Lynch Ready to Lead Defensive Line

Heading into spring football practice, there were a couple of items of concern in regard to the WVU defense.

First, leaders would have to emerge to fill the shoes of departed seniors Grant Wiley, Brian King, and Lance Frazier. Second, the defensive line would need to develop a stronger pass rush and more depth. The solution to both uncertainties could turn out to be senior defensive lineman Ben Lynch.

Lynch had a solid 2003 for the Big East co-champions. The Oil City, Penn., native started all thirteen games for the Blue and Gold, racking up 64 tackles, three pass breakups, and two sacks from his nose tackl spot. Against Virginia Tech, Lynch dominated Hokie All-American center Jake Grove.

"Ben Lynch was our most consistent defensive lineman last year," said head coach Rich Rodriguez following Wednesday's practice at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.

With a host of young talent this spring, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich has experimented with a few different combinations in the trenches, including a couple that have Lynch playing at on the end.

"I like having him and (Craig) Wilson in the game at the same time," said Kirelawich of his versatile lineman, who has seen time at end for most of the spring before moving inside the past couple of sessions.

"I'm able to do it. I can play both inside and outside, so it's not bad," admits Lynch.

Ben spent the winter taking advantage of strength coach Mike Barwis's conditioning program, which entailed copious amounts of time in the weight room at the Puskar Center.

"Last season I think I was around 258. I'm about 278 now, so I gained about 20 pounds," Lynch observed.

There's no question that in order for the defense to have success this autumn, Lynch will have to provide not only stellar play, but steady leadership. Lynch and defensive end Jason Hardee are the only two seniors on Kirlav's line.

"Both Ben Lynch and Jason Hardee has improved as football players. Ben's really taken the bull by the horns. This fall, I expect no less out of them than I would from Mike Tyson preparing for a heavyweight title fight, or the New York Yankees preparing for the World Series. After this season that's it for them. If they're lucky enough to go to the NFL, that's great but if not then this is their curtain call," explains the enthusiastic defensive line mentor.

Adds Lynch: "Hopefully I'll lead by example. I'm not a real vocal guy out on the field. I want to lead by showing it on the practice field, in the games, and off the field too."

With regard to the high expectations being showered upon this year's team, Lynch is quick to point out that there's still a lot of work to do.

"We can't expect anything yet. The season's a long way away. We still have a couple of practices this spring, then the summer for conditioning, and then two-a-days in August."

There's no doubt that teams will key on Lynch with so much unproven talent in the rotation around him. As he noted though, the season is still about four months away from officially kicking off. For the pass rush to improve, players like Warren Young, Keilen Dykes, Ernest Hunter and Craig Wilson will have to step up come the fall. Lynch is the rock of the defensive line, and one of only a handful of seniors that will see a lot of reps on defense this fall.

A wise man once said "Football games are won and lost in the trenches." With a veteran like Lynch on the line, look for those battles to be a little more favorable for the Mountaineers once battles are joined on the gridiron this autumn.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories