Seniors ready to lead the defense in 2015

Ethan Flynn

With Georgia Southern touted to be the 2015 Sun Belt Conference football champions, there’s plenty of hype surrounding the offense. However, there are two sides to the ball. There’s a defense that’s ready to shutdown opponents.

Stemming from the traditions of legendary Coach Erk Russell, the Eagles have been instilled with the reputation of being a hard-hitting, no-nonsense kind of defense. Last year, the defense was the unsung hero, allowing only 19 rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the Sun Belt. Moreover, the defense was credited with 24 sacks and 66 tackles for a loss. With high expectations to return to the gridiron even stronger, this year’s defense is certainly looking to fit that bill.

The return of eight starters and other seasoned defensive players has enabled the defense to increase the ability to challenge their teammates on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It’s been a motivating factor for the Eagles throughout the summer practices and gives them an upper-hand going into the season.

In regards to the defense’s capabilities this year, Coach Frtiz mentioned their coachability by stating, “The players know what my expectations are and what we want to do. These guys are really coachable. We’ve really got a good group of young men.” Coach Frtiz wants leadership from his defensive seniors that will continue the Eagles surreal record breaking season last year. The Eagles became only the third team ever to win a conference title in their first FBS season. In addition, they were the first team to go unbeaten in conference play in their first FBS season.

Looking to meet Coach Fritz’s goals are seven seniors ready to take the gridiron “ONE MORE TIME”. Returning from highly impressive defensive seasons are safety and linebacker, Matt Dobson and Antwione Williams, who look to make their senior defensive seasons the defining season in their cherished careers at Georgia Southern. In addition to their senior leadership, seniors: Caleb Williams, Darrius White, Steve Williams, Antonio Glover, Lennie Richardson and Tay Hicklin look to embody the same goals and make a big impact. The defensive seniors have a unanimous plan for the upcoming season: practice as they would play and lead the younger players to follow suit.

The man in charge of the defense for the upcoming season is senior linebacker, Antwione Williams. Coming off a season with 66 tackles and three sacks, Williams is looking to make this year even better. Williams was named All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention last season. He spoke on his goals this year by stating, “To make my senior season standout, I need to make sure the team is lined up and everybody gets things together. I want to lead the team in tackles and be a source of inspiration for everybody.”

At the safety positon, Dobson is once again looking to strike fear into his opponents’ eyes. Last season, he was credited with preserving the win and Sun Belt Championship against ULM last after breaking up a pass and clobbering a wide receiver in the end zone during the final seconds of the game. He earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors with 62 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups. He’s been named second-team preseason All-Sunbelt for this upcoming season. In regards to the upcoming season, Dobson said he looks to continue his role as a leader of the defense by stating, “I want to be the best player and leader I can be. Last year we weren’t picked to win and this year we are. But we need to come out here and work hard every day to accomplish that.”

Also at the safety position, Glover is also looking to assist Dobson by accomplishing what they started together. Last season, Glover was credited with 61 tackles, with five tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Glover spoke on the tandem that Dobson and he form in the secondary by saying, “Our secondary always has high expectations. With Dobson and I both being seniors, we want to push ourselves to the best of our abilities. We expect the most from each other and the guys around us.” Glover is looking to be a vital piece of the defense alongside Dobson by wreaking havoc in the secondary.

Filling the corner positions will be Darrius White and Caleb Williams. White is a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College who was named All-conference honorable mention during his two year career there. On the other side, Williams played in all 12 games as a junior and recorded 10 tackles. He is credited for a tackle for a loss against Georgia Tech and an interception against NC State. Williams commented on the motto of the senior leadership by stating, “We’ve got to take it one play at time, one game at a time. The backup guys have to be on the same page. I want to give it my all for my team and Eagle fans.”

A surefire leader is defensive end, Lennie Richardson. He began is collegiate football career in 2007 at Troy and transferred to Georgia Southern in 2008. He played in 11 games as a red-shirt freshman during 2008. Richardson then valiantly served in the U.S. army for four years before returning to play in 2013. Last season, Richardson played in all 12 games. He was credited with 19 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one quarterback hurry.

Coach Fritz is elated to have someone like Richardson on the team and stated, “He’s a tremendous leader. He served our country for four years.” Fritz later jokingly stated, “He’s 27 years old, but he’s more mature than most of my coaches, maybe the head coach too.” Being the only senior on the defensive line, it will be crucial for Richardson to lead the stop on the running game and attack on the passing game against opposing teams.

The Eagles are without question looking stronger than ever defensively upfront, in the middle and in the secondary. With the senior leadership that’s leading this talented defense, it’s bound to make Erk Russel and the Eagle Nation proud in the upcoming season.