The so-called sophomore jinx may be a silly superstition for some, but it was a reality for Rebel Defensive End Chris Bowers.
After earning the starting LEO (rush end) spot last spring and August, Bowers was injured - three times - and had what he describes as "a disappointing year."
Bowers was in an out of the lineup and nursing some malady most of the yaer. Either it was his shoulder or it was both ankles. His shoulder still isn't "100%" but it's getting there.
"I spent a lot of time in treatment and rehab," said Bowers. "That can get old. You want to be out there and you want to be healthy - I was neither."
Bowers did play in seven games and had 18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 QB sack and a forced fumble, but he was never full speed.
Hopefully, all of that is in the past.
"I got some good experience last year, but nothing like I thought I would. I learned a few things, but the biggest thing I learned was that I have to figure out a way to stay healthy," Chris continued. "It would be nice to go through one season without an injury and to see what I could do full speed and not limping around or favoring my shoulder."
Body-wise, Bowers has been able to maintain his desired weight of 240-245 and he's done so while losing a little bit of body fat.
"I feel leaner and quicker now. I'm still in the 240 range, but I think it's better weight," Bowers stated. "I haven't been able to do the bench press in the weight room because of my shoulder, but I have gotten stronger in my other lifts and feel real good right now."
Bowers said the number one goal for the defensive line in spring is to create more pressure on the quarterback from the front four.
As a rush end candidate, a lot of that is expected from his position.
"We've got to get more sacks and pressures on the opposing quarterback so we can get off the field more in third-down situations," he said. "The secondary cannot cover all day long. It's up to us to hurry the quarterbacks into bad throws. The quarterbacks in our league are too good to allow time to stand in the pocket and pat the ball three or four times.
"Our secondary got a bad rap last year. Nobody can cover as long as they had to. That's where we come in with more pressure. It's a matter of working drills, getting our techniques down and executing - getting it done. The coaches are giving us a lot of one-on-one drills this spring and our goal is to win those 70% of the time. Do that, and we will get pressures and sacks. Most of it is technique."
Chris knows what is expeted of the DL this year. They are the most experienced unit on the defense and they have to play that way.
"Last year, with Patrick Willis and Charles Clark and Trumaine McBride and some others, we were more experienced on the back end of the defense. This year, we are more experienced up front and we have to play accordingly. We don't want the ball getting to our linebackers and that's how we have to play, with that purpose in mind," he explained. "We have to stop them before they get to the second level. We have to take a leadership role of the defense up front and play like leaders."
Bowers is looking forward to a healthy and productive junior campaign.
"We should be better next year in a lot of areas because of the nucleus of players we have coming back who gained experience in some real tight games last year," said Bowers, who recently became engaged to be married to Whitney Woorden, also from Shreveport, LA. "When we get Peria (Jerry) back, and if we can all stay relatively healthy, we should have a good defense and that will help put us over the hump in some of those close games."
Chris Bowers update -
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