Dykes Ready to Take Charge

Halfway through spring football drills, it is becoming evident that the 2005 Mountaineers will be a team whose biggest strength is its defense.

For Jeff Casteel's unit though, it all starts up front on the defensive line. The d-line is mixed with some fresh faces looking to contribute, as well as a few veterans. Maybe the player with the biggest potential is sophomore defensive end Keilen Dykes.

The Youngstown, Oh. native made some noise last season on the defensive line, and by year's end was starting opposite Jason Hardee at defensive end. Despite being a first year varsity player, Keilen managed to rack up 35 tackles, including six TFL's which included a pair of sacks.

With the graduation of Hardee and Ben Lynch though, he'll be counted on to be an even bigger part of the defense in 2005.

"I feel like when it comes to crunch time, I want the coaches to depend on me to make that play up front like they did with Ben," said Dykes who noted that his parents are regular readers of the Blue and Gold News.

Dykes has worked hard in the weight room over the winter, not just on strength but on quickness. He showed off some of that quickness during Monday's scrimmage in which he chased down wide receiver Joe Hunter in the backfield for a four yard loss on a reverse.

The big man says that he feels the defensive line will not only be talented in the coming season, but deep as well. Dykes says that with transfer Johnny Dingle, returning letterman Craig Wilson, Hunter, and Andrae Wright in the mix as well, the line won't be worn down easily.

"That's going to be key for us to keep some fresh bodies," says Dykes.

He admits that while he had a good freshman season, he's much more comfortable on the field this spring than he has been in a long time.

"I feel comfortable. I'm making more plays, getting more confident, and feeling better about myself and what I'm doing out there."

Dykes notices one big difference this spring that is a result of his added bulk.

"I'm having fun. It's way more fun than last year when I was getting thrown around out here."

For the Mountaineer defensive line to be a force in 2005, Dykes will have to continue his improvement. To his credit though, he knows that it's his time.

"It's a new year, and it's time for me to step up my game," sums up the sophomore.

Football games can be won and lost in the trenches, and with experienced guys like Dykes up front, the defensive line is certainly a strength for this Mountaineer team.

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