Preseason football position preview: Defensive Line

Kaitlin Sells

The George-Anne will be previewing each position group leading up to the start of Georgia Southern football season, Aug. 31. Next in the series of previews is the defensive line.

Defensive End

Departed: Deshon Cooper, Logan Hunt, Josh Johnson.

Returning starter: Raymond Johnson III, junior.

Other returning players: Elijah Campbell Jr., redshirt-freshman; Justin Ellis, redshirt-sophomore; Dillon Springer, redshirt-sophomore; Traver Vliem, redshirt-junior; Kaylen Wright, redshirt-freshman.

New players: Thomas Cook, redshirt-freshman; Amaru Herring, freshman; AJ Watkins, freshman.

Outlook: Losing Logan Hunt will be somewhat of a blow to the Eagle defense, but there’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to the defensive ends this season.

Returning from last season, junior Raymond Johnson III is hungry for more as the defensive end was named to All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team by the league and Southern Pigskin and All-Sun Belt First Team by Pro Football Focus. Johnson played in and started all 13 games, being on the field for 504 total plays where he racked up 43 total stops on the season and led the team with three fumble recoveries. He also forced a fumble, blocked a PAT and logged two pass breakups. 

A player eligible to play this season to be excited for is redshirt-sophomore Justin Ellis. Ellis transferred to GS from Syracuse last season, but had to sit out per NCAA transfer rules. Ellis played in two games for Syracuse as a true freshman, logging a tackle.

Projected two deep:

Justin Ellis (6-foot-2, 245 pounds)

Raymond Johnson III (6-foot-3, 260 pounds)

Nose Tackle

Departed: Ian Bush.

Returning starter: Ty Philips, senior.

Other returning players: Gavin Adcock, redshirt-sophomore; Parker Devine, redshirt-freshman; CJ Wright, sophomore.

New players: Kierron Smith, freshman.

Outlook: Losing Ian Bush will be another blow to the Eagle defense, but Ty Philips is ready to step up for his last season as an Eagle. The senior played in all 13 games last season, starting 11 of them where notched 36 total stops, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Philips was also named All-Sun Belt Conference Honorable Mention last season. 

Another returner to lookout for is sophomore C.J. Wright who played in all 13 games last season. The sophomore was on the field for 300 total plays last season where he notched 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Wright was the only player on the team to play all three phases and he carried the ball five times for 20 yards. 

Projected two deep: 

Ty Philips (6-foot-3, 290)

C.J. Wright (6-foot, 290 pounds)

Kaitlin Sells, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]