Defense Still Has Question Marks

Of course the biggest loss the Orangemen will face this year is All-American Dwight Freeny. Simply put, Freeny was a monster last season and one of the major reasons why coach Paul Pasqualoni and company marched to their 11th straight winning season.

Two juniors that will soften the loss of Freeny are Chistian Ferrara and Louis Cachelin. Ferrara recorded 4 ½ sacks last season while Cachelin managed two sacks and 7 tackles last season as a reserve. The wildcard among the mix is junior Josh Thomas who has drawn rave reviews from coaches. He's a raw athlete, period.

"I think there's always pressure on the defense," said Thomas. "We've set a tradition of being a great defense and year to year we have to live up to it. I don't think we start every year and look at the offense and say we've got to play better because they might be young. We take care of ourselves."

While Thomas takes care of himself, Clifton Smith figures to take care of the rest of the defense. Second on the team with 94 tackles last season, he'll team with strong-side linebacker Jameel Dumas (fourth with 67 tackles) and Rich Scanlon (60). But Smith was reluctant to put the entire defense on his shoulders.

"I don't think it makes me the focus of the defense," Smith said. "We have a lot of skilled players on defense so I don't think I have to do anything more or even have to put a red dot on my chest to do anything extra."

Things begin to get tricky in the secondary. Free safety Quentin Harris led the team in tackles last year with 126 and cornerback Willie Ford was solid. Both graduated leaving the door open for senior Maurice McClain who has spent most of his career as a specialist to slide over at the safety spot. Another guy to look out for is redshirt freshman cornerback Jeremiah Mason.

"We've got some good size and I've heard they're pretty strong so that's always good to hear," Thomas said.

The defense could mirror last year's defense if Thomas becomes the show stopper and the free safety and cornerback situation hammers out well. But the Orange can count on at least half of their safety situation with seniors Keeon Walker and Latroy Oliver. But there is still a lot to work on according to Thomas.

"We see that we did a lot of things wrong on defense so we're looking to improve in all aspects that went wrong," Thomas said. "We are definitely capable of improving on our record so that's what we're going into the season thinking about. We can definitely improve on 10-and-3."

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