Changes At Defensive Line

Most coaches would panic at the though of losing two defensive ends who have been conference player of the year in consecutive years, in addition to a fourth-year player in the middle at tackle.

Interim head coach Phil Bennett doesn't approach it that way. He sees it as opportunity for these players, and feels the players stepping in place of the injured guys, are ready to make their mark.

Greg Romeus tore an ACL in his return game against UConn back on November 11, after which he was declared done for the season. Myles Caragein sprained a knee in the regular season finale against Cincinnati and will sit this game out. Big East Defensive Player of the Year Jabaal Sheard had an elective surgery on his elbow, and will also miss this game.

Former walk-on Chas Alecxih is the lone standing member of the starters from the season-opener at Utah four months ago. According to Bennett, Saturday's defensive line will included Brandon Lindsey and Justin Hargrove starting at defensive end. Joining Alecixh at tackle will be fifth-year senior Ty Tkach and freshman Aaron Donald at that other tackle spot.

"It's an opportunity for them," Bennett said. "Donald has played a lot. Ty has been in the games. We feel like we'll be okay."

Donald worked his way into the rotation in that first game at Utah, and went on to play in every game this year. There were a wide-range number of reps he got throughout the season, including as many as 25 snaps in the win at Syracuse in October.

"Aaron Donald is a playmaker," Bennett said. "If you watched him this year, he was a guy that's very quick for 290 pounds. He's got great explosion and a sixth sense to make plays."

Bennett and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso are excited for Hargrove to get the opportunity to start on Saturday. Hargrove has not battled minor injuries during his college career, he's had some major ones that have either held him out for games, or have held him out for longer periods of time.

Going back to his senior year of high school, Hargrove had a serious head injury, and played just one game. Even though he still signed with the 2006 class, he took a deferred enrollment, and began working with the team in January of 2007. Last year, he batted some ankle problems. This year, he worked his way into the defensive end rotation, playing in nine games in 2010. After redshirting in that 2007 season, Hargrove played in a combined seven games in 2008 and 2009.

"I've always been a Justin Hargrove fan," Bennett added. "He's been hurt at the most inopportune times. He broke his leg last year. The year before, the year we beat West Virginia 19-16 (in 2008), he had a (big) game. I expect him to play well Saturday.

"I just told him, this could be the start of something. Greg (Gattuso) and I have been fans of his. It's just that he's been injured; not just injured but severe injuries that put him out of service."

Opportunity has been the big word this week in practice. Bennett is excited for the opportunity that players like Hargrove and Donald have--especially with seniors Sheard and Romeus gone, and at least one starting spot at defensive end open going into next season. Helping Hargrove realize his opportunity all the more, Bennett used an example of another teammate who earned second-team all-Big East honors this past year.

"It hasn't been something, where it was ‘hey, it's your turn, next up,'" Bennett said. "That's the way you have to approach it. I'll never forget this; when we lost Andrew Taglianetti (against Buffalo in 2009). I remember Jarred Holley's eyes were looking at me. I looked at him and said, ‘Your turn.' The rest is history. You go."

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