty good."

Patterson was just getting back into the rotation after his knee was scoped a few weeks ago but Pitcock was just ruled out action for this week on Thursday.

"It feels great being out there and yeah it's at somebody else's expense, being Quinn or Dave, and I hope Quinn gets better because he's a great player and he's a captain and leader of this defense," Denlinger said. "But it's a great feeling being able to get out there and get 15 to 20 reps a game."

As far as the 6-3, 280-pound defensive tackle is concerned, playing in game situations is really the only time where you can hone your craft.

"That's the only way you get better," Denlinger said. "You practice hard and you get your techniques right at practice but the only time you can really do what you're suppose to do is out on the field and that's when you find out what type of football player you really are."

But Denlinger knows that he always has to prepare as if the guys playing ahead of him are injured, even when they're as perfectly healthy as both Pitcock and Patterson were through the first half of the season.

"You can't really prepare differently because you've got to prepare as hard as you can all of the time," Denlinger said. "But as soon as they went down I kind of took it upon my self, ‘hey I've got to get better.' They're both big losses and we can't have a downfall from me going in there."

Denlinger, who redshirted his first year, made a favorable impression on the defensive staff in spring ball and has been counted on to be a solid backup for this season. He earned his position on the two-deep roster but the injuries have obviously facilitated his extra chances for playing opportunities and Denlinger is a more-than-capable replacement.

"I'm coming along great," Denlinger said. "Practice is going great, I'm healthy and I have high expectations (of myself)."

Having the two senior captains on the defensive line as mentors has made it even better for Denlinger individually.

"It's huge," Denlinger said. "I (compare it) to James (Laurinaitis) and the linebackers this year having A.J. (Hawk), Bobby (Carpenter) and Anthony (Schlegel) last year. I'm kind of in the same position this year having Quinn and Dave there teaching me, every day, their techniques and their fundamentals. It's a great thing."

With only three games left in the regular season before the final bowl game marking the last game in the respective careers of Patterson and Pitcock, it won't be long now before the proverbial cord will have to be cut and the attention shifted to Denlinger and the other more-inexperienced players that are candidates to man the interior line positions next year.

"I'm willing to take on that responsibility and I'm going to watch film on them as much as I can in the off-season because they're going to be playing in the NFL and they're great players," Denlinger said. "So I'm going to try to get as good as I can learning from them."

And Joel Penton has certainly had an integral part in Denlinger's overall development as well.

"In a lot of ways," Denlinger said. "Not just on the field but he's been big off the field as well as a lot of people know. And he's a real-consistent, good player. He doesn't get a lot of the press that Quinn or Dave does but he stopped that fourth-and-one that second time today and he's a great player."

With a huge Michigan game still left to navigate as well as road games to Illinois and Northwestern in the interim this season, Denlinger hasn't really looked ahead to what his situation will be like next year but he is aware that he will likely be "the man" when it comes time to fill one of the two vacated defensive tackle positions.

"I can't really look at it that way because the spot's open and that's what the guys behind me strive for," Denlinger said. "But I'm going to try as hard as I can to get that spot."

But there's still a lot more football left to be played this season including that match up with Michigan for all of the marbles.

"(The Michigan game) means everything to everybody right now," Denlinger said. "You can't look at that game right now because we've got Northwestern and Illinois coming up but when that game comes along...(we) could be (on) a collision course."

It's sort of like a much bigger version of the Troy versus Piqua war that both Denlinger and Pitcock have been a part of in years past.

"I played against him my freshman year. I was playing on varsity," Denlinger said. "He was a good player in high school and he's just gotten better."

Denlinger, whose Troy team lost to Pitcock's Piqua team 42-7 this year and will not be a playoff participant this season, seemed genuinely concerned over the Indian's fortunes in week 10.

"I heard Piqua lost last night to Northmont and couldn't win the GWOC," Denlinger said. "But it's all right."


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